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!’

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: JANE CONNORS

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: JANE CONNORS

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…

Hey there Kweens!

You might remember me from such blog posts as:

  • Make Your Own Damn Rules!
  • Don’t live anywhere! 
  • Be single! 
  • Quit your job! 
  • Girl power YAHHHHH!! 

It’s been awhile since we last I wrote this and well, I still don’t live anywhere. I really, really wanted to get myself a home this year but life didn’t work that way. So that’s 18 months and counting. I’ve managed to get through another year on contract work and have avoided getting a ‘proper job’ HUGE WIN.

I also turned 40. It was bloody wonderful. I wore a big pink tutu and was surrounded by people I love. Kylie Kwong sang me Happy Birthday. I didn’t even know I wanted that to happen: but it was the best thing ever. Turning 40. Tick that one off.

I remember turning 30 and really coming into my own about who I was. Turning 40 was that on steroids. I feel like life has become real.

Here are some things I’ve worked out. Sit back for some advice from your older, wiser Kween!

DON’T FIT IN. DO YOU 

I no longer have time for trying to fit into this life. For doing things the way we are told. For meaningless conversations. For buying stuff I don’t need. I don’t want the same things I once did. They say your new life will cost you your old one. And hasn’t it what!

We are given a single story-line on what makes a good life. Just the one. And it’s not for me.

Choose YOU. Don’t run with the status quo, if that’s not what’s in your heart.

Get married. Don’t get married. Have kids or don’t. Become a lawyer, become an artist, work in a shop: so, you can get home to your family and not answer emails at all hours. You have all the choices in the world. Make them. But make sure they’re your choices, not something you’ve been told to want.

The world is your goddamn oyster!

Sidenote: Don’t question someone else’s choices. Don’t force your beliefs on them. We are all so different. Let’s just be different. Let’s celebrate that.

Other sidenote: Oysters are disgusting. 

BE SINGLE. OR DON’T BE.

I no longer think of being single as less than. I’m bloody happy. Being alone feels like freedom to me. Being in a relationship could feel the same to someone else.

I’m sure if I met a guy who brought me coffee in bed and liked to get to airports really super-duper early (like when the bag drop is just open) then maybe I’d sign up for this love stuff too. But I’m not going out searching for him because I think I need that.

You don’t need it. It’s nice but you don’t need it.

HAVE KIDS. OR DON’T.

I never wanted children and I always worried I’d regret it. But I know now I won’t. To quote Cameron Diaz: “The one thing I know is that I’m not childless. I have a ton of children in my life. It’s not like I’m the spinster who didn’t have a child. I just didn’t do that in life, and I’m OK with that. I know the choices I’ve made. I know why I made them.”

I love that quote. 

I am not childless.

BE YOUR OWN HERO. NON-NEGOTIABLE.

I started my 40th year with SO MANY PLANS! But life had other plans. It always does. I swear life must laugh at my New Year’s resolutions each year. This year has brought me to my knees. I have cried more than I can remember.

My stepmum died this year. We found out she had cancer and she died within a month. Just like that. It felt like she just disappeared. My stepbrother died two months before that. He was my age. 40. And he died.

It was the second son my stepmum had lost. To see her afterwards; there are no words for that level of grief. My stepsister and brother have lost two brothers and their mum. That seems like an exceptionally unfair amount of pain.

But pain doesn’t work like that.

I sit here today and it feels like spring is coming. It’s coming and people are missing from my life but it’s coming anyway. Winter always ends.

So, for now: I give myself permission to be changed by the events of my life. You can’t be the same person after such a huge loss. But you can get back up when you’re on your knees.

You are stronger than you know. Choose to be strong. Choose to see the light in the dark.

Don’t avoid the pain. It’s meant for you. Let it leave you with the fuel to do more and be more. Let it have meaning.

We all get dealt bad blows. And when you do, you are acutely aware of people going through worse.

Life is always both. The good, the bad, the dark, the light. When you’re going through the dark times, remember the light. Try and find it. It’s always there.

