When Australia first met Brooke Jowett on ‘Survivor’ in 2016, she was in her early 20′s and searching for direction in life. The isolation, strenuous physical demands and mental challenges of the reality show kicked a new burst of energy into her.
“It sounds cheesy but I feel like I first went onto Survivor as a confused young adult who didn’t know what her purpose was in the world,” she told HuffPost Australia.
“I then left as someone who was more confident in herself but also in where she wanted to go in life.”
Three years later she returned to the TV franchise for an all-stars version, and she said her “life has changed in so many ways” since then.
Navigating her passion for keeping active amid the coronavirus pandemic, the now 27-year-old enjoys her Zoom workouts with her mum twice a week, baking “semi-healthy” banana bread (as we all do) and embracing her latest project as a Master Trainer for the fitness app, Keep It Cleaner.
“I first went onto 'Survivor' as a confused young adult”
“I think the silver lining of COVID-19 is that a lot of us have a lot more time on our hands to be active, to go for walks or do at home workouts,” she said.
“My ‘normal’ routine sees me exercising first thing each morning, whether that be a walk, run or workout. I have continued to do this during iso while also throwing in some virtual workouts with my family.”
Her new gig involves leading high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, but she said her advice to people is “to not put too much pressure on themselves”.
“Aim to work out first thing in the morning so life can’t get in the way. If you’re having a down day, rest but at least get outside for a walk. Any movement is better than no movement.”
“I was sadly ashamed to say I was Sri Lankan”
Appearing on ‘Survivor’ not only gave her greater direction, but made her realise the example she can set for others.
“The greatest thing to come out of my appearance on Survivor, is the fact I have become a role model for younger women,” she said.
“There is no better feeling than receiving messages from parents saying that they are so happy their child has someone like myself to look up to. I have received many messages from younger culturally diverse girls who have said ‘I’m Sri Lankan too!’. I love sharing that sense of pride with them.”
Born and raised in Melbourne, Brooke’s Sri Lankan heritage “played a significant role” in her upbringing.
“My background is Australian/Sri Lankan. Believe it or not, my Dad is very fair with blonde hair and blue eyes,” she said. “My Mum was born in Sri Lanka but moved to Australia when she was quite young.”
Reminiscing of “unlimited supply of curry dishes” at her grandmother’s house and “Sri Lankan aunties pinch my cheeks”, Brooke said it wasn’t all easy growing up biracial in Australia.
“I can remember vividly being picked on in primary school for my colour. My best friend Kelly used to fight back to the bullies for me because I would just let it slide,” she said.
“There were times where my dad had to visit the school due to cruel comments that kids had made. I’d like to think that kids are more kind these days but I do believe there is still so much education needed within schools about different cultures and what is right and wrong.”
When people asked, ‘Where are you from?’, she was entrenched in shame.
“In my teens, I used to shy away from this question or reply with fake answers as I was sadly ashamed to say I was Sri Lankan. That’s actually so sad to say,” she admitted.
Reconciling with her cultural identity has taken time, but now she couldn’t be more proud of who she is.
“Now that I’ve grown up, I love talking about it! It adds a little more mystery to who I am. I am really proud of my family and my heritage.”
By surrounding herself with loved ones and strong female figures, Brooke hopes to continue to lead by example and inspire other young women of colour in the future.
“One of my biggest female inspirations is my older sister Kellie. She is an incredible mother of two young kids who somehow still manages to find the time to be everyone’s counsellor and supporter,” she said.
“I hope when the time comes for me to have kids, that I follow in her footsteps.”
The Keep it Cleaner app relaunches on Monday August 17.