Within his first year as a full-time presenter on The Project, Waleed Aly took home the 2016 TV WEEK Gold Logie Award For Most Popular Personality On Australian Television.
Yet the lawyer, lecturer and columnist from Melbourne, who won over audiences with compelling interviews and widely praised editorials, couldn't quite believe it.
"I know it's temporary," he said in his self-deprecating speech. "I know I will probably never be here again."
But there he was again, in 2017. And now he's back, in 2019, with his third Gold Logie nomination in four years.
"It's a touching and surprising compliment," Waleed, 40, tells TV WEEK. "I've always held the view that I'm not designed to be a Logie winner, that Logies go to certain kinds of people and I'm not one of them. So it's a genuine surprise each time."
Surely the man who grew up with a deep love of newspapers and communication would see his effect on others, right? Waleed lets out a little chuckle, recalling the time he'd received a fan email after writing "just a handful" of pieces for The Sydney Morning Herald.
"In the email, they said they'd been following my articles," Waleed adds. "And I was just astonished that there was a single person out there who noticed I'd written more than one!"
Waleed's trajectory towards becoming a public figure started with print, then radio, then television, including 2005's Muslim comedy talk show Salam Cafe, which he co-hosted with his wife, Dr Susan Carland, on Channel 31, and later in 2008 on SBS.
None of these roles were part of any media career evolution, though, "because that makes it sound like I'm in control in some way, or that it's somehow planned," Waleed says.
"It's all been accidental. My basic philosophy has been, if a door opens and someone invites you to walk through it, it's probably worth seeing what's on the other side."
The Project has opened many doors for Waleed, allowing him to interview politicians as rigorously as he would have done on the ABC, but also letting him present editorials on difficult subjects such as negative gearing or voter attitudes on climate change.
"As a lecturer, you take complicated ideas and try to present them to an audience that's never heard them before," he says. "So it's evolved fairly naturally that way."
On March 25, the public reacted with strong support to Waleed's emotional but cathartic interview with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern just 10 days after terrorist shootings at mosques in Christchurch left 51 people dead and 40 injured.
"I was sitting down, ready for a straight up-and-down interview, and she walks in and gives me a hug, which I wasn't anticipating," Waleed says with awe. "That immediately creates a different sort of mood."
The 61st TV WEEK Logie Awards, with all its glitz and glamour, will take place on Sunday, June 30, 2019 at The Star Gold Coast in Queensland. All the action from the red-carpet arrivals and awards-show celebrations will be telecast on the Nine Network and 9Now.