In 2010, the nutritionist faced a wave of backlash from some in the local Indian community when she won New Zealand's Miss India pageant. She faced booing spectators and heard people saying she "wasn't Indian-looking enough to win the pageant" due to her fairer complexion, blonde hair and blue eyes. Lal, whose father is Fijian Indian, says she grew up hearing similar remarks and still does to this day.
"These types of comments weren’t new to me," she tells Refinery29 Australia.
"Even today, when people ask my nationality and I answer that I’m from New Zealand, with Fijian Indian, Irish, German, and Nepalese blood, I always get, 'Really?! You don’t look it? Wow, I thought you were white'," she adds. She says that it's important to "not put people in boxes and generalise" about their background because they look a certain way.
Lal was 21 when she competed in the pageant and up until that point, didn't know too much about her South Asian heritage. One of her reasons for participating "was to learn and reconnect with the Indian community and show how proud I was to be of Indian descent."
"The reaction off the back of me competing was definitely character building, as being deemed too white to compete in something that I very much had a right to compete in left me feeling a bit lost," she says.
"I found myself thinking about where I actually belong. I live in New Zealand, but I’m not Indigenous. I'm part Fijian Indian but don’t look the part or know too much about the culture."
India has a complex history with colourism, where fairer complexions are favoured over darker skin tones. In 2019, the Miss India pageant came under fire when the Times of India published a collage of the pageant finalists. Social media users questioned why all contestants were lighter-skinned when there's a wide array of skin tones across the country.
Meanwhile, last week Lal bonded with Nicholson during their single date about their shared connection to New Zealand and Fiji (Nicholson's great grandmother was Fijian). Their common ground wasn't necessarily "an advantage" but provided an "instant" connection between the two.
"I did not go onto the show at all expecting to meet an Australian Fijian Kiwi Bachelor! Nonetheless, it was a lovely surprise and gave me more confidence to speak about my heritage," she says.
As the number of roses on the dating show begin to dwindle, Lal is now one of 13 contestants remaining in the televised search for love.
The Bachelor Australia airs on Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm on Network 10.