MasterChef favourite Laura hits back at trolling
MasterChef finalist Laura Sharrad has been shocked by the abuse she's received on social media during this year's series, and says she has "not one bad bone" in her body.
As the final weeks of the TV juggernaut draw near, the 25-year-old South Australian favourite says her return to the reality cooking competition in 'Back to Win' has been a vastly different experience to her MasterChef debut in 2014.
She's been labelled smug, slammed for cooking pasta too often and accused of being favourited by SA judge Jock Zonfrillo, for whom she used to work at Restaurant Orana.
"I didn't notice it until maybe the third week in, when I was randomly copping all this backlash," said Mrs Sharrad, who runs Italian restaurant Nido with her husband, Max, in Hyde Park.
"I was like, what have I done to all these people? I thought I was a fun person to watch on TV!
"I feel a little vilified … people who know me know that I have not one bad bone in my body."
Rewind six years and the then-Laura Cassai was widely adored as the 19-year-old underdog in season six, praised for showing skills beyond her years and showcasing lesser-known pastas such as gnocchi rotolo.
Trolling wasn't an option. Miss Cassai didn't even have an Instagram account.
"We weren't allowed any social media at all," said Mrs Sharrad. "I think the worst thing someone said was, 'who is this young b***h?'"
Today, contestants are not only allowed but encouraged to use social media to grow individual audiences. Mrs Sharrad has 58,000 Instagram followers, most of whom she's gained through the latest season.
Much of the negativity comes from other women, Mrs Sharrad says. "I don't really understand how we're living in this world where everyone wants equality, whether it's racial or sexual, and the people who are meant to support you still bring you down," she said.
She's not the only one who's been slandered for showing confidence. Fellow South Australian finalist Poh Ling Yeow sits in the same boat.
"Of course we're confident, we've done it before," Mrs Sharrad says, adding that she actually has only made "five or six" pastas this season but, as her best dishes, they're the ones that get the air time. To the people who say Jock favours her: "They're feeding their own bull***t to be honest," she says. "I get heaps of messages on Instagram now about how Jock is too harsh on me. Poh knows Jock too, and Andy knows a lot of contestants."
Despite the social media challenges, Mrs Sharrad said she would do it all again in a heartbeat. The majority of people have been supportive and, back on home turf, fans have had only nice things to say.
"South Australians are a difference breed, they want to see other South Australians succeed," she said.
"I loved both (MasterChef) experiences, but this one has been really, really special." Second favourite to win on betting platform, Sportsbet, behind Victoria's Emilia Jackson, the experience may just get even more special, yet.
Originally published as MasterChef favourite Laura hits back at trolling