Prince Charming: DANIEL LEACH

Prince Charming: DANIEL LEACH

Prince Charming alert!! This is where we celebrate the kick ass men in today’s world who are setting the bar high when it comes to love and respect.

Introducing Daniel Leach:

**Before we go near these questions: anyone who knows me knows I hate to talk about myself or talk myself up. And yes, that may seem strange for someone who works in the media industry but it just seems so foreign to me. So let’s see how this all goes… nothing too hard please, Carmela!**

1) Describe yourself in three words: 

Generous, altruistic, sports-mad.

2) What do you think a modern-day Prince Charming is?  

Being a ‘Prince Charming’ isn’t to do anything radical. It’s treating everyone the same and that’s not a religious way of thinking (of which I am not anymore), or a philosophical way of thinking, it’s just common sense. So for guys, it’s about treating women the way you would want to be treated. You don’t want to be thought of as inferior, you don’t want to be thought of as unimportant, so why should a woman be thought of in that way?! It’s simply about fighting for everyone.

3) What’s one piece of advice you would give to young men?  

Sometimes men can act a certain way to impress others (particularly other men). Just be yourself. I know that’s not always an easy thing to do but if your mates are acting up, talk to someone about it. In fact, just plain talk. I wish I had done more of that growing up. It’s seems like a weak thing to do but it’s such a strong thing to speak out and sometimes, admit your own faults.

4) What does feminism mean to you? Would you call yourself a feminist?  

I fight for a lot of females that I know. Ones that I work with, ones that I trust, ones that I love. Does that make me a feminist? Maybe. I try to be more a humanist.

The word feminism gets a bad rap, when all it really means is to even up the playing field. For everyone to be treated equally but in order to do that, you need to blow up the norm; which is that men are given a lot of benefits in life compared to women.

It’s the same with African-Americans in the USA with their ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. It is all about equality for all, but in order to make their point, they have to point out that (the bulk of) white lives have mattered more than black lives for such a long time.

The big thing for me is just to have good values and treat others with respect; that will always lead to being a champion of women. It’s important as well for fellow women to have women’s backs too.

5) Which Kweens have influenced your life? How did that make an impact on your life/career? 

I grew up with two older sisters and my mum, as well as my dad. Before going to the Kweens: my father Kelvin is an incredible man who worked (and still works) his backside off to allow our family to be able to live a great life.

But we’re talking Kweens, so I have to start with mum, Marilyn. She stayed at home, ran around after all of us, tried to appease my stupid ways as a young kid, made so many sacrifices for both me and my sisters. I know I’ve disappointed her at times (they’re easily the toughest moments) and I know there’s times where she’s thought I’m an absolute idiot but she’s always backed me in, given me support and been there for me the whole way.

Both my sisters, Rebecca and Carly are incredible mums themselves, but also bloody clever people. They also taught me about respect and hard work (that was definitely not a trait I had as a school kid, that’s for sure!)

The great thing of being around women at home meant I was comfortable around girls at school. Not in that way… I have a lot of female friends from high school that I’m still close to nowadays, who are always wonderful to be around and I also learn from too.

6) What are your working relationships like with women? 

I have a really strong working relationship with women in our company, whether it be in management, to strong fellow announcers/presenters and people inside sales and admin.

Partly because of my upbringing at home and through school, I’ve always worked really well with other women. If you can’t work with women well, you’ll lose 50% of the workforce and that’s not all that impressive…

I’ve been lucky to have some amazing ladies who have led the way. My last two direct bosses inspire me a lot and are amazing at getting the job done.

One of my best mates (and I know she won’t want me to talk about her) I’ve known for a decade now, she has been a work-mate of mine and also my boss at times. I’m indebted to her in what she’s done for me, how much support she has given me in work and in life, but also just sharing life’s small fun moments as well.

7) What do you hope for men and women in the future? 

Corny, I know, but it’s all about men and women being equals.

8) Which fairy tale character, do you most identify with? Or who would play you in a movie? 

I of course would be a supporting character. So let’s choose Sebastian from The Little Mermaid: there to offer advice and be a comforting ear (well, for the second half of the film at least).

And if someone’s going to play me in a movie, it better be Jack Black, preferably from the School of Rock era.

Daniel Leach is currently the workday announcer and sports broadcaster at Triple M for Regional Western Australia, part of the Southern Cross Austereo group. He’s had the opportunity to live his childhood dream of being a sports commentator for AFL, Basketball, Athletics, Motor Sport and more, as well as being a 2-time ACRA (Australian Commercial Radio Award) winner for his sports broadcasting, which included sports coverage of the Western Australian Women’s State Basketball League Grand Final back in 2012.

Sports aside: Daniel is also known around town as a bit of a local hero. Dan is always the first to put his hand up to help or to shine a light on a worthy cause and not to forget, will always stop and talk to anyone on the streets, including my father (who doesn’t like ‘anyone’ but has a lot of time for Dan).