Sometimes your life choices help you in ways you never thought about. Not having a permanent home has let me be there for my family so much more. Working as a contractor meant that I could work anywhere. I have been able to be physically present when it mattered and I could not have done that working a 9 to 5 job. This was not what I was thinking about when I made those choices but that was the outcome and I am blessed because of that.

It sounds cliché but you have to be grateful. Because when the sh*t hits the fan, people do amazing things.

I am grateful for all the love I’ve received this year. For the friends who have loved me through it. Who have made me laugh in spite of everything.

I have a beautiful memory of sitting by the water with a girlfriend and trading war stories about this past year. And all I could see was her light and all she could see was mine. That’s what life is about.

Being human hurts at times. Let it. Because it’s so beautiful too.

Jane is a freelance tour/event manager in the health world and has been lucky enough to work with some of her biggest heroes and inspirations. She has technically been homeless for 18 months now and hopes 2019 is the year she learns to sit still. But she will most definitely freak out if she signs a lease. She loves laughing, saying ‘wot?’ and knows all the best people in the world.

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: CAITLYN FAIRHEAD

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: CAITLYN FAIRHEAD

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…

Happy 1st Birthday #STFTL! I can’t believe it’s been a year. We’ve had some good times, haven’t we? All those mornings reading your posts in bed instead of getting ready for work… I’ve treasured every one. You’re a breath of fresh air out here, girl, and we love you. Keep doing your thing!

When Carmela asked me to write this ‘one year on’ piece, I felt like a bit of a fraud, because very little has changed since this – I’m still very much the mother/wife/teacher/whinger I was a year ago. But I’m a whole year older now, so some things must have changed, surely.

I’m still teaching (it’s going good, thanks for asking), studying (also good), mothering (it’s good/relentless) and I suppose I’ve grown a little bit. I still don’t feel like a grown-up though, it’s like any minute now someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and ask me to step aside so the real grown-ups can take over.

Has anyone (a child, probably) ever told you they want to be like you when they grow up? I recently had this experience and I’m not going to lie to you, it was a bit of a shock.

Not that a five-year-old might look up to me (she’s five, she doesn’t know any better) but that I’m considered a ‘grown-up’. Not just an adult, someone who has literally ‘grown up’, A GROWN-UP!

I looked at her little face and, after briefly wondering why my own kids don’t say these things to me (note: do not pull at this thread), I chuckled pretty lamely and said something like: “Oh, wow, and I’m not done growing yet!”

I’m willing to concede that at 32, I’m possibly not getting any taller at this point. And I admit I’ve done some grown-up things. I got married and had kids (not necessarily in that order), sometimes I buy the expensive tissues instead of the 99c ones and I know my tax file number by heart. Those seem like grown-up things.

But in lots of ways, I’m nowhere near grown-up. I have the attention span of a goldfish and still have a lot of things I want to achieve. I still run late in the mornings. I think thongs go with everything and I drink the cheapest wine I can stomach. I still don’t know what half the settings on my washing machine do and I can’t do eyeliner to save my life. At best, I’d say I’m en route to being a grown-up, but still a way off.

After some pretty self-indulgent reflection on my part, I think I’m in this weird, in-between stage where I still feel like a young person, but at the same time am bloody glad I’m not one. I guess that cliché about growing old, not growing up, is pretty spot on.

I love that I’m not in my twenties anymore. God, I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for my thirties. Going to bed when I’m tired! Saying no to things! Making time for myself! Taking risks! Having a career! Being wiser, smarter, sexier (‘cause of the smarts) and not caring what people think of me! (At least, not as much as I used to). It’s bliss. I’d honestly never be a teenager again.

I don’t know if this feeling is unique to me or what, but frankly, I’m really enjoying getting older. Granted, in the scheme of things I’m still young, but so far I’m only getting more comfortable with myself with each passing year.

