After recently opening up on ‘I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!’ about the racism she faced as a child, Paulini Curuenavuli has said the experiences had her thinking she was “not good enough” in adulthood.
The 38-year-old Fijian Australian singer, who shot to fame on ‘Australian Idol’ in 2003, admitted it wasn’t until she began “breaking down” a few years ago that she sought professional help to unpack the trauma of being “bullied so badly in primary school”.
“I’ve just started dealing with that stuff maybe two or three years ago. You don’t realise that it affects you, that it absolutely shatters your confidence,” Paulini told HuffPost Australia on Wednesday.
“Growing up I kind of always knew that there was something there [that wasn’t right] because your thoughts are very important and what set you up for everything.”
From a classmate spitting in her lunchbox at primary school to being called derogatory names or told she didn’t fit in, Paulini said those past experiences made her feel “self doubt” and that she “wasn’t worthy enough to be there” whenever she would walk on stage as a professional singer.
“I had that throughout most of my life until two or three years ago when I found myself breaking down, and it was like, ‘What is going on? There’s something that’s not right’,” she said.
“Growing up in a Christian family, going to see someone to talk to like a counsellor or psychiatrist, you just don’t do that,” she then explained.
The pop star tried writing songs about her experiences but eventually ignored the stigma around seeking professional help.
“It wasn’t until I actually started seeing a psychiatrist and a counsellor that I started dealing with stuff,” she said.
“Not a lot of people know that I did have to get professional help because I just wasn’t comfortable talking about it with my friends or my family. I needed to find that person who was totally different, who’d not known me at all and could help me get through it.”
Paulini recently opened up on ‘I’m A Celeb’ about her experiences with racism in the past.
“I’ve never talked about it in here but I got bullied…for being black,” she told co-star Jack Vidgen. “And it was bad. So when that Black Lives Matter thing happened [last year], it really hit home for me and it brought back a lot of really bad memories.”
She remembered being called a “Blackie” and an incident where a classmate spat in her lunch.
“My primary school experience was disgusting,” she said. “I remember one time so clearly. I was having lunch and I was sitting on my own and basically he [a classmate] walked up to me and he spat on my sandwich… I would just get picked on every day.”
Paulini moved to Australia from Fiji with her family when she was four years old. After finishing fourth on the first season of ‘Australian Idol’ in 2003, she formed the ‘Young Divas’ girl band alongside Ricki-Lee Coulter, Kate DeAraugo and Emily Williams.
She was unmasked as ‘The Spider’ in the first season of ‘The Masked Singer Australia’ in 2019 before continuing her reality TV streak with ‘I’m A Celeb’ this year.
Back in the spotlight, Paulini is looking forward to being back on stage for the first time since COVID-19 hit Australia last year. Joining forces with fellow musician Timomatic, she will be headlining the world premiere of the Adelaide Fringe show, ‘Disco Wonderland: Dancing ‘Til Dawn’ next month.
“This is what I love. I love getting up on stage,” she told HuffPost Australia. “This is going to be the first time I’m actually performing in front of people again after my last gig which was March or February of last year. I can’t wait, I’m so excited.”
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