Daniel is the ultimate gent and someone Carmela has had the extreme pleasure of working with on two occasions throughout her career (which were all the more richer and enjoyable because of Dan).

Leach is not only the true meaning of a sports freak (seriously) but has an effortless knack of being the funniest and kindest guy in the room. He loves a chinwag, will gossip with the best of them, can pick a ‘tune’ and is not afraid to show you up on the d-floor with his moves.

Daniel Leach is no secondary character but the leading man in most people’s lives. For a guy who spends most of his time celebrating others, Carmela is thrilled to give Dan some well-deserved love and recognition in return as ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied’s’ next Prince Charming.

@thesportsfreak

Kween Krush: EBONY MELLOWSHIP “Turning Pain Into Power With Tattoos.”

Kween Krush: EBONY MELLOWSHIP “Turning Pain Into Power With Tattoos.”

Kween Krush alert!! This is where we celebrate everyday women for being complete badass Wonder Women.

Ebony, hubba hubba, guurl do we have an Aaron Carter-size crush on you!! Not only do you have some bangin’ style, look like a goth-punk-rock goddess, have a heart of platinum gold, are funny AF but you also have some mad mad tatts skillzzzz. So bare with me while I celebrate the insane human that you are!

How long have you been a tattoo artist for?

It’s just come up to eight and a half years. I can’t believe it’s been that long!!

What made you decide to become a tattoo artist? Did it start with a love for art and design?

I guess I always wanted to do something creative, as I had an interest in art growing up but I didn’t really know what to do with it and more importantly, how I could possibly have a long term career making enough clams to get by as an ‘artist’.

I only really considered being a ‘tattoo artist’ when I was about 17/18 and started getting my first few tattoos but again, I didn’t know how to go about it. To me, the tattoo industry was one of those industries that seemed like a secret society, and I was always so intimidated going into studios. I had a little taste when I was 19 in a local studio in Bunbury, but it wasn’t until I was 23 that I got my apprenticeship in Margaret River.

You are totally covered in tatts yourself, face/hands/chest/arms… how did this come about?

Just a natural progression I think. Looking at it now, I definitely got a few tattoos on my body before I should have. Generally you’re meant to wait until you have a fair amount of coverage, like full sleeves etc before you get your hands done but I just did it anyway cos I was 19 and a dickhead and wanted to. That’s also why I have loads of shitty tattoos too haha.

Was there a particular pivotal moment in your life that sparked this journey of self-expression?

I don’t know if it was one moment, but I do believe this is just where I was meant to end up. My parents have always been super encouraging, my dad especially when it came to pursuing something in the ‘arts’ and doing something creative and whether it would be just for me or something I would try and build a career out of.

Also the bands I listened to heavily influenced the way I dressed (some of those early 2000s choices I’d like to forget about lol) and me getting my first couple tattoos, but I have no regrets as it all played a part in leading me to tattooing.

Not that I condone giving a fuck about what other people think, but what is the general reaction to your tattoos? Even in today’s world is there any discrimination that comes along with it?

Hahaha yeah, I don’t condone that at all too but it’s still hard isn’t it? I’m 31 and as much as I like to believe that I’m past caring what people think, there’s still times where I can’t help but be affected by people’s reactions when they’re negative.

It’s more the looks people give you, and just the staring in general. I’ve had people say to me over the years that I must get tattooed or dress/look a certain way because I like the attention but that’s sooo far from it. Why can’t people just do what the fuck they want without it having to be about others?

You’ve travelled a bit and lived in various locations as a tattoo artist, what is the community like? Is it a more different crowd, a group that are more accepting of individuality? Or is not that deep?

I haven’t done nearly as much travel as I’d like, especially with tattooing. I get too anxious and find it hard to push myself out of my safe little shop bubble, but I’m going to keep working at that! There are so many conventions and guest spots I’d like to do all over the world. The tattoo community is great, especially the ‘lady tattooer’ community!

I think it just comes along with being in this industry, by nature everyone is more accepting. We’re all a bunch of weirdos, so we have to be!!

Your tattoos are incredible and your talents recognised amongst your peers. How scary is it to tattoo another human? Especially big, detailed, important tattoos?

Aw geez thaaaanks! It’s TERRIFYING!! I have the hardest time convincing myself that I’m doing an ok job. Huge case of imposter syndrome.

It usually serves me better to just pretend it’s not a big deal, because if I overthink it. I stress too much about upcoming jobs and beat myself up about little things; there’s a lot of expectation.

I think every tattoo is important you know, as it always is for the person that’s getting it. Surprisingly, it’s usually the small ones that are harder or that I worry over more because there’s less room for error!

Have you ever royally fucked it up? Lol!

Haha, I haven’t had any maaaajor fuck ups. I’ve definitely made some mistakes; you’re still working on a living, moving human so those things happen.

In the early days I did heeeeeaps of shit tattoos that I still sometimes lose sleep over, but you have to start somewhere I guess ha.