Wrinkles? Gimme ‘em. Grey hairs? Sure. Retirement? Farkin’ BRING IT. I know, I shouldn’t wish my life away (or my kids’ lives, since I’m supposed to be enjoying every precious moment, woopsee woops), but you can’t bloody tell me Gloria Steinem wasn’t onto something when she said this:

To that little girl who may one day read this (you just never know): don’t worry a damn about growing up, my darling. Eyeliner is hard, girlfriend, and to be honest the cheap wine does the same job. And f*** that washing machine, too. Just enjoy growing older.

Maybe I’ll change my mind when I’m in my seventies, but this growing-up business can go jump. Growing older is where it’s at!

Caitlyn is a thirtyish-year-old teacher with a passion for good books and cheap wine. She has two children and an ever-patient husband, though her true love is Mexican food.

 

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: RONNI SWINTEK

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: RONNI SWINTEK

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…

 

First and foremost, it’s a real honour to be asked to come back and write for this incredibly empowering blog. I also want to thank the founder Carmela (CC) for giving me the power and encouragement to continue writing and for starting my own blog: Confessions Of A Married Woman.

From the bottom of my heart Carmela, I thank you for inspiring me and giving me the confidence and strength to keep doing this. You are a true friend and a real game changer!

The last time I wrote for #STFTL I was talking about how difficult marriage is, and has my mind changed? No. Not at all.

I still acknowledge its difficulty. Living with someone that can drive you insane on a fairly regular basis will drive you insane, literally. But I must also acknowledge the fact that it works both ways. My attention to detail, my pedantic way of placing glasses in the cupboard, how the t-shirts should be folded and how the towels should be hung up after use could drive somebody crazy too (and in reality, that somebody is my husband).

Do we argue about my anal retentiveness? Totally. Why am I like that? Because I just am. I can’t help it, but then again, I can. The question is: do I want to stop being like that? Sometimes I do, but then I wonder if I stop being so anal about one thing, then I will become lax about other things and then all the balls in the air that I juggle will come crashing down on me.

There seems to be a lot of balls and anal discussion, doesn’t there? 😉

Here is what I know a year on about marriage. Find your best friend to marry. Don’t marry a guy because he is rich, has a cool car, is good looking, is good in bed, looks good in a suit, seems like he comes from a nice family (but doesn’t). I know 95% of you wouldn’t be so superficial, but some people are.

If you do choose to marry somebody and it comes to your actual wedding day or the night before, week before, month before and you find yourself having second thoughts, don’t hesitate to call it off. I’ve had too many friends tell me that they had second thoughts before getting married but kept up the pretense because of silly reasons like, all the money spent on the wedding, not wanting to disappoint parents or family who have traveled such a long way. I’m calling bullshit. You were just too afraid to just come out and say it.

Of all the friends who have admitted to me that they wished they had called it off, 99% are now divorced. Yes that’s 99%! Not only did they enter into a marriage, they entered another family’s life (the bride or grooms). They created attachments and friendships with family members. They created children only to leave them all later and leave others picking up the pieces and everybody wondering ‘Why!?’ Just don’t do it in the first place.

Of course, you wouldn’t regret having the children, but you will always regret putting your children through that split-family situation. And perhaps a partner who you really don’t want your child exposed to.

Another thing that has happened in the past 12 months to my family unit is that my husband was summarily dismissed from his job. This was a job he dedicated more than 12 hours a day to. He was in management and loved by his team. When he came home before Christmas and told me what happened it was a shock to all: him, his staff and of course, us as a family.

I work from home mostly, so hubby now being home 24/7 has been a real learning curve for the both of us. It started out fun but then you realise you have no personal space and after about the 3rd month you want to kill each other. Figuratively, not literally. 😉

It’s nearly been a year. He too is working from home now and we have set out terms and conditions. Because I married my bestie, we are able to negotiate things reasonably well. We still have the occasional malfunction but mostly we respect each other’s ability to occasionally act like an asshole. No harm done, just stand back and wait for it to blow over.

Seriously, the better you know each other, the more you understand that you have to deal with someone you don’t like sometimes. That’s marriage. That why it’s called a partnership.

