The Amazing Race Australia’s Crystal & Reem On Religion, Racism & Running Their Own Race

When it comes to going on The Amazing Race Australia, the opportunity is about more than just a bit of travel and a $250,000 prize for contestants Crystal and Reem.
The best friends from western Sydney are one of 20 teams on the Channel 10 show this year, and are aware that their reality TV experience could help challenge stereotypes often associated with women who look like them.
Image courtesy of Channel 10
The Amazing Race Australia contestants Crystal and Reem
"Muslim women in hijabs are very much underrepresented on mainstream TV," Reem tells Refinery29 Australia. The teacher grew up in a Lebanese Muslim household, and recalls seeing very little cultural diversity on Aussie TV when she was younger.
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"I wasn't going on there [The Amazing Race] to achieve something or to prove something, but I know that there are people who look at a woman in a hijab and assume that she's a certain way based on stereotypes.
"The main thing I wanted to get across is the fact that just like all women, we're dynamic individuals," she explains. "We're more than a label and a stereotype, and I think I'm a good representation of that.
"I don't really fit under any simple label or stereotype and I'm comfortable with that. I'm comfortable with myself. So putting myself out there as my authentically flawed self as a representation of a modern Muslim Australian woman."
Crystal — who has been best friends with Reem since the pair met at school — says she's also often judged for being a Christian Palestinian woman. She recalls hearing racist comments during her primary school years when she was "the only one in my grade" from a Middle Eastern background.
She also says that like Muslim women, religious Christian women sometimes "can be perceived as quite close-minded".
"I wanted to show the world that you can be religious and open-minded to an extent, and you can be a female who is strong and courageous and shows that love as well."
Reem also wants to challenge the misconception that Middle Eastern women from different faiths wouldn't be friends.
"Reem and I are both from different religions, but we work together well. We love each other no matter what," she says.
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Image courtesy of Channel 10
While it's not every day that you hike around the world on national television, Crystal and Reem say going on The Amazing Race reflected their real-life in other ways — for example when it came to facing stereotypes related to identity.
"Because I was outwardly very clearly a Muslim as I was wearing the hijab, a lot of the other contestants just assumed straight away that Crystal was Muslim," says Reem.
"They kept calling us the Muslim team," adds Crystal.
"Christians and Muslims can also be friends," says Reem. "It's [just] an assumption — people assume you're a Muslim with a Muslim friend, but we're best friends from different faiths. We talk about things, we debate things. It empowers our relationship."
Their close bond of 14 years is going to be one of their biggest strengths on The Amazing Race this year, along with their strong connection to culture which came in handy as the competition returned to filming overseas following two seasons of local production due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our goal was to see how many countries we could get to," says Reem. "We loved going to every new country, and even the different places within the countries were just incredible. We went to Morocco, which is a predominantly Arabic-speaking country and that gave us a bit of an advantage."
Hosted by Beau Ryan, season six of The Amazing Race Australia has kicked off with two separate groups of 10 starting the race of a lifetime in Morocco. Teams will travel across Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia, South America and North America in the hope of winning the $250,000 prize money and a brand new car.
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The Amazing Race Australia: Around The World airs Sunday to Tuesday at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play.
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