You mentioned the ‘lady tattooer community’ before, what’s the culture of working as a ‘female’ tattoo artist? Can it be a bit of a boys club too?

Yeah I think it’s definitely a boys club, it always has been but it’s shifted a lot and yes, there’s now this incredible female tattooer community that I feel so lucky and proud to be a part of. Especially in the last few years and seeing how things have changed, it’s way less cliquey.

I’m part of a few online groups of lady tattooers and it’s so nice to have a safe space to talk to your peers and to get constructive criticism/advice on your work. You don’t have to be concerned about asking for help or being shut down and it’s just so welcoming and uplifting; there’s no ego or bullshit.

How would you describe your childhood/teenage years? Do you think it played a big part in the person you are now?

I had a bit of a shit time growing up tbh. I was bullied pretty mercilessly for my weight and appearance and still am sometimes. I’m fucking fat guys, get over it, jeeeeesus.

Theres so much more good stuff in my life but the negative and traumatic has had a way more profound effect on me. Obviously it would have been waaay better not to have had people pour off-milk on my head and call me a fat cunt everyday (soooo not still bitter about it), I guess I am who I am because of all of it haha.

Well, I LOVE YOU and I’m so sorry that you had to experience such awful behavior like that.

Lena Dunham claims she started tattooing her body to take back control of it. Is this too your perception on body image/body confidence and being body shamed? And is this in any relation to tattooing your body?

Yeah I guess if I open up about it on a deeper level than just ‘I hell like tats’, having tattoos definitely makes me feel more confident with my body; it’s something I choose to do and have control over.

I’ve experienced my fair share of body shaming, I don’t know any woman that hasn’t unfortunately. I love the idea of tattoos being something that people use to empower themselves!

I self-harmed for a lot of my teenage years: from when I was about 11 until my early 20s and getting tattooed had a huge (positive) impact on my mental health. I don’t really know how to explain it because I haven’t really mentioned it before this, but I think wanting something rad or colourful instead of cuts and scars made me kind of stop and I thought about my body differently because of having tattoos. It’s something I liked about myself.

I’ve had most of my scars tattooed over, and I’m in the position now where I can do the same for others. I’ve been lucky enough to tattoo quite a few people over their scars and I know first hand how healing that is!!

You really are one-in-a-million Kween. Did I state already that I love you and want to watch you sleep? (Too much?!) 😋

Actually I’ve also noticed, you’ve recently connected with a beau, in a modern fairy tale way! Dish dish dish!! Tell us all about it!?

Eeeeeee!!!

We met through Facebook! We’d been friends on there since 2012 (crazy) but hadn’t ever spoken. He had liked a few of my selfies over the years haha and then he randomly messaged me last year and we’ve pretty much talked everyday since then. He’s Irish but lives in New Zealand, so we didn’t actually meet in person until a couple of weeks ago when he flew here. Now I’m moving to NZ because we’re in loooove and I’m so so happy. He’s my first BF and he’s so sweet and funny and handsome (and did I mention Irish?) and I just love and adore him!!!

HOORAY!! This my kind of happily ever after. Yasss.

Knowing what you know now, what’s one thing you’d tell your younger self?

I know it’s super cliche, but just that things will get better. That your worth isn’t based on others opinions of you and it’s definitely not defined by how you look. And also read more!!!

Any advise to other bad ass beautiful Kweens trying to find themselves or are struggling to embrace their uniqueness?

Surround yourself with the best damn girl gang you can. I have soooo many incredible women in my life who do nothing but support and love me, but are also strong enough to call me out if I’m being an asshole. Seeing yourself from your friends’ perspective because of how they treat and value you for literally just being you, is fucking beautiful and made me realise maybe I’m not such a piece of shit afterall.

Ebony and Carmela went to high school together. Carmela remembers feeling x1000 cooler whenever Ebony was around, like something special was going to happen; and it always did! Also Eb had the knack of making Carmela laugh till just a little bit of a pee would come out. Carmela’s fondest memory of Ebony is when she they got ready for a house party together at her place and she did the most rad make up on her face. Carmela is lucky she had an ‘Ebony’ around when she was going through those awkward teenage years and she hopes you did too, because ‘Ebonys’ are the tits!!

ebony_mellowship

5 reasons we’re all here for season 2 of GLOW (and why your inner Kween needs to binge it stat!!)

5 reasons we’re all here for season 2 of GLOW (and why your inner Kween needs to binge it stat!!)

5. Season 2 of GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) continues the brilliant story of these kick-ass, flawed, edgy, colourful, misfit female characters; who happen to make us all question what we’re really saying when we say “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic but…”

Liberty Belle

The Welfare Queen

Beirut The Mad Bomber

Fortune Cookie

4. The honest depiction of female relationships is everything!! The raw dynamic between Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin) as they try to repair their friendship is real AF. This reveals the good, the bad and the ugly of most female bonds; confirming that feminism is not about attacking men, but mostly about not attacking each other.

