'It's About The Food': What MasterChef Judge Melissa Leong Wants You To Know About Her Style
For Melissa Leong, nothing is a coincidence.
Everything you see -- from the glimmer of her earrings to her perfectly put together outfits -- is a deliberate decision, made with the knowledge that to be seen is a remarkably powerful thing.
“Growing up Asian in Australia in the 80s and 90s meant often feeling invisible,” Melissa told 10 daily.
“I grew towards writing and eventually radio and television because I never wanted to be misunderstood in my adulthood. Fashion has become an extension of that.”
Lighting up our screens five nights a week as a MasterChef judge, Melissa has so far put on quite the sartorial display. And Australia is absolutely loving her for it.
“Fashion has been of ongoing interest to me for a long time. To me, fashion is art, function and social commentary all rolled into one,” she said.
"It can say everything you want to say without ever having to say a word, and in that capacity, I consider it to be powerful."
But don’t be dazzled. Melissa is the first to sing the praises of style, but she insists that fashion is just one part of a whole. Her red lipstick packs the same punch as her words, and together, they work to complement the real star of the show -- the food.
My role on MasterChef is about the food. It will always be first and foremost about the food.
"The styling is there to create a nonverbal dialogue and a visual impact to the show because after all, this is entertainment," Melissa said.
Episode after episode, fans flock to social media to unearth the details of every facet of Melissa’s look. She loves the love, of course. But it won’t distract her from doing her job.
“I am flattered that so many people have resonated with my style and that beauty and fashion standards in the media continue to grow in their inclusivity and reflection of the real world," she said.
“I am a tiny lady with curves…that’s who I am. To be considered part of the fashion zeitgeist is fun, but it will never steal my focus from my qualifications as a food writer, presenter and communicator.”
Melissa and her fellow judges Jock Zonfrillo and Andy Allen work collaboratively with a number of teams to deliver us the polished MasterChef we get watch.
It’s a tremendous operation. And the way Melissa sees it, every facet of production brings with it the opportunity for representation.
“Representation matters. No matter who you are, where you come from, your ability, orientation or status, you matter," she said.
"You deserve to feel seen in the choices people make when it comes to entertainment, media, news, fashion, journalism, art -- everything.”
Since joining the judging panel, Melissa has been praised for her ongoing efforts to bring diversity to Australian television. This quest to lift others up is sprinkled across everything in her orbit. Be it chicken feet in her mystery box to the names on her dress labels -- nothing is an accident.
“I contribute by being the best version of myself and hopefully setting an example to others to be better, kinder and more collaborative,” she said.
Even pre-COVID, I wanted to make sure I use this opportunity to support everyone I can that I believe in. That’s just how I operate.
“Some of the plates and crockery in the show are by ceramicists I know and admire too, it’s not just about the clothes. Australian designers and creatives are world class, but also deeply vulnerable right now."
“In this current global situation, businesses of all kinds need our support and if this is one way I can support creatives, then I’ll use it," Melissa continued.
Style with substance -- that’s the aim of the game for Melissa. The celebrated food critic has built a career upon focusing on the tiniest details, and recognising how important they are to form one larger, wonderful thing.
She's the nation’s brand new bestie, we want to pick her brain just as much as we want to borrow her clothes. And it's by no means an accident.