Nakkiah Lui is an incredible Australian multi-hyphenate. A decorated actor-writer-comedian-author-et al, Nakkiah spoke with Marc Fennell for our new podcast, Hey, Guess What?, about growing up Indigenous; her road out of law school and into entertainment, and her grandmother’s special appreciation for condoms.
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On politicising race…
We look at [things like race] as political that we can opt in and out of it. But we can’t opt in and out of these things are things that create our communities, for better or for worse. We should be talking about that. They’re things that we experience as humans, it’s part of our human experience.
On her time doing law…
When I was at uni, especially in my first three years of university, I started doing arts law. That’s ultimately what I ended up completing, but it just took me a really long time.
In those first three years, particularly in my third year of uni, I really struggled. I had a lot of issues with my mental health, I think because of that pressure, because I had this expectation of what a successful Aboriginal person is. I think that cultural aspect does play a role.
I you know, it started off okay, but then increasingly I just had this feeling and just this growing feeling of I just can’t see a future doing this. It just felt hopeless in a way.
I felt so unhappy and I kind of you know, I didn’t like going to class. You know, I also remember my first week of law school, this lecturer, he said to me, ‘isn’t it great that you’ve made it so far?’ There was a lot of things like that, you know, at every turn.
It’s tricky, because you carry it with you. And there’s a time where you have to separate yourself from those labels.
On her grandmother’s love for condoms…
My [grandma Joan] was like my second mum. She was my best friend. So I was really close with my nan and my pop growing up. My dad passed away when I think I was about seven. But then my nan like she was my best friend, which never felt lame. Probably sounds lame! Still, doesn’t feel like she was like, really, you know, I would spend every afternoon of school at her place.
She’s really funny. And she was pretty liberated. She was really headstrong, like she loved condoms. Condoms were like the best invention in the entire world!
She just thought it was amazing that like, women could have sex whenever they wanted as much as they wanted and not get pregnant. She couldn’t understand. And I had a lot of cousins who were having teen pregnancies at the time, and she thought it was the [lack of] access to condoms which is probably part of it. So one day she made me run into the local Aboriginal medical service. Keep in mind, I’m like 15, maybe 14, like 120 kilos, like definitely the one in the family not having sex. And she made me run in and like got to the front desk…and she made me like grab all the condoms.