3. The writers throw a little #MeToo and #Weinstein storylines in for the sake of relevance; giving this modern nightmare a little light relief but cementing more than ever, that this sort of behaviour has been around longer than we all dare to admit. Ruth’s incident shows that women can be victimised and empowered at the same time but also why women shy away from opening up about these awful events, which is a real eye-opener and damn shame!!

2. The style is so so soooo 80s, at it’s best. Welcome to a time when the fashun code was ‘more is more’. You are in for a treat! Get ready for some big hair and blue glitter eye shadow inspo.

1. The soundtrack is E P I C, filled with bangin, deadly, schweet, sick, jams!! I mean, sure we all love a bit of nostalgia but these tunes matched with the rise and fall of these characters is a power combo made in glam heaven. Psst! If you need a workday pick me up, give the below a spin.

Guest Kween: TAM HEINJUS “My Wonder Twins And A Fight For Life.”

Guest Kween: TAM HEINJUS “My Wonder Twins And A Fight For Life.”

I just remember being so fucking angry.

Why is it that a chick on crack can deliver perfectly healthy babies? And here I am, off alcohol, off ham, off mouldy cheese, off everything!! And yet, my babies – yes, plural – babies! Are fighting for their fucking lives?

It was at this point, the NICU psychologist suggested I continue my sessions.

The NICU.  The Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit.

It’s a world unto itself.

My hope is, you never have to experience it. It’s where all the really sick babies go; and the lower your bed number, the sicker you are.

My twins occupied beds 1 and 2, for over six weeks. It was only about half of their time in hospital… and yet, we were lucky!

Hi. My name is Tam, and I was never going to have kids. I have one ovary (the result of an ovarian cyst removed during an endometriosis operation). However, in a bizarre twist of fate, I conceived on the first attempt at pregnancy.

So again, lucky right?!

Yep. These are the things I kept telling myself, sitting bedside in the NICU, while twin 2 stopped breathing for the 10th time that morning.

It had already been a difficult pregnancy! At 12 weeks, I’d been told I was having a miscarriage. Only to discover, I’d actually lost one of three.

At 20 weeks my water broke, and I was told to abort the pregnancy, and start again. I ignored that advice, and decided to take it day by day.

Every day was a long day. Especially after the twins had been born. Welcome, 12 to 15 hour shifts sitting bedside in the NICU. These are my children. I love them. But I couldn’t sit for 15 hours a day.

I couldn’t sit there and watch them stop breathing every three to four hours, only to be brought back to life. With that moment of hesitation every now and then, when the regular ‘tricks’ didn’t work. When the monitor kept triggering the non-responsive alarm a few too many times; wondering if this was it. Am I going to lose a baby right now, in this moment?

It was mentally draining.  Day in.  Day out.

My only reprieve was going to milk myself in what we called the ‘boob room’ every three or so hours. Hooking my massive twin mum melons up to a double suction machine, to get every last drop of milk out for the twins’ current diet of 1ml, every two hours. Yep. 1 ml!!!

Fun fact: even when you deliver a baby 15 weeks early, your body knows you’ve expelled life, and starts producing milk.

Just a reminder, my name is Tam.

The woman with: one ovary, two premmie babies and a gazillion tears.

A miracle mum to twins born at 25 weeks gestation.

I can tell you, at 25 weeks, babies are U.G.L.Y.

Their skin is transparent.  They still have hair all over their bodies. And they’re small.  So small. Imagine a tub of margarine, and add a half. That was the size of the twins. Less than 30 cms long from the top of their heads to the tips of their toes.

Black eyes, because their eyes actually haven’t developed yet. And their lungs are so tiny, they actually can’t operate on their own; so they need breathing assistance, 24 hours a day.

Add to this, a Swine Flu outbreak.

It’s 2009, and Melbourne is reeling from a Swine Flu epidemic. I walked into the NICU, and the section where beds 1 and 2 are, is isolated. The rest of the beds in that room have also been removed.

There’s a certain kind of paperwork across a bed area, next to twin 2, so I know someone’s baby has died.

Truth is, I saw that baby dying the day before, when the nurses called a code blue. I left my babies’ bedside that day, so the mother of the dying baby could spend time alone with her miracle. The mother of that baby saw me the day after. She didn’t speak to me. She simply squeezed my arm in appreciation for allowing her to be with her baby privately.

For us, the isolation meant five days of sitting bedside wearing face masks and waiting for the results of two blood tests. Finally we discovered the twins didn’t contract Swine Flu.

What they did contract though, was a certain ability to talk to each other subliminally.

Still, Twin 1 wasn’t well at all.  For the best part of nearly two months, machines had been doing the breathing for her. As her mother, I’d only held her a handful of times in those eight weeks. In fact, it was seven days before I got to first hold her after she was born. Seven fucking days. An entire week of not being able to hold my newborn daughter.

