The Bachelorette’s Ritu Chhina Says She Felt ‘Tokenised’ At Times During Filming

Image courtesy of Channel 10
The Bachelorette Australia contestant Ritu Chhina
With the first Indigenous and bisexual lead (Brooke Blurton) and a mix of male and female contestants, this season of The Bachelorette Australia has been applauded for being the most diverse in the show's history.
For Ritu Chhina, appearing on the dating show was not only an opportunity to try to find love, but to represent the Indian community on Aussie TV. However, there's a difference between representation that empowers and uplifts communities and tokenistic inclusion that's simply ticking a diversity box.
Chhina, who was eliminated from the show tonight, said she enjoyed filming The Bachelorette and for the most part, did feel supported as contestants "were able to speak to crew at any point about concerns and even had an assigned minder".
But the 25-year-old – who some fans have claimed wasn't given enough air time – at times felt as though she was the token queer South Asian woman.
"I wouldn't say I had any major concerns around racism but as to be expected, I did feel tokenised purely because I was one of the only few queer POC (people of colour) actually involved with the show," she told Refinery29 Australia.
"Sharing the parts of myself that are more Indian-centric seemed to become a focus but I didn't initially see this as a concern."
In the second episode, Chhina wore a traditional Indian salwar kameez to the cocktail party, an outfit she seemingly chose to wear on her own terms.
"I decided to wear one of my own dresses because it represents a part of who I actually am," she explained. "It was received quite well by everyone at the cocktail party and Brooke. I really brought out a part of myself that evening to the best of my ability.
"Family and fans were very happy and the South Asian community on Twitter absolutely loved it. I received a lot of positive tweets."
There were also fans who claimed she wasn't given enough air time.
In a statement to Refinery29 Australia, a Network 10 spokesperson said the TV channel is committed to diversity.
“Eligible contestants on all Network 10 shows are considered regardless of race or background. Network 10 takes its commitment to diversity seriously and we cast as broadly as possible across our entire slate,” read the statement.
Refinery29 Australia has also contacted production company, Warner Bros for comment.
Meanwhile, Chhina said greater ethnic and LGBTQIA+ representation on screen is "incredibly important" and there's a big gap particularly in Australia.
"I certainly don't see many queer POC on Australian TV," she said. "There is a huge deficit in this kind of representation and it very much exists in real life.
"It's also important to show POC in their natural clothing who just happen to be LGBTQIA+ and enforce its normalisation."
It's through normalising people's differences that we can create greater harmony between communities, and Chhina said she knows firsthand what it's like to be discriminated against.
"I experienced racism when I first arrived in Australia [from India in 2009] and I feel it actually caused for a much faster assimilation in order to fit in," she said, "but I have tried to hold onto my personal heritage as much as possible.
"The primary impact was instant assimilation – my accent, clothing style and even behavioural mannerisms changed."
Years later she faced another obstacle, this time within her own community when she decided to come out as queer which is often frowned upon in some South Asian communities.
"The biggest challenge actually came from me personally being afraid to share this with my family for a number of years, but surprisingly despite being an immigrant family, my parents and sister have always been accepting," she said.
However, she's aware that not one everyone is "really lucky" like her.
"No one in my direct family has ever reacted poorly which as compared to the myriad of stories in the South Asian community is very much not the case," the reality star explained.
"The stigma still exists and it's only up until recently that my parents have said it's probably a good thing I am representing this community on television. In the vast Indian community, being LGBTQIA+ is still not something many people are ready to share. And for a period of time, I had this hidden from my extended relatives."
As her dating show experience comes to an end, Chhina said she's disappointed she and Blurton "did not have enough time to get to know each other."
"If anything, I feel if that opportunity had have been presented we would've been able to actually understand one another and who we are," she said. "But we had short interactions so when I was eliminated I really felt as though I wasn't really given a chance."
As for what's in store for her next, the filmmaker said she'll be taking a break from the dating scene and focusing on work, making a return to television but in a behind-the-scenes role.
"I have been signed onto developing a character on an Australian TV show because her background is Indian and they want her to be represented realistically," she revealed.
"So I am working on character development as the writer, and I am working at a software company as a day job and establishing financial security.
"My plans now post-show are very much career-driven and to ensure I can use my socials to be a voice for South Asian LGBTQIA+ identities in Australia."
On that note, we'll be keeping an eye on her Instagram account for sure.
The Bachelorette Australia airs on Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm on Channel 10.
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