Growing up in Melbourne in the 1990s, Laura Coriakula had never thought she would one day appear on a televised social experiment like â€˜Big Brotherâ€™. If anything, she looked for ways to attract the least attention, and furthermore, longed to try change who she was.Â
â€œAs a kid you donâ€™t say these things, you donâ€™t know how to articulate it. You would only feel them and have thoughts in my head of, â€˜I want light skin, I want blue eyes, I want blonde hairâ€™,â€ she told HuffPost Australia.Â
The now-25-year-old, whose father hails from Matuku Island in Fiji, was recalling the impact of facing racism during her childhood.Â
Schoolyard taunts from other students were regular. â€œI had lots of things like, â€˜Why is your dad black? Why is your dadâ€™s hair funny?â€™â€ she explained.
â€œHeâ€™s got an afro, and then I used to be so embarrassed of my dad, I didnâ€™t want him to come to school because kids would laugh.
â€œI was seven or eight years old so I didnâ€™t have any awareness or I wasnâ€™t educated about racism. But I guess as parents you donâ€™t expect your little children to be saying those things in school grounds, and we donâ€™t go and tell teachers.â€Â
Laura said she began asking herself, â€œWhy does my face look like this? Why am I getting bullied for big lips or my bodyâ€™s bigger?â€
After attending four different high schools and even doing some schooling in Fiji because â€œI just never felt I belonged anywhereâ€, Laura moved to the US at age 19 to pursue a dance career.
â€œI feel like I only ever felt at home when I actually moved to the US, and I mean home in a sense of I felt comfortable with who I am with people who are not Fijian,â€ she reflected.
â€œBeing a coloured person in the US, I actually felt better. There were more of us, there was more education and awareness. I felt so empowered there because my African American friends were just so welcoming and they were like, â€˜Let me teach you how to be blackâ€™.â€Â
The overseas move did take some time to adjust to in other respects such as Americaâ€™s gun laws, leading to her fear of being in the â€œwrong time, wrong placeâ€ and getting â€œcaught in a crossfireâ€.Â
â€œBeing there and knowing how authorities and police operate, that was the hard thing because thereâ€™s really no justice,â€ she said.
â€œWe canâ€™t afford there to be bad apples within the justice system because that just does not work because those bad apples are what will kill you. There should be zero tolerance.â€Â
After finishing up in the dance studios in New Yorkâ€™s Times Square, Laura would often come out and see Black Lives Matter protests underway.
â€œI was like thatâ€™s exactly where I need to be, I need to be standing here whether thatâ€™s my country or not,â€ she said about participating. â€œThis is my people, we all look the same and itâ€™s about supporting each other, otherwise once you start thinking â€˜this is not my country or this is not my battle, I donâ€™t want to fightâ€™, you become ignorant and part of the problem.â€Â
Laura is one of 20 contestants on the 12th season of â€˜Big Brother Australiaâ€™ this year which is hosted by Sonia Kruger.Â
Contestants living in the Sydney house will choose who is eliminated each episode, but the winner of the final prize of $250,000 will be decided by the public.
â€˜Big Brother Australiaâ€™ premieres on Monday June 8 at 7:30pm on Channel 7.