‘You Get Some Weird Looks’: MKR Winners Janelle & Monzir Talk About Being In An Interracial Relationship

Image courtesy of Channel 7
My Kitchen Rules contestants Janelle and Monzir
My Kitchen Rules winners Janelle and Monzir were not only on the reality TV show to share their cooking, but also their relationship. The couple has been dating for almost two years, but their family only found out about their romance since they filmed MKR.
"We decided to announce it to our families this way because we like to think of our relationship as something very natural, very organic and something that just flows," Janelle tells Refinery29 Australia. "We're such a relaxed couple that I think that the best way to do this was on national television.
"It wasn't planned that way like, 'We're going to go on a show and that's how we're going to tell our parents'. It was just like, 'Well, now we're doing the show, I guess we have to introduce them now'."
Culture is very important to both the contestants, and they acknowledge that being an interracial couple on the show was an opportunity to not only introduce audiences to diverse cuisines, but speak about how they've navigated their relationship off-screen — especially with their families.
"I think Monzir and I both have different experiences of this," says Janelle. "I was born interracial as my mum's Turkish and my dad's Filipino. So for me it was always very normal to date someone outside of my culture because I don't belong to one."
While within her community, "it's not normalised to date people outside of your culture", it's something she's felt "very strongly about" and her mum has always encouraged her to date whoever she likes.
"I think that it's a really important subject to bring up because these days there is more and more of that happening," says the 27-year-old.
"I think it's very normal, it's just a part of life and we live in a multicultural society and it needs to be accepted. It's not always accepted amongst community members, but at the end of the day, you have to do what's right for you and that's how I was raised."
Monzir comes from a Sudanese family and Janelle says she was aware that their relationship might come as a surprise to her boyfriend's parents.
"There was obviously a little bit of an expectation. They probably just thought, 'Monzir might date someone Sudanese because that's within our community and that's who we are around a lot of the time'," says the baker.
"I think they would never have expected him to date a Turkish-Filipino girl because that is a kind of a rare sighting."
"Sometimes you get some weird looks," 26-year-old Monzir says about strangers' reactions to seeing him and Janelle out and about.
But as far as his family's concerned, he's received nothing but support. "If she can cook, she's the one," he laughs, adding the fact that his older brother has dated outside of the culture made it easier for his parents to accept Janelle.
In the TV competition, the lovebirds served up some delicious dishes that reflected their cultures as well as some scrumptious cakes, thanks to Janelle's baking expertise.
The owner of Sassy Sprinkles Cakery was particularly keen to impress the show's new judge, Nigella Lawson, who is known for her signature baking and home-style cooking.
Image courtesy of Channel 7
MKR contestant Janelle serving judges Manu Feildel and Nigella Lawson her special chocolate cake
"Nigella is my absolute food idol. When when we found out that she was going to be joining MKR this year I think that my my heart stopped," she reflects.
"She's absolutely beautiful in person inside and out, and so is Manu. They're both such genuine, passionate people. So it was so surreal to cook for them."
Janelle and Monzir cooked for judges Manu Feildel and Nigella Lawson for the first time tonight. They were one of six teams in Group 1 of My Kitchen Rules this season which promised to focus more on the food than the drama. The other teams were are Peter & Alice, Kate & Mary (runners-up), Ashlee & Mat, Arrnott & Fuzz, and Steven & Frena.
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