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MasterChef Australia's Poh Ling Yeow: 'There's Another Fight For Asian Kids That Not Many People Bring Up'

Proud of her Malaysian Chinese heritage, the celebrity chef said she knows "there’s a lot of cultural pressure" to not pursue a creative career.

This season of ‘MasterChef Australia’ has been applauded for its ethnically diverse cast and various cooking challenges that pay homage to contestants’ cultural backgrounds.

The show’s most recently eliminated contestant Poh Ling Yeow has said this diversity is a positive in the current media landscape, and that Australia’s entertainment industry still “has a way to go, but we’re starting to make moves which is really good”.

“I also want to bring up something that is seldom discussed,” she told HuffPost Australia.

“I want to be an example to a new generation of Asian Australian parents to let them know their kids are capable of creating a diverse and rewarding career path out of their own choosing,” she said.

“Many Asian kids steer away from an artistic or creative career because there’s a lot of cultural pressure not to go there.”

'MasterChef Australia: Back To Win' contestant Poh Ling Yeow
Channel 10
'MasterChef Australia: Back To Win' contestant Poh Ling Yeow

Poh, who is proud of her Malaysian Chinese heritage, said young people in Asian households often face pressure from parents to follow an academic career path or one that is deemed more socially acceptable in their culture. Examples could be becoming a doctor, lawyer or accountant, while creative careers are often discouraged.

“So to those people, I want to say [that] I want to be an example that you can create a career out of something that you love, and don’t let that older generation pressure you into thinking it’s not possible,” she said.

“I feel like that’s another conversation that needs to happen as well and just to encourage these younger generations to just go for it.

“The time is now to pursue what you want and what you love, and you’ll be good at it. That’s what you have to remember. You can only be good at things that you love. That’s something that I have quite a lot of time to mentor kids about.”

The 47-year-old, who moved to Australia from Malaysia at age nine with her family, studied design at university before working as a graphic designer, makeup artist and illustrator.

“I worked as a freelance graphic designer and makeup artist for many years before pursuing full-time painting,” she said. “I was about six years into my art career and earning a decent steady income. It was around that time that I also started becoming obsessed with food.”

She then auditioned for ‘MasterChef Australia’ in 2009 when her friend Sarah suggested it.

In May Poh opened up about her struggle growing up as a “migrant kid”, saying she had very few people to look up to in her formative years, but now she can be the role model she didn’t have back then.

“THE TIME IS NOW. Growing up as a migrant kid I had so few role models,” she wrote, alongside an image which featured five Asian Australian contestants competing in an immunity challenge.

“I dreamt of being blonde and blue eyed, fantasised about having long legs and was ashamed of the shape of my nose and my face.

“But today we get to be this for anyone who’s ever felt on the outer.”

Poh was eliminated from the show on Sunday night, placing her in sixth place in the all-stars season. The remaining contestants are Reece Hignell, Reynold Poernomo, Callum Hann, Emelia Jackson and Laura Sharrad.

This year, Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo have replaced former judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston.

‘MasterChef Australia: Back To Win’ continues at 7:30pm on Channel 10.

This article has been updated with new quotes from Poh Ling Yeow about her career journey.

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