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“My personal experience as an Indigenous performer” by Vudu Doll

Sadly, my story is not uncommon, many Indigenous are subject to the same treatment and feelings every day. For the most part, you are just another human being like everyone else. Updating skills, developing your personal life, creating routines, applying for shows, just trying to make a living, like everyone else, but it’s not always as easy for some.

When NAIDOC rolls around, you’re a star! – pushed out the front, your picture everywhere. You would think it would be great and for the most part, it is! Performing assists, me with paying the bills and providing for my family, but it isn’t incredibly worth it when you’re only there to be the token.

I would rather be chosen because I’ve fit the bill. Several of the events I’ve been asked to perform either a Welcome or Acknowledgement of Country, I’ve overhead fellow staff and organisers – as well as patrons – say ‘I hate that Abo muck’, ‘How come we have to do that crap?” ‘That’s stupid!’ You asked me to do it!  Don’t patronise my culture, my land, me.

Like so many others, I’ve even been told that I shouldn’t tell people that I’m of Aboriginal descent and to not be vocal on Indigenous issues because that easy more people would like me and I’d fit in.

Just like so many Indigenous men and women have been told ‘you’re too pretty to be Aboriginal’, ‘it doesn’t count, you’re only a small percentage’ and even ‘half caste’ – that one comes from both sides! See, you’re either too light for some or too dark for others. I’m me 100% of the time, not when it’s acceptable for others.

The following may be even more stressful for many to read, but it’s an unpleasant and frightfully uncommon reality for countless individuals. There was a time, I had been so broken down and shattered from all the negative and terrible things I’d been told that I began to tighten the appearance of my skin by any way possible. It hurt…

Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually.

I was betraying a part of who I was but all I could think was ‘if my skin is lighter, the bullying and neglect will stop!’ I kept my mouth shut in public about Indigenous issues, events and celebrations.

I painted my entire body lighter. I pretended to be someone entirely different, and not just when applying for shows, which I was booked for more of with the same material. I even did it for my day job – and you know what?! I was treated better and appreciated there too.

It wasn’t worth it.

I couldn’t stand throwing away myself. I stopped damaging my skin and began to heal my mind and soul. It’s been a long journey. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need someone to speak to. I will always be here for you. Not everywhere I’ve been and not everyone I’ve spoken to has been racist and unwelcoming, many have been so kind and supportive, but too many have not. It ends NOW. I won’t ever stop sharing issues and celebrations of my people (as well as others!), even if it means being pushed aside. I vow to create a better and safe world for ALL, a world of equality, respect, filled with love.

I am me. I am proud. I am Vudu Doll, a descendant of the Kamilaroi nation.