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.

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

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 Kulture: HANNAH GADSBY ‘Nanette’.

Kween Kulture: HANNAH GADSBY ‘Nanette’.

Image result for hannah gadsby nanette

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”

“Anger is never constructive. Laughter is not our medicine. Stories hold our cure.”

No matter what your view is on gender dysphoria, feminism, mental health, homosexuality or even Donald Trump, I highly doubt you will get to the end of this comedy special (if you can call it that) and feel nothing. 

Gadsby is changing the world of comedy with her story. When I think about her now, my heart fills with joy, sadness and hope, all at the same time.

If there’s one thing you watch this weekend, make it be ‘Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette’.

Hannah, thank you- Carmela Contarino

“Boys will be boys and women will be careful, so can we just get men to be men?”

“You’d still get a grown ass president denying any wrong doing though.”

“I don’t feel comfortable in a small town, I get a bit tense, mainly because I’m this situation.”

“Lesbians give feedback, men, opinions.”

Image result for hannah gadsby nanette

The reality of being unemployed past your thirties.

The reality of being unemployed past your thirties.

friends-unemployed

In my twenties I hit the ground running, I was focused, zealous and fearless. Some would even say I ‘peaked’ too soon. I landed my dream job at the age of 23 and was on more money than my parents combined at 24, but by 25 it all came crashing down. It wasn’t completely dire afterwards, though I had to rebuild. Everything I thought I knew was no longer. Everything that used to be, now was different. I went from co-hosting a Sydney radio breakfast show which had me interviewing celebrities and getting dressed up for red carpet events to someone who worked at a newsagents, a clothes shop and a jewelry store just to make her rent.

Eventually I got another job in radio, but it came with half the profile and therefore half the money: so I had to keep working one of my part-time gigs. I was also lucky enough to land a manager who booked me regular spots on national TV shows (which straight after I would run to the newsagents and be confronted by customers with: “Didn’t I just see you on TV?”).

Slowly but surely and by that, I mean with a hell of a lot of persistence and tears, everything went back to the way it had been. Bigger radio and TV jobs came along. Some would even say I was ‘back on top’.

My point is, this definitely isn’t a bust out the violins story but, in my twenties, I thought I knew what it meant to struggle and to have ups and downs in my career.

Enter my thirties.

When I was 29, I left my life in Sydney and risked it all for a new, happier life in London. Looking back on it now I can understand why my friends were constantly saying “I don’t know how you’re doing this, I could never!” “Are you fucking mad?” “You brave bitch!” I was moving to a new city, with nowhere to live, no job prospects and no support network.

Also enter a new phase of my career: where I was basically starting all over again. I became familiar with the term the ‘British guard’ meaning: anything I did in Australia didn’t count unless I had done it in the UK. So, while I took meeting after meeting with different TV/production companies and radio stations, I was working in a pub earning a minimum wage of 6 pounds an hour, pouring beers, rolling cutlery and dodging mice.

I came over with some coin to get me started but the conversion rate at the time was shocking: so more than half of what I saved was just gone. Yes, I should have researched more. Yes, I should have put aside more money before I left and I know I’m ultimately responsible for my own life, my own choices, my own actions and therefore my own shortcomings but in my (slight) defense: I was the first in my immediate family to do this. My Mum and Dad had just as much of a clue as I did. Cousins who had done it before did talk about their own ‘London war stories’ but they were from over a decade ago (therefore outdated) and I guess if I had really looked into how fucking hard this was all going to be, I may have chickened out and never done it. Blind hope and a little bit of that fearlessness that I had when I first moved to Sydney at the age of 21 was what I needed again at the age of 31.

So, slowly but surely (but with a hell of A LOT more persistence and tears this time) everything went back to the way it was, I started to get those TV and radio jobs again. I bet you’re thinking that this is where the story ends but either there’s something wrong with me or the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ really is true.

After 8 months of being ‘back in the game’ I was more miserable than I was when I first moved to London. I was working 14-hour days, 6-7 days a week, my time was filled with catering for the same narcissistic evil radio hosts I came to know and loathe in Sydney and my life was no different to what it was in Australia. “Why was I here?” “What was I trying to prove?” “Was I really doing this for me? Or was I doing it to show those assholes back home that I could do it without them?” (even though the folklore goes that they were ones responsible for my success overseas **eye roll**).

