Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

It’s been exactly one year since we achieved marriage equality… and is everything ok?

Have you ever thought, ‘what happens a year on after superheroes save the earth?’

Did Buffy go on to slay her next job as a social media influencer? Did Frodo craft engagement rings for same-sex hobbits and did Wonder Woman become a tradie?

More importantly, what happened after our LGBTI heroes fought and won the right to marry their partners?

Did we all get invited to hundreds of same-sex weddings; enough to turn all the Real Housewives of Melbourne into marriage celebrants?

I have always been interested in what happens next: movie sequels, sophomore music albums, series 2 of anything on Netflix; I am fascinated by the follow up!

So when Carmela asked me to reflect 12 months after Australia changed the marriage act, I felt deeply intrigued.

So, what were the ripple on effects for myself and for the LGBTI community?

I personally thought I would have a big gay wedding with swans, celebrities and old pop songs sung by one of the Young Divas. (Yes, I am that gay!)

So why did I not do it? Why am I still engaged with no wedding gown in sight?

Somehow (dare I admit it), there appears to be more chance of our Prime Minister Scott Morrison marrying Tony Abbott than me walking down the aisle!

Because of this, I recently started to freak out that I had not yet done what we had been fighting so hard for.

Had I lied to my partner when I proposed? Had proposing in front of the country on Big Brother in 2012 been all about getting attention? Worse, I wondered if my partner (now 6 years on) didn’t even want to marry me!?

I felt like I was having an identity crisis.

So I started looking for answers on Google. How many same sex couples got married this year? Did everyone get married but me???

Well… there have been close to 3000 same-sex Aussies couples legally married.

This is amazing, but it certainly does not conclude that everyone in loving same-sex relationships, in deed got married. Phew! I am not the only homo alive with just an engagement ring.

Then I called my partner for an emergency date night, which went something like this: an elaborate dinner plan, face masks and a certain amount of nervous energy. What followed also was a weird conversation that started with the most romantic question anyone can ask, “Do you still want to marry me?” Gulp.

The reality was lost on me for a moment. I’d almost forgotten that the marriage equality debate was really just about equality. It wasn’t about marriage. Yet here I was hanging my relationship on a tender hook and questioning if it was all worth it because I haven’t thrown an over-priced wedding extravaganza with my life partner.

I guess our version of ‘happily ever after’ doesn’t mean we all get married right now! It just means that we are all equal now.

Maybe referencing those gays & straights as heroes might be a bit intense but i am still immensely proud of Australia for last year’s achievement.

I have found last year’s result gave Australia a chance to address some issues within the LGBTI community. However, now we face more intricate issues that can’t be blanketed over with a simple solution.

It is not a Marvel popcorn flick. It’s going to take some time to fully understand all of it. But more importantly, it’s about political correctness and not being a naive ignorant prick.

Which is where we are now.

How do we make Australia more inclusive? How did we educate those who might not be aware of the stories under the broader banner of LGBTI+?

Yes, there are more queer tales beyond ‘Jack’ from Will and Grace and the stereotypical lesbian at Bunnings.

Why do people know very little about intersex: the little discussed ‘I’ in the LGBTI alphabet?

Why does our trans community need more visibility?

Bisexuality remains to be seen as just a train stop away from gay-town. Nobody seems to respect an individual’s right to choose their pronouns.

Why is it still not ok to be a fem-top or butch-bottom? And why are gay relationships judged on whether they’re open or closed?

Please don’t think of the LGBTI community as a one-size fits all, we are actually more like the entire board of ‘Guess Who’.

While the world still turns beyond the 2017 marriage equality debate, we are still in many ways in desperate need of fighting for equal rights for all people, no matter what their sexuality, gender, race, religion and personal identity is. So let’s keep going!! And remember: it’s our differences that unite us, not divide us.

Benjamin Norris lives in Melbourne, Australia and is a presenter on JOY 94.9. He also hosts the podcast series, Word for Word and how could we forget? The previous winner of 2012’s Big Brother. You may of also seen him recently on ABC’s ‘You Cant Ask That!’