As I mentioned before, in my blog there’s a piece called Is it better to love? Or to like? where I write that I think it’s better to ‘like’ than it is to ‘love’. Love is temporary, it comes, it goes. But if you like somebody, you generally always will; even if they annoy you sometimes, because that is what a friendship is about. I’ve always thought the wedding vows should be ‘to LIKE in sickness and in health’, ‘not to LOVE in sickness and in health’ etc.

Obviously, I love my husband but over the years that love has changed and evolved. Sure, sometimes it de-evolves but more importantly, it also evolves. You can’t expect to feel the same way you did when you first got together.

Life changes, you both change, you grow as individuals, so your love changes too. I have his back and he has mine. Every marriage is different and different circumstances call for some creative thinking in what will make you both happy. Whatever works for you as a couple is what suits you as a couple. Don’t be caught up in the conventionality of marriage or partnerships. If it works, do it. Enough said.

When you are working, you tend to live to work and not work to live. You think you are building real bonds and friendships but most of the time you are being used to help others in your workplace. I know it’s hard to get your head around it, but trust me and my 45+ years of living; no one gives a shit about you once you leave your job. Maybe if you are lucky 1% will. Maybe.

The people who give a shit are the relationships you cultivate outside of work: your lovers, partners, husbands, girlfriends, family. They always will care about you, call you and love you. Most importantly they will ‘like’ you. Even if they call you an asshole, remember they’ve always got your back.

Ronni Swintek is a Mother, Wife, Woman of the World and Professional Media person.

@RonniFox

I have a confession.

I have a confession.

Around this time last year, I posted a picture on the ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied’ Instagram account that expressed my mourning for an opportunity lost, or missed. I felt like I had once again let myself down by not rising to the occasion. I wondered if when it came to interviewing for jobs in London, would this always be a pattern of mine: I got the things I didn’t care about and fucked up the things I really did.

You see, since being here, I’ve done a handful of various roles but my background is in media, predominantly radio and TV. In the past, I’ve been a breakfast co-host, a presenter, an executive producer, an associate producer, a casting researcher, a talent coordinator, a coffee/lunch-get-er, full-time file-er/staple-er; you name it, I’ve done it all!

And when I first arrived in London, I did a few of these things but since I’ve been back for the second time (particularly over the last year and a half), I’ve dabbled in the corporate game as a personal assistant and project manager.

Actually, over the last four years, I’ve done a whole bunch of weird stuff, things I never thought I’d do. I’ve been a waitress, a bartender, a shop assistant, a receptionist at a hair salon… I’ve stretched myself and pushed myself into things for the sake of money and the fear of being unemployed. I’ve had work contracts that have lasted 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months… I’ve worked with many different groups of people, many very different to who I am. I’ve had to put on numerous new hats, gather a range of new skill-sets and find/adjust to my new personality (this is mostly me refraining from singing in the office and mastering my inside voice).

When people asked what I was doing for a job, I would always tell them exactly what I was doing because I wasn’t ashamed of it but I also wasn’t overly proud.

Money aside: it was time for a change too. I needed a break after some pretty awful working experiences/relationships in the media world. Having gone through that, it was necessary for me to take a step back and evaluate my own worth away from working in media. And don’t even get me started on massively needing to improve ones work/life balance. Full disclosure: some job applications weren’t even cutting through to the job interview stage, so I really didn’t have a choice to do anything but something else.

Again, when asked ‘what I was doing in London’, I would follow it with all these long winded reasons for why I was doing what I was doing. I even got really good at convincing people job-interview-wise that I didn’t want to go back to media; insisting that I was done. Basically, I was putting a lot more shine on it then I needed to, I was making my new career path sound much better than it was but here’s the kicker, it wasn’t for them or you, it was for me.

For a while now, I’ve known what I was doing with my time wasn’t right, it was a pass at best. It did what it was supposed to do. I could pay my rent, I could buy my groceries, I could survive in London for another month, and that was really my end game, to stay in London for as long as I possibly could.

