The Block’s Sharon and Ankur on why representation matters

The Block stars Sharon and Ankur explain why they wanted to ‘break barriers’ and appear on the show.

Video transcript

SHARON JOHAL: One of the big reasons why we decided to go through with it like when we got shortlisted then we obviously second guessed and went, oh my god, should we really be doing this? We're going to make ourselves like a national embarrassment. But a big part of it was like, in "Neighbors," like when I was on that, I was like the first Punjabi Indian to be on that show. And I know what that meant to Indian people all over Australia, including really young girls.

And so we-- it's an awkward one. You always want to be the flag bearer for breaking barriers. But unfortunately, that's kind of what happens in Australia because we're so kind of backwards when it comes to representation. So I couldn't think of anything better than for an Indian to be represented on "The Block." But not only one, two, because we married each other. So--


--we thought that would be really lovely for all of our communities to see themselves on screen.

ANKUR DOGRA: We just thought coming on "The Block," out of-- this probably sounds stupid, but out of all of the shows, we didn't really think there'd be too much drama involved. There's enough if you're sort of building-- organically, there's enough drama every week. So that sort of threw us. And then I didn't really know that so many people were so invested in this show, like deeply invested. And therefore, if you did get edited a certain way or certain things went down on the show and you're portrayed not as great people, yeah, we were definitely not ready for that line of trolling.

SHARON JOHAL: They were tough because it's just really lazy, honestly, by trolls to straight away, go to the color of my skin. And it's happened to me before. So I thought, oh-- like, I thought I'd be used to it, you know? It happened when I was on "Neighbors" as well. And as soon as our family came on to the street, it was like, oh, they're going to bomb the street, get out of our country, and all of that sort of stuff. But I just-- I didn't think like that was going to happen here.

It's different for us. Unfortunately, it is different for us. So if you kind of like contribute a cheeky storyline or like-- I don't know-- just a drama, like the cheating one that happened to us at the start, which wasn't cheating. And Scotty Cam said it wasn't cheating. Everybody said it wasn't cheating. We didn't even realize it was a big deal at the time. But when you, like, stop promoting it and say $50,000 cheating scandal, when you attribute the word cheater to people of color, straight away, it goes to like, oh, these Indians steal our jobs.

Get out of our country. You don't deserve to be here. And I don't think there was that awareness around that or consideration or like protection almost. And that was full on, because we never recovered from that. Like, we never recover. Every single time we did anything good or whatever, it's like, oh, well they were those cheats. They're cheats or there's something dodgy about them and all of that. They'll say, don't go on the forums. Don't go on social media.

You won't see it. So basically you remove yourself from the internet altogether. But if you've got work and stuff on your socials, these people come and find you and they find your email address. They find your family's email address. They try to dig dirt on you. Like, they just don't stop and it's relentless. So it has affected us. Our family doesn't watch the show anymore, neither do our friends. We don't even watch the show anymore.


SHARON JOHAL: So, yeah, like, it's been really tough, if we're honest.

ANKUR DOGRA: Especially if we were trying to go in the-- like, show diversity and show a reflection of what society is on a daily basis and then unfortunately for-- for us to go down that sort of storyline, yeah, that's maybe one step forward and two step backwards unfortunately.

SHARON JOHAL: We always appreciate, like, the-- not even the gesture but the movement to like increase diversity everywhere. And because we're in the infancy of it in Australia, I think we haven't quite got it right yet. And so you have to really consider how to make-- if it's the first, how to make it a culturally safe workplace for people and for us. And that means, like, everything. It means what's going to happen to us once we're thrust into that spotlight and the social media and all that because it all comes with it. And once your show is gone, we're still going to carry all that stuff with us.