Sharon Johal Has Faced Criticism Before The Block Has Even Started — But She’s About To Prove Them Wrong

Having already established a profile after starring on Neighbours, Sharon Johal says many people think they know exactly who she is. But her latest venture as a contestant on The Block: Tree Change is about to shake up the public's perception.
The 34-year-old will appear on the renovation reality show alongside accountant husband Ankur Dogra. Not only is it a big change from scripted TV and her previous legal career, but also a huge departure from a world in which the couple has rarely dabbled in construction, renovations and DIY projects.
But just because they have less experience or because Johal arrives on set in a glamorous jumpsuit, doesn't mean that she and Dogra don't deserve to be there, says the actor. She says she shows determination from the moment they step onto the set — a willingness to work hard after growing up in Australia as a daughter of Indian immigrants who made sacrifices to migrate here.
"It's hard because it's a complex discussion when it comes to privilege and things like that," Johal tells Refinery29 Australia over the phone.
Image courtesy of Channel 9
The Block: Tree Change contestants Ankur Dogra and Sharon Johal
"I've already been trolled a bit for being on the show this year, where people are like, 'How come she's on there? She's an actress, this show should be for every day Aussie battlers and people to get an opportunity.'
"But there was never any rule that they're the only people that could apply, and also, what's your definition of an Aussie battler? Why do you think that I'm not?" she continues.
"I'm the daughter of immigrant parents who started from scratch... and it's difficult to find a place in this country and to succeed. We struggle with this stuff every single day and it plays a part in every aspect of our lives."
Johal says she wants to break the mould of a what a contestant on The Block looks like in more ways than one. You can be an actor or an accountant, and you can also come from an ethnically diverse background — even in a media landscape that still has a long way to go in better representing multicultural Australia.
"It's about visibility and representation and while not meaning to, we broke those barriers by being the first Indian couple on The Block," she says. "The more you see it, the more you can be it, and the more other people might be like, 'Well, I want to try that and I want to do that as well'."
Image courtesy of Channel 9
Johal reveals that her emotions will also be on display during this season of The Block, which will again strip back another layer that many fans haven't seen before.
"I'm an actress, so I keep my emotions very much at the forefront all the time," she explains. "And my vulnerabilities — I'm very honest about how I feel and what I'm going through. I did maintain that the whole way through so none of it is fake.
"Obviously I don't know what the edits are going to be like, but we didn't hide anything. We we were really honest about how we felt so that's probably why in the promos you see me crying because I did cry a lot."
Johal and Dogra are one of five pairs competing on the show's 18th season in Gisborne South in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. The other teams are Sarah-Jane and Tom, Dylan and Jenny, Omar and Osman, and Elle Ferguson and Joel Patfull.
The Block: Tree Change premieres on Sunday, August 7 at 7pm on Channel 9 and 9Now.
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