I do not want to move back to Australia. Such is my desire to remain in London that when anyone ever asks how long I plan on being here, I always respond with “Forever, as long as there is work”.

The truth: as much as I want to stay in London, deep down I am a creative; it’s a big part of the reason why ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied’ was birthed, I could get my creative fix running this and then go back to my 9-to-5 clinical day job. So the real end game is to create a life here, like the one I had in Sydney. The opportunity to have and be blessed with both, to do what I love, in a place that I love.

So, I’m sorry but I have been lying to you but more importantly, I have been lying to myself. I am a radio person. Radio to me is all the cringy things that people say when they’re ‘into’ something. It’s my passion, my drive, my first love, my first love/hate relationship and at moments, it’s been my everything.

But like all ‘firsts’, radio has also hurt me, it’s disappointed me, it’s broken my heart, yeah you get it… it’s defiantly scarred me. And just like anything toxic in your life, you do need to cleanse and then slowly dip your toe back into that dangerous water when you’re stronger, wiser and just plain, better.

At times I did genuinely think I was doing fine, I was drinking my own kool-aid. I was content with most parts of my life but it’s very clear to me now that every time I would get another office gig over the radio/TV one, I was settling and fiercely protecting myself. I was protecting myself, when I would go on my rants about not missing radio, not needing radio, not wanting radio, that this was now the new life for me. Because deep down, it wasn’t.

And hell, don’t get me wrong, there are some definite media-evils that I will never return to. I will no longer work with someone who speaks to me or treats me like a piece of shit; I now know my worth and I know that I can survive without it (the surprising bonus of taking a break, right?). I will no longer be overworked and underpaid. I will no longer not be valued or appreciated in my role or in my life.

I was lying to protect myself because I knew that I wasn’t happy. Yes, my time, my day-to-day life wasn’t matching what I thought I’d be doing at this age. My heart was in pieces but I was too scared to say anything to anyone, especially myself. Because then it would be real.

I can not express in words really the feeling of thinking that your best self may be behind you. That maybe you’ve already peaked and maybe, just maybe it was all down hill from here.

Now, if you have ever felt this way, a little lost, a little off-centre, not focused, not where you thought you would be in life, that you’re going through the motions. I just want to help remind you that ‘the best is yet to come’ but please don’t wait for things to get better, life will always be complicated. Make the most of what you have right now, and keep putting yourself out there, otherwise you’ll run out of time. The cliché ‘everything happens for a reason’ couldn’t honestly ring more true. I know, lame. But, seriously.

When you’re in a dark place, you sometimes think you’ve been buried. Perhaps you’ve been planted. Bloom!

Recently, I received a phone call that offered me a dream role, it was something I wanted so badly that I had to prepare myself mainly for the fall out (in fear of how I would react if I didn’t get it, again). I still can’t believe it’s mine!! I’m back doing what I do best, doing what excites me, doing what I love, and I’m just so fucking emotional about it.

It’s still terrifying to write this. Nothing in life is certain and there may be a time when things change for me again.

The best part: over the last 16 months, I’ve learnt that I’m actually good at other things. I’ve learnt to be thankful for an eight-hour workday and to enjoy my one-hour lunch break. I’ve had my weekends back to myself and I’ve had the pleasure of working for some totally impressive yet kind professionals (restoring my faith in humanity). I’ve thrown myself into the unknown deep-end multiple times and managed to swim to the top every single time too. And I’m here to tell you, so can you.

I do believe though, that going corporate has really been what’s prepared me for this moment. That actually, everything I’ve done or been through has lead me to this point. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that when it wasn’t all going my way, I felt like an absolute failure. Or worse, a liar. You too? Seriously, hang in there!

I don’t want to lie anymore. And I don’t want to worry that I shouldn’t shout this from the rooftops because it may all go away again. I’m so fucking thrilled, I could burst into tears at just the thought of it. I know, that sounds dramatic but I think it’s my body finally relaxing, breathing for the first time (in a while) with the hope that everything really is going to be ok.