Kween Katch Up: ANGIE & YVIE

Kween Katch Up: ANGIE & YVIE

Ever wanted to eavesdrop a little more on a conversation between Gogglebox’s Angie & Yvie? Well you’re in luck!! Because TV’s most adored couch duo just got totes personal and interviewed each other.

Angie asks Yvie:

1. If you were a man, what would you want your name to be and what kind of man do you think you would be as opposed to the kind of man you would wish to be?

I definitely want to be called Bruce. And I’d like to think I’d be a feminist. But let’s be honest, I’d be born a white man into a white man’s world, so I’d probably bang heaps of bitches and spread my legs on public transport while talking over everyone. How much fun would that be??

2. What’s your biggest regret in life?

That I didn’t spend more time with my mum in the 12 months before she died.

3. Do you still believe in soul mates and do you think you’ll find yours?

Hmmmm, I do believe in them. I think we get a lot of soul mates in a lifetime though. Lovers, friends and family. I feel I’ve met a few already and I’m yet to meet more.

4. What’s one thing you would love to change about yourself? Not looks-wise, but spiritually/personality-wise?

I’d love to be better at confrontation.

5. What do you hope for your future?

That women start running things. That the world would finally realise if they handed things over to us, for just five years, we’d fix it in two and enjoy our work for the next three. Then we’d see if they want to get men to run it again.

Yvie asks Angie:

1. What did you want to be when you grew up?

That changed quite often, depending on what stage I was in. When I was really young: I wanted to be an artist/poet (even though I could only really draw stick man and rhyme honey with bunny). Then when I was a tween: I wanted to host my own television show (like Rove Live) and rescue the gorillas. And then after that, I wanted to be a director for important documentaries or a theatre director!

2. What is your biggest fear?

Loosing the people I love. I’ve come to realise (after recently losing people close to me) that I’m petrified of death. And not making something of myself.

3. Why do you think we’re here?

To love and be loved and to share our experiences with the world. To make connections with people and to make a difference in lives; even if it’s simply by making someone laugh all the time.

4. When and how do you think you’ll die?

I always thought I would die before 30, as I could not see life past that. I never thought how it would happen, I just have always thought I wouldn’t live long. Hopefully it’s falling asleep to my favourite tv shows with heaps of dogs around me and with everyone knowing how much I god damn love them!

5. Do you think you have more than one true love in a lifetime?

Yes. I have already had so many loves in my life. There’s all types of love, so I believe we get hundreds of that ‘one true loving’ feeling!

What are our favourite gal pals up to now?

Yvie is still living with Tom and has two permanent dogs, one semi-permanent dog (baked bean) and lots of fosters!

Angie is living the gypsy life and couch-surfing while her and Yvie film this current season of Gogglebox. She will then head back home to QLD to be closer to her family for a while.

@angie_and_yvie

@angieandyviegoggleboxau

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 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’.

Kween Krush: YOLANDA RAMKE “Being A Female Filmmaker In A Post-Weinstein World.”

Kween Krush: YOLANDA RAMKE “Being A Female Filmmaker In A Post-Weinstein World.”

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

Yolanda, we have a crush on you because you’re living out your dreams and passions daily, all while doing it in a pretty tough, male-dominated industry. Despite all of that, you’re seriously crushing it and leaving your mark the film world.

How does it feel to call yourself a female filmmaker?

To be honest, I never really thought to consciously define myself that way in the beginning. I think that probably stems from being a bit of a tomboy growing up and not being especially interested in things that were typically associated with the feminine. I always resisted and resented it when I was pressured into emulating those qualities, because they didn’t really come naturally to me. By the time film school came around, I just wanted to be a filmmaker full-stop, I didn’t really think about the fact that I was a woman while doing it. But in the past few years that has shifted for me; the more engaged I’ve become in the conversation surrounding the representation of women both behind and in front of the camera, the more I’ve realised that I’ve had my blinkers on and that being a female filmmaker actually is an important point of difference because we’re one of many minorities in this industry.