I had to sit beside her crib, and just watch a machine breathe for her, holding onto her tiny little leg while another blood transfusion made its way through her translucent foot.

It was at this time, twin 2 needed an operation that could only be performed at a different hospital. So, off we went in the morning for surgery. There was no room in the NICU for twin 1 post-surgery at this other hospital; so we were on ward. It was AWFUL.

I pleaded to get my boy back to the same hospital as his sister, and back into the same NICU and as fate would have it, we luckily qualified for the last transport ambulance for the ‘week’.

We made our way back to the hospital where twin 1 was pulling her usual ‘help me breathe’ routine. As twin 2 was wheeled past twin 1 on his way back to his crib, he stopped breathing.

Alarms start ringing. Twin 1 then decides to stop breathing also. More alarm bells!

The nurses put twin 1 and twin 2 side by side. They both start breathing fine. No alarms.

And this continued for the entire night.

This was my life. Watching these tiny, tiny humans communicate through lung capacity!

I had visitors during the week, each helping me take my mind off the fact that one or both of the twins could die at any second. But it was the weekends that were the longest.

One weekend hubby would be down, relieving the pressure on me for a few hours. The next weekend, I’d be on my own.

We lived four hours away from the hospital and with a mortgage to pay, another child to care for… there were only so many times he could come and visit.

I remember thanking the guy at the local coffee shop with a card when we were allowed to leave the hospital. He pretended to understand why I had looked forward to his coffee every Tuesday afternoon. He really had no idea.

No one has any idea how hard it is to have a premmie baby, unless you’ve actually had one (let alone two).

This isn’t meant to be an ‘I’ve done it harder’ story. This is simply a ‘Fuck, I did it hard’ story, that you may or may not identify with.

Either way.  Motherhood…

It’s the hardest, most rewarding, awful, beautiful, gratifying, disheartening, fucked up, beautiful thing… ever!

I just hope your journey, doesn’t include a NICU. But, if it does, I’m here if you need to talk.

Tam Heinjus is an overworked, underpaid creative writer who writes for passion when she can’t pay the bills. A woman who tries hard to be a good mother, wife and friend… and fails miserably at all three some days.

Tam Heinjus

365 Real Days

Kween Kulture: ILIZA SHLESINGER ‘Elder Millennial.’

Kween Kulture: ILIZA SHLESINGER ‘Elder Millennial.’

“Whatever kind of woman you are, you’re quiet, you’re fat, you’re small, you’re big, you’re tall, you’re loud, you don’t know much, you got a gill: whatever kind of woman you are, you are right! That’s it. Whatever you’ve chosen to be, whatever you want to be, you are correct in being that, as long as you’re happy.”

“If you are the shy type, if you are the wallflower, if you are the shrinking violet, if you are another floral metaphor that has to do with being an introvert, my point to you is, you don’t want the guy, who wants you, because of that energy.”

“In movies it’s not the strong girl, the funny girl, the brave girl, the smart girl, the loud girl, the opinionated girl, who gets the hot guy. It’s always the quiet girl, the new girl that gets like, Channing Tatum. It’s always the girl that doesn’t realise how beautiful she is. Which by the way, that Hollywood archetype… bullshit!”

I feel like Iliza has been sitting in my head for the past year. Her opinion on how women are represented in fairy tales and movies is just spot on, or at the very least thought provoking. Not to forget to mention her take on dating, women hitting on men, women wanting babies and the rejection that comes along with it; I could quote her (and will) for days. This is a MUST WATCH!!- Carmela Contarino

“A big part of the reason women don’t hit on men is that women aren’t seen as equal to men. Therefore when we step out of a traditional feminine role and do something alpha and hit on a guy and he rejects us, it hurts that much more.”

“Another big part of the reason that women don’t hit on men, is because men typically don’t find strong women attractive. They love venerability.”

Prince Charming: PAUL RIGGIO

Prince Charming: PAUL RIGGIO

Prince Charming alert!! This is where we celebrate the kick ass men in today’s world who are setting the bar high when it comes to love and respect.

Introducing Paul Riggio:

1) Describe yourself in three words:

Resilient, instinctive, ambitious, spontaneous, compassionate, introspective, complex… What’s the word for someone who can’t count?

2) What do you think a modern-day Prince Charming is? 

Does he even exist? Ha! The enchanting champion who saves the day and whose heroic actions earn him the highly sought-after princess as his prize… [record scratch].     Hang on, it’s 2018! Do we even want him to exist?

No, thank you! Ain’t nobody taking me as a prize (although my other half has scored the jackpot… and don’t I keep reminding him! Jokes people!!).

My ‘new-age’ prince charming isn’t charging solo. Rather, we’re riding side-by-side. PC’s got my back and I’ve got his. He’s giving me strength when I require it and support when I need it. PC never pulls the reigns to hold me back. Instead, he’s there to push me forward. And it’s vice versa. Because together we will triumph. And together we make each other our best selves. And that’s the real prize. Thanks PC!