Kweens, believe me, there is no such thing as missed opportunities, except the ones you never put your hand up for in the first place. YOU are so full of potential. Timing is just a bitch. Keep trying. Don’t let the bastards get you down. Never give up. (Boy, how many clichés can one person use in one blog? Spoiler alert: A LOT)

No, I don’t want to be someone whose job ‘defines’ them or ‘completes’ them and trust me, I’ve been working on that waaaay before the recent events in my career. But I also pride myself in what I do. Shouldn’t we all?

I want to be more than the girl who works in radio but that doesn’t mean this girl can’t work in radio at the same time too, right? Ha!

Shout out to my main Kween Jane for writing this to me a couple of months ago:

‘I want you to know that I know who you are. I see you. And I know what you’re meant to be doing. Darling you are meant for a BIG life. 

You are not meant for a 9-to-5 job. You are not meant for behind-the-scenes. And while it might seem like the easier, safer option: it’s not really working out is it? Because that life is too small for you my love.’ 

It still chokes me up today. If you’re in a rut, I hope you have a Jane. Reach out to your Jane. ‘Janes’ are just like the sun. Utter golden treasure. Hold on to your Jane.

Also, big ups to my mate Mikey, who has been my own personal cheerleader and put my CV in front of many people he’s worked with over the past few years. What a legend! He has met up with me after interviews, taken my super annoying stress calls and answered back every one of my long neurotic texts. Poor bastard. He’s yet to realise he’ll soon be working in the same building as that psycho. Lol! I promise, after-work beers are on me, always!

The best part of trying to be more than what you do is… you actually become that. And you work out the people that adore you regardless. Those people know who they are (Kelly and Paul to name a few) and I am forever indebted to them.

At last, today, I can exhale and be proud of who I am, what I’ve been through and what’s going to happen next. Watch this space Kweens.

Big love,

Cliché Carmela

Introducing Carmela Contarino, the #PowerKween behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’ 👸🏻♥️✨

Carmela is an Aussie in London with wanderlust. A TV/Radio rebel. Fierce feminist. Loud laugh-er. Emotional eat-er. Pop culture cat. Red wine wooer and karaoke kween. She hopes that her experiences are just like yours, funny, warm, loud, raw and that maybe you can figure out this thing called ‘life’ together. #YasssKween 🙌🏼

Guest Kween: YEN HOANG “How Miss Independent Learnt To Love.”

Guest Kween: YEN HOANG “How Miss Independent Learnt To Love.”

Hi, I’m Yen. I am a girl that’s super independent. I grew up believing in my strength, was taught to think that I am bold, that my words carry weight and can help change the world. I learnt that I am a force to be reckoned with when I’m standing on my own two feet, and when I must decide, for myself, I know what I want.

Throughout my early 20s, I had everything: a semi-successful startup brewing, found the greatest group of people I still call my best friends today, moved to the other side of the world, travelled alone and graduated in the top two percentile of my university. Yep, all before 22.

I always knew I was super independent, it probably came with being the eldest sibling and a Virgo (think Beyoncé, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Sheryl Sandberg: just to name drop a few). 😉

I was used to walking fast, spending my own money and opening my own doors. I learnt to trust myself and knew who I was through falling down and picking myself back up. I found my niche in the world, paving my own way, presenting my own smile and sense of self to whoever I met. I wasn’t used to balancing myself with another person. I wasn’t used to needing someone, or allowing anyone to help.

YEN

My independence definitely contributed to the destruction of my relationships in my early 20s too. I drove men crazy because I didn’t let them do everything for me. I didn’t let them cater to my every need. I refused to let them pay for every date.

I sometimes wouldn’t let them be the manly-man, the savior, the strong suitor that they so desperately wanted to be for me. It’s wasn’t on purpose; it’s just because I was used to being my own savior. Someone even told me to ‘pretend and be a little less independent, just so they can feel you need them’.

Somehow, something still didn’t feel right. And along the way, I lost my independence: I became that friend who disappeared off the face of the earth because she got a boyfriend. But I fell into this trap, of believing I had to dumb myself down just to make a boy feel better about himself.

