MasterChef’s Rue Mupedzi & Melissa Leong’s Conversation About Imposter Syndrome Is Familiar For WOC

Image courtesy of Channel 10
MasterChef Australia 2023 contestant Rue Mupedzi
Rue Mupedzi never dreamt of even making it onto MasterChef Australia, let alone becoming one of the final 10 contestants. As the 29-year-old oral health therapist has progressed on the popular cooking show, she's surpassed her own expectations of herself and that of the judges.
She may have come to the competition with a knack for making macarons and sweets, but she's since nailed the BBQ sauce challenge and whipped up some impressive savoury dishes.
However, Mupedzi admits that her confidence was shaken during filming. With every elimination, her feelings fluctuated. At times, she deemed herself worthy of having a spot on the show, but at other times, not so much.
"I feel like I did start to believe that I deserved to be there," Mupedzi tells Refinery29 Australia. "But a little part of me was like, I wish I believed in myself a little bit more."
Mupedzi, who moved to Australia from Zimbabwe when she was 15, says she's often thought about whether her cultural upbringing has played a part in her insecurities. Imposter syndrome is felt by many women, and is often multi-layered for women of colour, who face cultural and familial expectations, as well as external stigmas from society as a whole.
"Whether it's my upbringing... Mel asked me this before," she reflects, referring to judge Melissa Leong, who is also a woman of colour.
"She's very nurturing, and I think she could see something in me that at some point I couldn't see myself. Also being ethnic, she was like, 'Look, I understand where you're coming from. I understand all these expectations, but I want you to know that you deserve to be here.'"
Image courtesy of Channel 10
MasterChef Australia judges Andy Allen, Melissa Leong and Jock Zonfrillo
Explaining why she always looks "genuinely shocked" on TV when she impresses the judges, Mupedzi says, "I really wish I backed myself a bit more". Overall, she feels a "huge improvement" in how she's tackled her imposter syndrome, "but there is always room for more improvement".
"Being an African girl, cooking was something that was kind of always expected," she says. "And I always did, but there was no extended intention of me doing anything outside of just cooking for my family."
As is the case for many children of immigrants, Mupedzi faced familial pressures to pursue a traditional profession after completing tertiary studies.
"Like any ethnic kid, there's an expectation from your family to do something that's educational-based."
After going to university and becoming an oral health therapist, Mupedzi's love for food beyond making daily meals truly began in 2019. She started taking photos of anything she made and tried to recreate famous dishes cooked by professional chefs. Prior to appearing on MasterChef, Mupedzi also tried her hand at starting a small macaron business.
"[My family was] not too pleased about that, but when MasterChef came around, they were ecstatic," she says.
"They were a little bit nervous for me because they were like, 'Oh my gosh, how is she gonna handle it? Is she gonna be good?', but my husband was backing me all the way."
Mupedzi is one of seven contestants remaining on the 15th season of MasterChef, alongside Cath Collins, Rhiannon Anderson, Malissa Fedele, Theo Loizou, Declan Cleary and Brent Draper. There's not long to go now until we find out who wins MasterChef 2023.
The eliminated contestants are Amy Tanner, Adi Nevgi, Andrea Puglisi, Antonio Cruz Vaamonde, Grace JuppJessica PerriLarissa Sewell, Phil Conway, Ralph KahangoRobbie Cooper,
MasterChef Australia airs Sunday to Wednesday at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play.
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