Hooray I won!
Oh, wait, I don’t mean I won the show Making It Australia. I mean, have you met George, Jack and Rizaldi?
Pictured: me, drowning in talent
If you haven’t been following my socials for the last three months (it’s cool, I’ll give you a moment to check them out ;D), I’ve been competing on the show Making It Australia - the Aussie port of the craft show Making It hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. Every week, a diverse cast of talented Makers take part in a series of challenges to find out WHO is the master maker.
Aaaand last Saturday I was booted off.
But I still won.
It’s cliche to say that the show has changed my life, because in a way, it hasn’t. I’m still the same Rehana I was before I stepped foot on the damp and grassy turf of the Making It set. I’m still the same awkward, geeky, offbeat, non-traditional Muslim mum with an affinity for ridiculous shoes and loud jewellery that applied for the show. And as much as I hate to admit it, there were times in the past when people would try to make me ashamed of those things.
And they’d succeed.
Me, hanging out with my imposter syndrome
I think most creative people know that face of self-doubt. That terrible, gnawing feeling that you’re just not good enough - that the only reason people nod their head and smile when you show them a design or an idea is because they’re just too polite to say otherwise. That you’re the walking talking personification of the Dunning-Krueger effect.
I remember that fear, mingled with excitement as I arrived on the farm. I remember the trepidation - that if I was going to be exposed anywhere as a bad creative, it was going to be here, on this show, in front of a national Australian audience.
But that was before I met the other makers.
First day of camp...I mean Making It
Have you ever met someone and just clicked? Well, I clicked with twelve people when I met the makers. Then another sixty as the crew appeared. It was like a hundred cameras going off at once, instantly banishing my self-doubt in its brightness. Every single one of them is a truly wonderful and caring person. We’re used to reality TV giving us a scripted, manicured garden of dramatic characters who may or may not actually exist in real life. But I can confidently say that every person you’ve seen on Making It is exactly as mad, talented, beautiful and lovely as they come across on screen - more so without the thin glass veneer separating us. I met my people, and somehow they seemed delighted to meet me.
I didn’t expect to get past the first week. I mean can you blame me? I was ‘just’ a graphic designer going up against some of the best creatives in their respective fields. Rob is a renowned muralist with artwork that impressed royalty. Sai-Wai and Denise are both established artists with bodies of work that have and will continue to inspire a generation. Andrew is the whole package - talented, sweet and a total gentleman. I’m not a carpenter. Or a prop maker. Or someone capable of creating the beautifully bonkers works of art that Russel turns out on a weekly basis.
When you're so talented, you ARE art
But that didn’t matter in their company. I was who I was, and I was accepted for it. I didn’t need to explain, or caveat, or tone down. I was me, and for the first time in a long time, that was enough.
Our hands after murdering a unicorn one of the challenges
So began my great adventure in rushing around a well stocked larder of craft supplies, telling my weird stories, making mistakes, flailing, failing, succeeding, crying, laughing and falling asleep in a dark corner of the set while the cameras quietly trained their single eye on another one of Denise’s fabulous out-of-the-box creations, or Stephanie’s heartfelt homage to her family. I remember Rob’s special place radiating sacredness, and George’s space-themed backyard attracting me like a moth to the flame. I remember the moment Deborah Riley caught my eye, and with a cheeky smile that punctured my panicked bubble said: “Keep going, Rehana, you’ve got this”.
And that was just what you saw on screen. Behind the scenes was a cast of incredible people who kept the whole mad machine ticking.
And this isn't even everyone!
For a short while, during those two months on set, I had found the things that I’m embarrassed (no - no longer embarrassed) to admit I’ve always struggled to find.
Acceptance, confidence, and a family I never knew I always had.
And don’t even get me started on the challenges. I mean, just look at ALL THE COOL STUFF I got to make. I still have the painted drawer I made for my son in my bedroom. One of Sai-Wai’s clamshell cushions sits on my couch. Russel's beautiful peacock mask, which will go to him when the lockdown ends, ornaments the background of all my zoom calls.
All the cool things!
Not to mention these fancy patches I got:
The Billy Cart, Recycle and Game patches…or as I like to call them, the Nacho, Cheese and Guac patches
Looking back, I remember starting every challenge thinking: haha, why did I have to pick NATIONAL TELEVISION to try something new? I’m just a graphic designer for goodness sake. I work on a computer most of the time. My crafting expertise comes from watching hours of youtube videos and TikToks, and doom scrolling Pinterest in the wee hours of the night when my newborn decided sleep was for the weak. If I look constantly surprised when something worked out, it’s because I am. I kept telling myself that this time I’d be exposed. This time I’d fail. This time they’d realise that they’d made a mistake bringing me on.
But then I’d get through to the next challenge and think: oh wow. It worked this time. This time.
But it kept happening - this lack of failure. Challenge after challenge, until it didn’t anymore. Until the mechanism on my moneybox failed, and then afterwards the wings on my bed.
But when I did fail, I didn’t feel failure. I looked back on all my little victories over the last few weeks and realised something.
I’d already won.
Not when I’d got through the last challenge, or even the first one. But waaaaay back when I first put in my application to be on the show.
There aren’t many people like me on television. I’m Muslim, Indian South African and totally off-beat. Muslim women in particular have been given a very narrow range of scripts to choose from in media. We are usually relegated to the kitchen on reality TV, or caught up in interpersonal culture struggles that, whilst definitely present in my community, didn’t reflect me. All that these well-intentioned caricatures succeeded in doing though was making me feel more strange and isolated. My path to recognising my identity was an unwalked one and I often felt that I had to traverse it alone.
I was strange. I was weird. I was a bit of a dork. I was either too Muslim, or not Muslim enough. I had a sense of humour that sometimes only I found funny. And maybe, just maybe, all the people who had told me those things in the past were right. That I’m a fraud. That I’d just be another Muslim caricature on TV.
As opposed to elegant and demure lady that I am
I have honestly never been so delighted to be so wrong.
So, no, going on Making It didn’t completely change my life. I’m still the same awkward, geeky, offbeat, Muslim mum with an affinity for ridiculous shoes and loud jewellery. I don’t have an extra 100k in the bank…but that wasn’t what I was after in the first place (although it would have been nice ;P). Instead I got the confidence, affirmation and practice to try, fail and try again that led me to going full time with my little business. To proudly be the person I am, joyful, unapologetic and excited. I still feel the same fear and excitement I did back when I first set foot on the farm - but I am DEFINITELY not going home in the first challenge. I’m going to keep going. I’ve got this.
I feel really pretty in this picture, so I wanted to include it somewhere :P
Thank you to everyone who joined me in this weird and wonderful journey over the last few months. Your support and kind messages really mean a lot. In a way it feels like I’ve lived through the show twice - first when we were shooting it, and a second time when I got to see the journey through your eyes. I am forever grateful to you.
I hope if there's anything you can take away from the series it’s that it is okay to be your whole, strange, wonderful selves. Don’t change or try to fit other peoples' attitudes. Your story is just as valid, worthy and wonderful, even if you don’t feel like you have the creative tools to tell it just yet. I am still every bit as excited to hear it.
There is as much bravery in failure as there is in success, because in both instances you’ve still taken that first step.
And just by starting, you’ve already won.
Much love to all of you
Just a graphic designer