In a time when representation in entertainment is at the forefront of industry discussion, The Bachelorette’s Niranga Amarasinghe wants viewers to know he’s not merely meeting a diversity quota on the Channel Ten reality show.
The 28-year-old aircraft engineer, who moved to Australia from Sri Lanka when he was three years old, says “I’m definitely more than the brown guy” chasing love with Angie Kent.
Apart from wanting to “just try something different”, Niranga admits his decision to go on the show was somewhat influenced by his parents.
“Mum’s always asking when am I going to find someone and settle down because I’m getting pretty old now,” he told HuffPost Australia.
But his parents have never forced an arranged marriage which is still a common custom amongst some South Asian communities. Niranga says his mother and father are instead “happy for me to find someone on TV”.
“They’re pretty excited and open,” he said.
Being the only South Asian man in the group is also not so foreign to Niranga, and he didn’t feel uncomfortable whatsoever while on set.
“I have a group of mates that are completely diverse. It wasn’t anything new to me,” he said. “Obviously being in sporting teams and the only dark guy, I’ve grown up with that and I’m pretty comfortable with that whole situation.”
“I’m definitely more than the brown guy. I’m fun, I’m energetic. I’m there to make a little bit of a difference and take on the Aussie boys.”
However, beneath the aircraft engineer’s jovial demeanour is a compassionate side born out of his tough experiences as a child. Born in the Veyangoda village in Western Province, Sri Lanka, Niranga says he and his family lived in rough conditions before his parents chose to migrate to Brisbane, Australia 25 years ago.
“I was born in a village where they had mud houses, the roofs were made out of palm leaves,” he said. “Mum and dad were lucky enough to come over here with a couple of thousand dollars to live, and they worked and now they’ve got a multi-million dollar house from nothing.”
With his own childhood experiences front of mind, Niranga approached his friend Carlyle Wells-Peris, who had founded the Bayside Community Outreach, and together they joined forces to launch the NA-Sri Lanka Outreach - Kids in Need charity earlier this year before he entered The Bachelorette mansion.
Through this project, he hopes to help children in his home village who “don’t really have much support”. The Queensland government has already helped by donating hospital supplies, and Niranga’s upcoming charity clothing line aims to raise funds for the cause.
“It’s about where I’ve come from and to help people like me when I was younger and make a difference,” he said. “All my [extended] family’s still over there and I go back now and then”.
The last time Niranga went back to Sri Lanka was in January. “That’s when we took a whole lot of laptops to schools over there and we gave them out,” he said. “People like us that are Sri Lankan and living overseas are helping.”
He says immigration from Sri Lanka to Australia, especially after the Civil War between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam from 1989 to 2009 has “really helped those people suffering from the war... it gives them a second chance and a new life”.
The Bachelorette premieres on Wednesday at 7:30pm on Channel Ten.