So once again, I packed it all in for the search of something more. I returned home to Australia. I was back under my parents’ roof. I was living in my childhood bedroom (that I shared with my nephew whenever he would sleep over). I went on the dole. I then got a full-time job at the first radio station I ever worked at (which ignited that bright-eyed naive-of-sorts passion again). I got my Italian passport. Cleared my credit card debt. Saved more money to come back over to London with (this time fully aware of what the f**king conversion rate was). Reconnected with my family and friends and prepared for London 2.0.

Initially, I thought I had ‘cracked the code’. Yep, thanks to my new-found research and life experiences London 2.0 was off to a much better start. I aligned myself with recruitment agencies that got me work in environments that were not media-based. I was on better money. I had a better work-life-balance. I was home by 6pm every night. I didn’t work weekends. I had savings for the ‘just in case’ and most of my travels booked for the rest of the year were already paid for. More importantly, I learnt that what I did for a job didn’t define me. I was kicking London in the dick.

So I thought.

Unfortunately London 2.0 hasn’t also been without its psychotic flatmates and work contracts ending unexpectedly.

In the last few months, I was let go at work, forced to move out of the flat I was living in, put all my belongings into black plastic bags and have had them sitting at Carly’s place while I rent out her Airbnb room. I also had to finance two trips back home to Australia. In this time I applied for 60 jobs on LinkedIn alone and woke most mornings with the anxiety that if I don’t find a job soon, I would be homeless and broke in the very near future. Fun! Yeah, London 2.0 has been just as hard at times too.

The good news? I have finally secured another job and I’ll move into my new pad at the beginning of next month. Phew! Today also marks another year that I’ve survived this bad-ass city. Yaasss!!

So the real moral of the story is: while I was home back in Australia for those months in 2016, I witnessed my 60-year-old Dad (who also happened to find himself unemployed) get up every morning, look at the job vacancies online, check his emails (to find no response from any of the jobs he applied for the previous day), and muster up the courage to do it all over again: it nearly broke him.

There is something utterly soul-shattering when you find yourself unemployed past the age of 30. The constant putting yourself out there. The way your heart skips a beat and then sinks when you check your inbox. The realisation that there’s now a much higher chance of someone younger and possibly more qualified than you going for the same role. The acknowledgement of how big the gap is getting from when you last did the job you love. But mostly, ignoring the constant feeling that you’re failing. It got me real dark most days and I had to really try to find the quick wins in life. I can only imagine how my poor Dad felt during his period. If I was struggling with this at 30, what was going through his mind at 60?

The truth: I’d love to wrap this up with something hopeful and with the reassurance that everything is always going to be ok, but I didn’t have the courage or the energy to put this down on paper till I was employed again. It’s funny how that 9-5 life gives you that feeling of purpose and how necessary that is for your mental health and self-care. So I get it: if you’re going through this or have gone through this in the past, it’s hard to hear or take comfort in those words, especially when you’re in the thick of it.

The real truth: I can’t guarantee everything is going to be ok, no one can, in my experience it hasn’t always been. Things that make it a hell of a lot easier? Take those FaceTime calls from your family (even when you can’t bear to actually ‘face’ them), have a good chin-wag with your nearest and dearest and get that ugly off your chest, have someone in your life that encourages you to remember all the things you should be grateful for and have those cups of peppermint tea on the reg.

One piece of advice: in these times of trouble try and avoid alcohol and drugs, if you can. I’m not a saint and it’s absolutely the first thing I reach for whenever I’m in despair, but I read this great quote and it’s really changed my mind set.

‘If you drink to numb all the difficult things in life, you’ll numb all the good bits too.’

Remember, every next level of your life will determine a different you.

Peace out Kweens!

Stay strong.

Big love,

Carmela.

x

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 🙌🏼

Kween Krush: ELLIE ANGEL-MOBBS “I’m An Endo Warrior!”

Kween Krush: ELLIE ANGEL-MOBBS “I’m An Endo Warrior!”

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

Ellie, we have a crush on you because you have over-come challenges that have defeated many, you also continue to face these challenges head-on daily while keeping a kick-ass radio job, being a wife, friend and sister/warrior to the endometriosis community.

So firstly, what is endometriosis?

It’s a condition that affects 1 in 10 women, creates extreme pain and can lead to infertility. In doc speak – endometriosis is when the tissue similar to the lining of the uterus occurs outside this layer and causes pain and/or infertility. There is no cure. In normal speak – it hurts.