3) What’s one piece of advice you would give to young men? 

Let’s be honest, you’re gonna be a bit of a ‘dick’ for the most part of your late adolescence and early adulthood. To each other, to your family, to those you fancy. We all were… blame the testosterone. Whether it’s trying to impress mates, trying to assert our newly developed masculinity, trying to prove ourselves…

So, my advice would be to always have respect for yourself and for others. Even when you’re trying to ‘become a man’ in those turbulent years. Look to your role models and follow their lead. Let them and the ‘good guy’ on your shoulder guide you. And for goodness sake, listen!

4) What does feminism mean to you? Would you call yourself a feminist?  

It’s the understanding that women are equal in society and must be ensured every opportunity possible throughout it, without diminished status or reward. That women not only offer just as much to society as men, but also have a unique and significant perspective that must be heard. It’s about the freedom of women to make their own decisions regarding their life, their body, career, family, finances and future.

Feminism has been a tough fight and there’s still a way to go (let’s take a moment to celebrate those courageous women that have been at the forefront of this today and throughout history) but feminism for me is a celebration of women; all that they are, all that they offer, and all that has been achieved.

But it’s more than all of this. It’s also about believing that most of us out there want the same for all women, regardless of our sex. So feminism is also about embracing those out there that share the same belief. I know plenty of cracking guys who are all for equality for women and they should be embraced and celebrated as change. And yes, us blokes need to pull our socks up, me included but don’t we all, men and women alike, when it comes to these important social issues?

Feminism can too often get misrepresented and reduced to be ‘Man Vs. Woman’ or ‘man-bashing’. I think feminism should be about leading by example to continue to make further progress and I think we can all take heed of that.

I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist and I’ve never labelled myself as one. I’m not on the picket lines or in the trenches like the courageous women I tipped my hat to earlier and who have earned the right to be called feminists. I do know that I wholeheartedly believe no matter your sex, ethnicity, religion or sexuality, we all deserve the opportunity to be and give our best, free from judgement, persecution or inequality. I like the term ‘feminist ally’, I’m cool with that and proud to say it.

5) Which Kweens have influenced your life? How did that make an impact on your life/career?

How lucky am I to have so many important, influential, magnificent women in my life?

It all begins with my mum. She’s the strongest woman I know. Despite the unbelievable number of serious medical conditions she has to deal with, she’s as tough as nails and has never given up (I reckon I’d have thrown the towel in long ago).

She’s battled her demons openly and always with a brave face; even with the resulting mental health issues that after decades of ill health and chronic pain have chipped away at her spirit. And even with all that, she managed a family of four kids, a home and the finances. She did that because dad was out busting his gut working two and three jobs or night-shifts to bring in enough money, so mum could keep us fed, housed, clothed and educated.

Mum is courageous, curious, loving, selfless and fierce. She taught us to be independent (she will now tell you we’re all too independent) and encouraged us to work hard, respect one another and find what makes us happy.  I’ve certainly done that and now that my career has me living around the world, which I know she hates because of the distance, she is still proud and supportive. It also gives her major bragging rights with her girlfriends (I’ll allow her this fantasy).

Mum’s a dinner-and-a-show kinda gal now. She loves a night out, a dance when she’s up to it, music, a laugh and meeting new people. She’ll never admit it but she also loves a good feed and to feed others. The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree on all of the above!

Just quickly, I have also had some incredibly inspiring female teachers who set me on the path of following what I was passionate about, even if I copped shit for it. There also many strong and independent women in my family including my sister, my aunts, my grandmother, and my nieces that have helped shape the man I’ve become. And some gloriously sassy, smart, accomplished girlfriends who have, and continue to, support and inspire me everyday.

Oh! And Oprah!! Who captivated a prepubescent, skinny, awkward, camp-ish, ethnic kid who wasn’t sure where he fitted in and made him believe he could get a job in TV. Here I aaaaammmmm! (I won’t be giving away cars anytime soon though).

6) What are your working relationships like with women?

I don’t think it’s unusual (certainly not with the people I have worked so closely with in my career) to have nothing but strong, collaborative working relationships with women. I have always thrived working alongside talented and intelligent women and have learnt a great deal from many of them who have guided and mentored me. 

7) What do you hope for men and women in the future?

I hope we get to the day where we can focus on our similarities, not our differences and that the unique qualities and perspectives we all have as individuals is celebrated.

8) Which fairy tale character, do you most identify with? Or who would play you in a movie? 

Aladdin! He’s an energetic, cheeky, smart kid who walks his own path. He’d be the class clown today: disruptive and impatient because he is preoccupied and easily excited by all kinds of people, the big world out there and the lessons that he knows they will teach him. He’s kind and generous and definitely someone not to be underestimated.

Is it a little weird that I was kind of attracted to the animated character when I was a kid watching the film? Weren’t we all?