My last breakup reminded me how much I needed to put myself first again and regain everything I knew about being independent. Although that breakup shattered my world, it was a sign that I wasn’t meant to be in a relationship with anyone else but myself.

Maybe it was a time for me to fix myself and change. Appreciate myself more and to never make the same mistake. To achieve more goals and more importantly find happiness. To hopefully one day understand, that I’ll attract the right things when I have a sense of who I am.

I had spontaneously decided to accept a job in London (the other side of the world) and pack up and leave within weeks. I had lived in London back in 2011 while studying there and had always called it my ‘home away from home’, so when the offer came through I couldn’t reject it. I called my best friend and told her I was coming, and recalled saying “I have nothing to lose”. I didn’t make plans to come home, or let alone have a plan? I was ready to accept whatever it was that the universe had installed. I felt so free.

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yen 3

The week my visa appointment with the UK consulate got booked: I met a guy who I never imagined would mean so much to me today. You see, I was so focused on my life that I was completely blind-sided; a relationship was the last thing I was looking for. On our second date, I had no choice but to tell him I was leaving the country. I felt like I owed this to him and was super nervous delivering the update. That’s when I knew, I really liked him.

I asked for answers “Why throw me a bone now universe? I am about to go on an adventure of a lifetime! Do you want me to stay in Melbourne?” I even went to church and a temple to find clarity. I have never felt so vulnerable in my life.

I still left for London and to my understanding we weren’t official. But the distance didn’t change how we both felt about each other. Sure the different time zones were hard but we made it work. Last minute, I booked a flight home so I could surprise this guy on his birthday.

I was super super nervous, I mean, who was I to him to do that? We weren’t even official or anything exclusive! I knew I was taking a big chance. I guess that’s the whole issue with being independent yet a hopeless romantic too. Naturally, we then agreed to a long distance relationship because he acknowledged my dreams and supported it no matter how tough it was going to be.

You see, when you fall for a girl that’s independent, you will get frustrated. She’s used to doing things for herself and by herself. She’s used to following her own rules, making her own decisions, being selfish with her time. It will take a bit for her to get used to putting someone else first, to moulding her life to shape both yours and hers together. Don’t get me wrong, she won’t have trouble loving you, but she might, at first struggle to let you in.

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A long distance relationship ended up being the best thing for me. I learnt to prioritise a relationship; scheduling in calls with confusing time differences, improving communication skills and letting someone into my life, knowing I can still continually work on myself.

I learnt to let the small things go, had to invest a lot of trust in someone, believe that not all guys are bad (something that doesn’t come easy for me), to compromise and have patience, extreme patience. And finally, I learnt that when time and luck crossed paths the universe would find me a guy who will fall in love with my driven, spontaneous, independent character.

Go travel the world, battle your demons, set up a business, find people who value your heart and yours will attract. Don’t apologise for working hard, for having goals and being independent: we need more girls like this.

When the right person comes along, they will support you unconditionally and when you do come across that person, know that you deserve them.

I hope you love yourself enough to recognise the things you don’t like about your life, and I hope you find the courage to change them. And I hope somewhere out of the unexpected, a person comes along who will love and support you on your journey too.

Yen started her career in public relations with aspirations to work in the fashion industry, she became curious with e-commerce and technology and evolved her career to where she is now. Awarded Australian Best Young Marketing Talent (2016) for spearheading numerous innovations in her field, she is a passionate marketer with an entrepreneurial edge focused on overachieving outcomes. Competitive at heart, she never wanted to settle for just a nine-to-five job and saw an opportunity start her own business while still working a full-time job. People often mistaken Yen to be quite timid on first impression, but little do they know that she enjoys confrontation, is super opinionated and will definitely shut down dickhead behaviour (if she sees it). Her upbringing has been quite colourful (a story for another time) but as a result she is now super passionate about raising diversity issues (in every form) and empowering young girls to chase their dreams through running mentorship programs and teaching at a university outside of her side hustles.

@yhoang

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