We have had to fight harder to have our stories told and our voices heard and our proficiencies go unquestioned. So, as a female writer and director, if the work I do can in some way contribute positively to the dialogue around this, I would be very proud of that – particularly in terms of the perception of women in genre filmmaking. I think we are often seen through a fairly narrow prism in terms of what projects might appeal to us (both as practitioners, and as audience members), and it’s a narrative that doesn’t sync up at all with what often excites me – or any of the female filmmakers I know – as a storyteller and viewer. I’d love to see that misconception blown out of the water.

So it means even more to you considering the current climate?

The most recent study by Screen Australia determined that from 1970 – 2014 only 16% of feature film directors, 21% of feature film writers, and 30% of feature film producers were women. The figures for women of colour, LGBTQI and women with disabilities was, of course, even lower. That is objectively an insane imbalance. Four years later and we’ve still got a long way to go. Especially when you consider the fact that men and women are graduating from film schools around the country in equal numbers. So the maths is against us. But, what’s changing is the conversation – and it’s no longer just talking, it’s active, it’s becoming incentivised, women and men in all tiers of the system are starting to make tangible efforts to correct this. It’s an ongoing global discussion point, and the fear that it would just be the flavour of the month is thankfully proving to be quite the opposite. It’s a genuine movement. So I feel quite optimistic about where we’re headed, even if we’ve still got quite a bit of work to do to get there.

As you just stated, in Australia only 16% of films are directed by women. What can be done to change it?

I think things are gradually changing to try and shift that statistic. Visibility is of course a huge part of this, and just consciously ensuring that – especially for young girls who have an interest in this field – we are sharing images of women on sets directing or working as cinematographers so that it doesn’t even become a question of whether that’s possible, because the evidence is there everywhere they turn. I think  #FemaleFilmmakerFriday has been an awesome grassroots approach to supporting that concept. And the more we all see women like Patty Jenkins directing the shit out of a big-budget comic book film like Wonder Woman or Rachel Morrison shooting the hell out of Black Panther, I mean, these women are blazing trails and it’s incredibly inspiring – for female filmmakers, of course, but I would hope also for aspiring male filmmakers too.

When did you first realise that you loved film and wanted to direct?

I caught the bug early. I was five-years-old when my Dad brought home our first camcorder, and I felt an instant, obsessive need to understand how it worked and to be trusted to wield its power. I grew up in rural mining towns, so the cinema was a very rare treat. Instead I used to raid the local video store, compulsively tape off free-to-air and orchestrate neighbourhood ‘reboots’ with my friends. If I had to pick a single, formative movie experience that probably cemented my path, it would have to be Jurassic Park. That film is essentially my generation’s Star Wars, the seminal blockbuster of my childhood. It had a physiological effect on me, and everyone in that theatre. It was electric. Jaw-dropping. I think that’s when it dawned on me that somebody was behind that screen pulling the strings, and I wanted in.

What did you do to advance this passion? Was it encouraged by your family and friends?

I did the film school thing and that was a helpful introduction. And then I basically spent about seven years working behind the scenes in the industry on other people’s projects (films and local TV dramas, reality TV, you know name it) just to learn how all the pieces fit together. Throughout that period I was developing my own material on the side and voraciously devouring films and TV shows, reading books about filmmaking and screenwriting and basically just educating myself as much as possible. My family were supportive pretty much from the get-go. Like most parents they had reservations, they were anxious for me because nobody in my extended family had ever really embarked upon a creative career before, so it was essentially fear of the unknown. I think there’s definitely also that perception of the industry being cutthroat and fickle, so that probably played into their thinking as well. But overall, I’ve felt extremely supported, and that feeling is only growing.

One of your partners-in-film-crime is a man (Ben Howling). What type of a working dynamic do you both have and would it surprise the normal stereotype of how a woman and man work together?