Oh, and Stanley Tucci would totally play me in a movie. Am I right?

Paul Riggio is currently an Executive Producer for global media company FremantleMedia, one of the leading creators, producers and distributors of television brands in the world. He’s an accomplished television producer and show-runner with over 15 years hands-on experience working on some of the biggest international, entertainment and studio formats in Australia, Asia and the USA. This includes the Asian Television Award winning, ‘Asia’s Got Talent’, the International Emmy Award nominated format, ‘La Banda’, ‘Australia’s Got Talent’, ‘The X Factor’, ‘Australian Idol’ and ‘So You Think You Can Dance’. Paul also became an elected member of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (International Emmys) in 2017.

Showbiz aside, Paul’s talents also extends to ordering ‘everything’ off the menu, picking out a great bottle of red, finding grammatical errors in your Facebook posts, singing in perfect harmony, and serving flawless lewks and moves on the d-floor (choreographed and improvised).  

Paul too is one of Carmela’s closest friends, hell he’s more like family! He’s her confidant and conscience. The Karen to her Grace, the Olivia to her Mellie, the ‘Paul’ to her Ru. 😉

Carmela’s so thrilled that Paul could be the first ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied… Prince Charming’.

Guest Kween: JANINE PLANT “Life After A Toxic Relationship.”

Guest Kween: JANINE PLANT “Life After A Toxic Relationship.”

I climbed into bed a few nights ago and my husband immediately shuffled close to me. He wrapped himself around me and got his body as close to mine as physically possible; every inch of our skin was entwined. I smiled and relaxed into him.

I had a sudden flashback to about four years ago, it was my nightly mission to get as close as possible to my edge of the bed; as far away from my ex-husband as I could. When I heard him approaching our room or falling in the door after a ‘work dinner’ at 2am, I would almost stop breathing in an attempt to keep my body still; so he didn’t think I was awake.

Amazing what can change in four years.

I met my ex-husband at the ripe old age of 21. I was naïve, immature as all hell, vulnerable, amenable and easily influenced. I had just been dating a guy who suddenly decided he was into someone else, so I was craving love and affection.

My ex-husband was 11 years older than me. From the moment we met at a mutual friend’s wedding it was go, go, go.

Ever heard of the term love bombing? It’s the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction. It’s never ending flattery and attention.

-It’s constant text messages, a day after you’ve just met.

-It’s tokens of affection, elaborate gifts and surprise international flights to swan around in a hotel, while he attends work dinners.

-It’s talks of having children together, when you’ve only known each other a month.

-It’s taking you away to a secluded beach shack, for your second date.

-It’s flowers delivered to your work, so everyone knows what a ‘great’ guy he is.

-It’s surprise appearances that are designed to have you spend more time with the love bomber and less time with others or on your own.

You get the picture.

Love bombing is intoxicating at first, it’s all encompassing. Reading the above paragraphs now, I just think ‘woah, creepy’ but at the time, it was charming; I felt special, amazing, loved.

Now, not everyone who whispers sweet nothings in your ear is a narcissistic jerk, but if you’re feeling that something just isn’t quite right about the person or the relationship you’re in, you should trust it. Yep, if your partner is constantly telling you ‘how good you are together’ but your longest, dearest friends disagree, if your gut is screaming at you that something is just ‘off’ and you’re so anxious you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep and chewing the inside of your mouth, then there’s a pretty good chance something isn’t right.

Love bombing feels great, until it doesn’t.

It feels great until….

-You are endlessly confused because nothing you say or do seems to be right, even when you’re pretty darn sure you didn’t say or do anything wrong.

-There are so many seeds of self-doubt planted in your head, that you’re growing a fucking tree of self-doubt out of there.

-You’ve given up your dream job, which you went to uni for five years to work towards, because you think you’re too dumb to do it.

-Your boyfriend proposes to you in front of your family (knowing you won’t say no that way), and you find yourself curled in a ball crying yourself to sleep on your engagement night.

-Your husband (who earns a lot of money) sits in a bank and manipulates you into taking out a $16 000 personal loan under your name because he has a ‘bad credit rating’ and then somehow convinces you in the car park afterwards that you’re a bad person for thinking it’s a little weird.

-Your 35 year old husband starts coming home on weeknights at all hours of the morning and spends his Saturday nights playing online poker with his mates, getting wasted and you get in trouble for being upset about it.

-You find endless webpage listings for ‘Perth escort services’ on your fiance’s computer and he lies to you and tells you it was his cousin, and you believe him.

Yes, love bombing feels awesome, until you actually don’t even know who you are anymore.

Enter: gas lighting.

Gas lighting, to manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity. A malicious and hidden form of emotional abuse, designed to plant seeds of self doubt and alter your perception of reality.

Love bombing morphs into gaslighting pretty quickly. You are so bound up in the love bomber’s web of manipulation that you literally don’t realise it’s happening, until things start to feel really, really wrong.

