The Singaporean Australian food writer has championed representation and diversity on the show, instantly winning fans with her ability to critique dishes with a deeper cultural understanding, and connect with contestants who are also children of immigrants.
Her appearance in the current season has prompted a magazine cover shoot for health and lifestyle magazine, Prevention. And it’s a big win for Asian representation.
“Representation matters, and to be an Asian on a magazine cover anywhere in the world right now matters now more than ever,” Mel wrote on Instagram next to a photo of the cover.
The past year has been particularly unsettling for Asian communities across the globe. Anti-Asian hate and racism has escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic, while six of the eight people killed in the Atlanta spa shootings in March were Asian women.
Melissa has openly spoken about her own experiences facing racism and being the subject of Asian fetishisation, also known as ‘yellow fever’.
“As a woman of Asian origin, it’s a daily onslaught of fetishistic comments from strangers about your appearance and sexuality, and if I’m asked, ‘But where are you really from?’ one more time, I might explode,” Melissa previously told HuffPost Australia.
“Being Asian and female and being quite a confident person who’s out there all the time, I hear it a lot,” she said. “People find energy attractive. When you’re outgoing and you’re Asian and you’re a female, people go, ‘Oh that’s awesome, I’ve totally got yellow fever’. Well that’s really disgusting.”
She encouraged others to “speak up” if they’ve faced similarly faced “racism and sexism and misogyny”.
“I will call out something that doesn’t feel right for me, in the same way that the MeToo movement has really taken such momentum… It’s ok to speak up.”