What’s your story/experience with endometriosis? When did you first find out you had it?

When I was 15 I got my first period. I vividly remember getting it and thinking “Oh shit, Mrs Martin taught us about this in Sex Ed noooooo, does this mean I have to grow up now? I don’t want it!!” I was so embarrassed that I didn’t want to tell my Mum but she knew something was wrong. I was acting unusually quiet and kept asking for paracetamol. She eventually said “Ellie, have you got your period?”. I burst into tears. My mum’s a nurse and at the time a mid-wife, so she knew everything when it came to lady issues.  She told me that she had this thing called endometriosis and that it made her very sick when she was young. It eventually led her to have a hysterectomy in her early 30s which is ridiculously young to be going through menopause. It can be hereditary and that there is a high chance I would have it (JOY!!!!!). I went onto having painful periods throughout my teens and the doctor put me on the pill when I was 17. It brought me no relief.

When I was 26, I woke up one morning feeling a bit off. I felt this sharp stabbing pain in my lower stomach. I laid on the bed in the foetal position to ease it, and 2 minutes later I couldn’t move. The pain was so intense. My husband raced home and took me to the emergency doctor. 15 minutes later I was on standby for surgery. They thought my appendix was about to blow, so they rushed me in for a CT scan. What they found was a surprise. Cysts on my ovaries and all signs pointing to endometriosis.

Within weeks I was seeing one of Sydney’s best gynaecologists and having a laproscopy. That’s key hole surgery where they look around your abdomen and fossick to see what jewels they can find. My body was a gold mine: stage 4 endometriosis, the worst you can have. It was growing everywhere – uterus, bowel, ovaries, kidney, it even suffocated my poor little appendix. They also discovered I have a condition called adenomyosis, where the endo tissue grows into the wall of my uterus. And that little sucker hurts! My surgeon described it as a badly bruised apple that will never heal and told me I’d have to have a hysterectomy soon. They also said “Have a baby ASAP”. Sure, because making a baby is as easy as cooking 2 minute noodles!! Since then I’ve had over 10 surgical procedures, and numerous hospital visits and days waiting in doctor’s rooms. It just has become the norm. At the moment though, I’m feeling on top of it and can manage the pain.

Considering there wasn’t as much awareness about it back then as there is now (thanks to Kweens like yourself), how did you become more informed about it?

Not only did my Mum have it, but so did her sisters. There is a very strong link in families with Endo. Mum is so clued on with the medical stuff (she should be a doctor) and therefore I have had extensive knowledge as to how it works and how to best treat it. Endometriosis Australia do a fantastic job educating on it as well. I highly recommend checking out their site.

How did endo change your world? And was it a hard at first to get through your day-to-day life?

It took a toll on my work, social life and mental health. At first diagnosis I had days in really bad places, but I started seeing a professional who really helped me get back on track. A healthy lifestyle with regular exericse and a good diet have a big impact on it. My husband is my rock and my world, he has held my hand through everything. He will do anything to help me, as will my family. I am very lucky.

What exactly is a ‘day in the life’ of someone who has endo?

On a day when the pain is extremely bad, (think of it like someone is grating your cervix, stabbing your uterus with a rough knife or rocks stuck in your bowel) you will spend it in bed, cuddling a hot water bottle and taking whatever you can to stop the pain. Then again some days, not even the hardcore pain killers will touch the sides.

What frightens you the most about Endo? And what do people still not know about it?

Mental health is a huge one. Recently, I met an endo warrior who just got out of hospital because the pain was too much and she tried to end her life. I heard of one man who lost his sister to suicide after she could not take the endo anymore. Women are killing themselves because of this disease. If you are feeling this way please call Lifeline on 13 11 14, they are amazing. The cost it has on workplaces is staggering. In Australia, each year, endometriosis is estimated to cost $7.7 billion in lost productivity and $2.5 billion in Medicare and direct healthcare costs. I have taken a lot of days off during my initial diagnosis period and post surgeries. In the beginning I felt so guilty every time I was unable to work, but I’m teaching my brain to leave behind the guilt and just focus on getting better.

Who are the #endosisters and #endowarriors?