Some days I just didn’t speak at all, because it seemed easier. We had no money, despite him earning an annual salary four times what I could ever dream of earning. I knew he was using drugs but the couple of times I tried to confront him about it, he laughed in my face and made me feel awful for even thinking it.

So the day I finally plucked up enough courage to leave my ex-husband was hands down, the most invigorating and empowering day of my life.

I had just spent a weekend away for a girlfriend’s wedding. My husband did not enjoy hanging out with these particular friends (I see now it’s because they were smart enough to know better).

I was sitting with my girlfriends, listening to them talk about their experiences as occupational therapists and suddenly I sat up straighter in my chair. I heard the passion in their voices and I remembered that I used to talk like that!

My first job out of uni was working in an acute stroke rehab ward; where I would use my knowledge of the nervous system to help people relearn how to brush their teeth and dress themselves. I thought I knew how to make a difference in people’s lives but my ex-husband had been very encouraging when I said to him one day, “I’m not cut out for this job. I’m just no good at it.” He supported me into leaving the profession I loved so much and then made me feel bad about how little money I had.

It was in that moment, sitting with my girlfriends, that I knew I had to leave. So many things had happened in the lead up to it but somehow it was witnessing that particular conversation, and feeling like an outsider (when I should have been right there in it) that made it all fall into place.

I drove the five hours back home, told him it was over, packed a bag and spent the next three months living in friends’ spare bedrooms.

I share this story not to have a good ol’ bitch about my ex-husband or to shame him in any way; I hold no anger towards him (anymore). I’m sure we both really believed that we loved each other at some point in our lives. I don’t believe he had a malicious intention to inflict so much pain and hurt. We were just two very different, very incompatible humans.

I share this story because I know how easy it is to be manipulated and not realise it’s happening.

I share this story because I’ve met countless other women who took 20 or 30 years to get out of these toxic relationships; amazing, incredible women who are still healing and trying to remember who they are.

I share this story because you can find yourself in an absolute shit storm of toxicity, manipulation, debt, loneliness and yet still have the strength to stand up to a narcissist and remove yourself from the situation.

I share this story because it happens ALL THE TIME.

If one person who is in an emotionally abusive relationship reads this and finds the strength to take the steps they need to remove themselves too, then that’s all I can hope for.

Today, three and a half years after shutting a door and opening a new one, that giant tree of self doubt has reduced to a seedling.

Don’t get me wrong, the voice is still there. If I spill my coffee, drop something or forget to do something at work, an automatic voice in my head is triggered immediately, “You fucking idiot, you’re so useless Janine, sort your shit out! Of course you spilt your coffee, of course you did!!”

Thankfully, I now find myself in a real world of love, kindness and simplicity with a man who won’t let me talk to myself like that.

Four months ago I married my soul mate. I asked him to marry me, in a very normal, non-dramatic kinda way; there was no grand gesture. It was just us, together, camping in the pouring rain (as you do) and I said “Hey Kimbo, wanna marry me?”

He appreciates the simple things in life.

Every Tuesday we have tacos for dinner and every single time it’s like he’s never eaten tacos before. Every night as he rolls into bed, he sighs in absolute bliss about how comfy our bed is. He lives authentically. Appreciating every moment for exactly what it is. Nothing is ever a drama. Ever.

For a while, this was hard to get used to. For five years of my life, I lived in an environment of confusion, lies and drama. Oh the drama. So much drama!!

With Kimbo there are no over-the-top declarations of love or ridiculously expensive dinners or gifts. There is adventure, there is fun and there is of course, love. There is an appreciation of the things in life that actually matter.

I remember the first time he got me flowers, we hadn’t been dating all that long. He got home before me and put them in a glass on the kitchen bench; they weren’t in plain view, just chilling near the sink. There was no mention of it. No begging for recognition. Just a simple act of appreciation. I looked at those flowers (lilies, my fave) and watched him walk around my kitchen, drying my dishes and wiping down my bench tops and felt so genuinely overwhelmed with love, I nearly passed out.

I guess that’s another reason why I’m sharing this story, to show how recovering from a bad relationship can make you so appreciative of the good ones.

It’s the days that break you, that make you.

It’s the tough things that happen to us that help us grow and put ourselves on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.

I believe that everything we encounter in this life really helps to pave our journey, to build our character and teach us lessons.

Ladies, if you’re in a relationship that feels wrong, it’s wrong.

Trust your gut.

Listen to yourself.

Do what you need to do to find out who you are again, because you’re so worth it.

Janine Plant is a Bunbury gal. She’s a proud mumma to her feather babies (chooks), step-mum to a beautiful little boy and wifey to her soulmate, Kim. Known amongst her friends and family as the resident tree hugger, she’s also a yoga teacher, vegan, nature and animal loving free spirit. With all this in mind, still never get between her and her morning triple shot Bonsoy latte!