It’s interesting, because I’ve directed solo as well, and I’ve also directed with a female co-director (Danielle Baynes, who was also my co-writer and co-star on the 2016 short film Cold Hearts), so for me it’s kind of a fluid thing. I understand that that’s a little unconventional, directors usually work exclusively as an individual or in a set partnership, but I haven’t ever really felt the need for professional monogamy so to speak. That said, I love collaborating with Ben, he’s a very good friend of mine, so our working relationship is founded on that, and also the fact that when it comes to genre projects we share a very similar taste and sensibility. Our working dynamic probably isn’t that surprising, no. Given that I wrote the screenplay for Cargo and have studied acting, I’m typically a bit more across matters of story and performance, whereas Ben comes from a shooting/editing background, so he’s a bit more savvy with the some of the more technical aspects of the job, but we don’t formally delineate between those things, there’s a huge amount of crossover.

Were you at all shocked by the Weinstein bombshell that hit late last year? Did this reflect any of your own experiences?

I wasn’t shocked at all, which is probably very disturbing in itself. As the #MeToo movement took off, yes, it absolutely caused me to reflect on my experiences as a woman in general, not just as a woman working in the entertainment industry. It was horrifying to see how prevalent that hashtag was in the social sphere, hearing people you care about confiding about how they had been hurt (often in ways which mirrored encounters I’d had myself), but at the same time the feeling of unity and community and the global galvanisation that resulted was remarkable. These conversations had come and gone before, but there was something different about it this time. You could feel the collective rage that has been building up for women their whole lives, their mothers’ lives, their grandmothers’ lives, and it finally felt like there was a healthy place to put that anger and defiance – it was justified, and shared, and essential. May it only gather steam, and push society forward.

You’ve done some amazing work so far; in 2017 you completed your debut feature film Cargo which has made the list of “10 Australian Films To Watch In 2018“. Though it may feel like a lifetime ago now, could you give us some insight as to how this got started and how it went from a short film to this Australian movie juggernaut?

We shot the short back in December 2012, and it was Tropfest finalist come February. It was then posted online, and we were fortunate enough that it was curated on a handful of influential pop culture sites (BuzzFeed, Upworthy, Short Of The Week, Vimeo, i09). Within about a month it had landed about 1.5 million views on YouTube (it’s now almost 14 million). At that point, it was being passed around agencies in LA, which is how my co-director Ben and I wound up signing with CAA. By April we were in LA armed with a treatment for the Cargo feature, and were meeting with potential producers. Two weeks later, we came back to Australia with US producers attached to developing the project with us. I spent the rest of that year writing the first draft of the script, and from there our Australian producers came on board, and then we were off and running. From the time we shopped that first treatment through to multiple drafts of the script, financing, casting, shooting, post-production etc. to the time we release in mid-May this year, it’ll have been 5 years. So it’s been this very strange combination of a whirlwind ride and a slow climb, just constantly oscillating between the two.

What types of film would you like to make in the future?

I’ve always just been such a fan of so many different genres of stories, so I’d really like to try my hand at all sorts of things. I’ve been lucky so far that each project I have worked on has felt like a departure from the one that came before. As a writer, I’ve recently been commissioned to adapt a WWII book into a feature, followed by a crime/thriller novel into a TV pilot, and that variety of genres and formats has just been so much fun to play with. I do love genre films, though, so that’s certainly territory I’m sure I’ll drift back toward – projects that have some kind of subtle supernatural thread.

As a white female filmmaker, I’m conscious of the fact that I have privilege of my own to keep in check, and that’s something I need to continually interrogate within myself. Whatever challenges I have encountered go twofold for minority female filmmakers. Other than the roles written for and stories told about women and films in general being made by women, I really look forward to a time when the very language and vocabulary we use to describe female characters evolves too. As Shonda Rhimes said recently, we need to stop using phrases like “Smart, Strong Women” and “Strong Female Leads” because there are no “Dumb Weak Women”, there are just women. She also points out that ‘women’ aren’t simply the latest trend, and actually we make up half of the planet, so yeah… what Shonda said.

Carmela has only met Yolanda once, but of course it was in the most unforgettable way: a friend’s Birthday party, followed by a late-night karaoke session. Little did Yolanda know that Carmela had actually been dying to meet her for months and she was definitely not disappointed. Carmela can now revel in the fact that sometimes it’s ok to meet your heroes.

Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS “Australia RSVP’d Yes To My Wedding!”

Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS “Australia RSVP’d Yes To My Wedding!”

Five years ago I proposed to my partner in front of the country and today, Australia has RSVP’d ‘yes’ to our wedding invitation! So exciting!!

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the 60’s and 70’s and be a gay man. Would my choices in the way I expressed my sexuality be different? Would the impact of ‘gay hate’ felt in that era and the suppression of my true self, have made me different?

Then I think about the 80’s and 90’s, the decades that I grew up in, and how I was affected. At school, the teachers were just as damaging with their comments as the students. I learned to lie about my truth and mastered the art of hiding my sexuality. Inadvertently I taught myself that lying was okay because it was about protection. More importantly, I masked my private self-loathing which made me not believe in myself. Still, I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as what I imagined it had been for the gays before me.

Then I think about the following generation that grew up with Glee and Dawson’s Creek; where girls had the gay best friend at school. It felt like the world was changing and in some ways I was jealous.

I can tell the difference between the way I was affected by homophobia compared to my elders and I know my story is different to how Graham Kennedy felt years ago and how Joel Creasey feels now. Different battles at different times and we are making progress but it has been a journey.

Today I found out that my country will allow me the right to marry my fiancé. The marriage equality debate was served, like a final dish in Masterchef.

My partner and I have been together for eight years, engaged for 5. I have had offers from magazines to pay for my wedding due to the fact I stumbled across some media notoriety with my winning of Big Brother in 2012. You may not have watched the show but you probably remember the ‘gay proposal!’ Yet I said no to those offers because I wanted to wait for my country to give me their blessing. I am a patriotic Australian and I love my country. In some ways I could have just had a party and said it was marriage but it didn’t seem right, not without a certificate and official recognition. It was no longer about marriage; it was about equality.

In some ways I wonder if we hadn’t exploited our sexuality with explicit sexual content (like in Mardi Gras) and we had focused on words like ‘love’ and ‘equality’ earlier, maybe we wouldn’t have repulsed people so much? Which makes me realise how much this journey has really affected me, looking for blame within myself, within my community. So I waited for the answer, not wanting to be too loud with my inner monologue because I couldn’t bare to be hurt and I wouldn’t leave myself open to do so.

The plebiscite was put in place and I was mortified about what my country was actually going to say about my sexuality. It’s a direct example of my upbringing and the scars of being treated unfairly in my young adult-life. I watched on as they wrote ‘no’ in the sky and people fought aggressively in the streets, as a basic civil right was discussed openly- like a reality TV show ‘Who is going to win?’ I heard someone say.

I asked myself, why I am so scared? I asked myself, will this be our Brexit or our Trump?’ Why had I lost faith? As a breakfast radio host, I was told I was too gay by senior management. I was asked to tone it down. I cried for two weeks and tried to push it aside. I thought my sexuality wasn’t something of an appropriate conversation. I felt like a freak and I began to overthink everything. How had I allowed myself to be so badly hurt? It took months to lift my head to face level with other Australians. My confidence rocked to the core. My partner at times saw me reduced to a shadow in a room full of people. I had fallen apart.

Will the same-sex marriage result bring me happiness? I hope it will… today I feel like I could fly. I will never forget that time I didn’t know if Australia was willing to say that I was equal and I will wear these scars for my lifetime. However, I will continue to remind myself that is was worth it. So many people played a role in that and I thank everyone, LESBIANS, GAYS, BISEXUALS, TRANSGENDERS, INTERSEX and QUEERS. Also those allies. I just hope that my tears and my struggle will mean that your children won’t hurt the way I did. Most of all I hope Australia realises that I waited for their ‘yes’ and now I invite you all to my wedding and this new beginning. The beginning of acceptance. What we fought for was equality and love won.

Benjamin Norris is a reality TV star known for winning Big Brother in 2012. Ben has gone on to have a successful career in radio with a number one show in Queensland. He’s a serial blogger and has had TV roles on Foxtel and channel Nine as a guest presenter. Catch Ben next as he embarks on a 16-part podcast series interviewing LGBTIQ influencers on Joy Fm 94.9.

@BenjaminJNorris