Endo sisters and warriors are those who are battling the illness, it’s a beautiful community (especially on instagram) that share their stories and support one another. It’s nice to be able to chat to others going through a similar experience because we all understand what it’s like. It’s also fantastic to see so many celebraties talking openly about their experiences, like Lena Dunham and Halsey. When you see them posting about not being able to work and being stuck in bed, it is almost reassuring that it can affect anyone.

Tell us about the exciting announcement that happened on the 6th of December 2017?

I was invited to Parliament House for the official launch of the Parliamentary Friends of Endometriosis Awareness, hosted by Gai Brodtmann MP and Nicole Flint Member for Boothby.

These two amazing women have partnered together with the newly formed ACE team (Australian Coalition Of Endometriosis) which is made up of many of the Endometriosis partners in Australia including Endometriosis Australia, Endo Active, QENDO – Endometriosis Association (Qld) Inc, Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia and Canberra Endometriosis Network.

As an endo warrior, I told my story of pain, surgeries and mental health. For over a decade I have battled this illness and for some reason it really got me that day. I cried during my speech. I was so proud to be standing in front of a powerful group of women, politicians and my Mum and Dad. The Federal Government announced three policies aimed at ending the silence on endometriosis. The average diagnosis time for a woman is 7 years. Just imagine a world where this is drastically shortened, and where this endo thing is just a thing of the past!

Addressing the crowd was Health Minister Greg Hunt MP saying that this chronic women’s health condition should have been given more attention earlier and outlined the Federal Government will now:

• Develop a National action plan for endometriosis. This includes more understanding in workplace scenarios, Medicare rebates and education.

• Fund endometriosis research into diagnosis and treatment at the The University of Queensland – UQ

• Partner with Jean Hailes for Women’s Health to make endometriosis the focus of the next Women’s Health Week.

Bravo! So what’s next in fighting endo? What does the future look like?

On New Year’s Day I was watching the news and a report showed that a research lab in Melbourne may have made a break through. Scientists discovered a new way to find a crucial stem cell in the lining of the womb. With further investigation this could help relieve pain and eventually lead to a cause and cure for it. The future is also about raising awareness (especially in young women) about the symptons of endo. Getting this education into schools would be a huge as well! If girls are educated that it’s not normal to be in so much pain from a period, this can lead to earlier diagnosis.

What do you want to say to anyone who is struggling with endo right now?

Be kind to yourself and know that there is support out there. I think the worst thing about having a chronic illness is just feeling like you are alone and no one understands. But there are people you can talk to. Also if you feel like you are not getting the answers from your GP then seek a second opinion. Some doctors just have no idea about the illness. I am always here for a chat, and to vent about endo. Get in touch @EllieAngel on Twitter. Check out endometriosisaustralia.org for more info, and get involved with their High Teas happening around Australia in March. All money raised goes to endo awareness and research.

Ellie and Carmela randomly met one night through a mutual friend at a radio station in Perth (it was one of those wonderfully drunken cosmic things). It wasn’t long after, that they both got jobs in Sydney and were battling it out hosting different radio shows at the same time. Carmela always admired the shit out of Ellie’s sweet sweet skills and hopes one day hopes to be as slick and cool as her.

@IAmEllieAngelMobbs

Kween Krush: YVIE JONES “You Must Trust Your Gut!”

Kween Krush: YVIE JONES “You Must Trust Your Gut!”

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

Yvie, we’ve got a crush on you because simply, you have a heart of freaking gold! Not only do you spend most of your days caring for your housemate Tom but also your 6 dogs (most of which are rescues). Did we also mention you’re pee-your-pants funny? And lucky us, because we get to witness that weekly with your other housemate Angie on the Logie-winning Australian TV showGogglebox.

How did you, Tom and Angie all come to live together?

I had a crazy friend who was getting his masters at Sydney University and he saw an ad on the uni accommodation page offering free rent to two people who would live with a man with down syndrome as carers but act as just ‘housemates’ to him. His name is Tom. The set-up is so Tom can live independently, as he’d never survive a group home. He also has type 1 diabetes, which requires 24 hour care. I met with Tom and we decided to move in. He’s like a brother to me now. Oh, and it turned out that crazy friend was a bit too crazy, so we had to move him on. After living alone with Tom for a year, I roped Angie into moving in. It was pretty hard on her; it’s a hard situation. But she’s done so well and I absolutely love living with her, she keeps me sane and our relationship is incredible. If we could, we’d be lesbians. But you can’t choose your sexuality, can you!

Lol! So, how different is your life from 3 years ago? Highs? Lows? Struggles?

To be honest, not very different at all! Yes, we have 2 Logies, but we don’t get to attend the awards and you only get to hold the statue for half an hour – dumb. Highs have been my relationships. Angie and I have been forced to watch TV shows that we may not necessarily have ever watched, so therefore we’ve talked about things that have really opened our eyes and because of that, we’ve become so close and have a massive understanding of each other. Angie and I get recognised in the streets, which is wonderful. People are just so lovely. We also get told stories by some that we have given them many laughs and they don’t feel lonely anymore, or the only time they smile is when they sit on their couch and watch us. It’s incredibly humbling. Lows? My mum died less than a year ago and that saw my floor falling away beneath me. I’ve never felt that kind of pain before. And it just stays with you. I just wish I could pick up the phone and call her. I struggle with depression (have for most of my life) and I’m honestly glad I’ve had so much therapy and read so many good books on how to deal with depression, because it’s really helped me deal with my grief for my mum.

Does it make you laugh to think your Mum told you, “You won’t get famous sitting on the couch watching TV?”

When I got ‘Gogglebox’, she was the first person I told and I said, “Do you remember saying that?” She rolled her eyes (as only a mum can) and said “This could only happen to you”.

Bless. Now, we’ve forgotten, your other 6 housemates. The dawwwgs. What made you decide to rescue dogs? And why should other people/families do it?

One day I went to my friend’s birthday lunch at Hugos in the Cross (not there anymore, thanks lockout laws) and I was seated next to a woman who worked for the RSPCAand she was the one who busted ‘puppy mills’. I didn’t know there was such a thing! The stories she told me and the statistics she reeled off had me in tears. I knew from that moment I had to do something. Fostering was the best fit for me. Tom absolutely loves dogs and we have a good house with a backyard. We rescue/foster through Paws and Recover who mostly get calls from emergency departments of people who have OD’d , as well as calls from police stations where dogs have been left behind after a domestic violence incident. Until Paws and Recover came along, there were no charities doing this. Pets would die alone at home because no one knew they were there. Anyone with a safe home, and a love for helping dogs can foster. And if you think ‘but I’d be too heartbroken to let them go’, put your feelings aside and think about the needs of the dog. And if you love the dog that much, then adopt him!

What do you do for shits-and-giggles on the weekend?

My weekends are now so different than what they once were. I don’t drink anymore so picnics, beach visits, daytime activities and early nights are my life now. Boring to some, heaven to others.

You don’t drink anymore? How come?

I gave up drinking around 2 months ago but it was 18 months ago when I realised I just wasn’t enjoying it anymore. But in this culture, giving up the grog is a hard thing to do. So I kept trying to drink. But I couldn’t get past 2 wines before I was tired and just wanted to lie down. Maybe my liver had had it? I also found it really hard to be around drunk people, and that was really hard, because most of my friends were those drunk people. It’s lonely to be honest. You have about a 1.5 hour window before whoever you’re with becomes a dickhead. And we are all dickheads when we’re drunk. I no longer have the tolerance for the repetition and dribble that comes with a few drinks. I just can’t drink anymore. That’s not to say I won’t ever again. But I think maybe I’m just at that age when you can’t do it anymore?

What’s around the corner for you? Musicals? Pantomimes? Cabaret shows? Karaoke competitions?

All of those! I’d really like to get into radio or ‘chat TV’; where it’s me being me. Some acting on our great ABC or SBS programmes has always been a dream of mine. I did go to drama school, so I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.

That’s the 5 year plan?

Yep, doing some or all of the above! And still fostering dawgs. Maybe fall in love with a male feminist???

What does being a feminist mean to you?

Being a feminist to me means believing in equal rights for women. Being treated exactly the same as a man and any good or bad that comes with that. Believing girls can be anything that boys can be.

What’s one thing you would tell ‘younger Yvie’?

Stop dieting. Anything you’re waiting to do ‘once you’ve lost weight’, just do it! And don’t give a fuck what others think, even those closest to you. You must trust your gut.

Yvie is one of Carmela’s favourite people. They met many years ago in the bathrooms of a record label quiz night; it was love at first sight. They bonded over finding male-unicorns, the movie ‘Beaches’ and a good late-night kebab.