Meet CARMELA CONTARINO: The Power Kween Behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’

Meet CARMELA CONTARINO: The Power Kween Behind ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…’

How much do you really know about Carmela Contarino: the woman behind your fav fem blog ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…‘?

Did you know she’s Australian? (From a small town called Bunbury, Western Australia.) But spent her 20s in Sydney and now resides in London? Yasss, she’s a big city gal now!

Did you know as a child, she was chubby, rocked an afro/mullet, had too much body hair and was teased mercifully for looking a ‘bit like a boy’? Luckily, this birthed oodles of personality, a wicked sense of humour, a resilient attitude and effortless unique style: hello headscarves and colour clashing!!

Did you know as a young girl, Carmela was a competitive dancer and had her own Hip Hop/Funk/Jazz dance school (which opened the door to 200 students) at 19? These days though, she mostly dances like Ellen.

Did you know at the age of 24, she also had her own breakfast radio show in the biggest commercial market in Australia? She’s met and interviewed most A-list celebrities but she has also worked most minimum-wage jobs too, like being a hairdresser’s receptionist, waitress, bartender and shop assistant. Yep, she can pour a mean beer! She’s now the talent booker and entertainment content producer for the Bauer Media Group in the UK looking after radio (KISS/Magic/Absolute), print (Heat/Closer) and digital.

Did you know she auditioned for Idol, X Factor, Big Brother but ended up casting talent for those TV shows instead? Carmela’s vice now is drunk karaoke: better known as Trashioke. 

Did you know at the age of 33, she’s never really had a ‘proper’ boyfriend? (No one she’s introduced to her parents or brought over to the family home for Christmas lunch.) Cue the numerous awkward convos with Uncles: “So do you have a special man in your life? Or woman?”

Did you know her idols are Bette Midler, Whoopi Goldberg, Lena Dunham and Taylor Swift? Because, obviously.

Did you know she’s still close with her friends from primary/high school? That group and the people she surrounds herself with today, are the inspo behind #STFTL.

Of course you don’t! Because 70% of stories on ‘So The Fairy Tales Lied…‘ are about and written by other wonderful, fabulous and brave women and men (which Carmela couldn’t be more proud of).

So, how did Carmela end up being who she is today? Is it the roller coaster of her colourful past?

Why does she champion and cherish other women so fiercely? Why is her mum one of her best friends?

Why does she have utter compassion for the underdog or someone down on their luck?

Find out as Carmela exclusively opens up about her world to Greg Stocks on his podcast ‘Life Chats With Greg’.

 

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 🙌🏼

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Prince Charming: CHARLIE FOX

Prince Charming: CHARLIE FOX

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 Charlie Fox: 

1) Describe yourself in three words:

Well, I had to take an online quiz to figure this out, but it only came back with empathetic. I would add creative and curious (like the cat, not curious as in strange, then again…).

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

To be honest in this day and age it sounds suss! I imagine Donald Trump thinks he is a ‘Prince Charming’, but hey I get it! Can I add ‘low attention span’ to the above answer? It is just 3 words….?

Ok, so a modern PC would be a man who understands not just women, but humans. I think to understand women you have to try to understand all the sexes. To do this you need to have tons of EI (emotional intelligence) and according to my old workplace when EI was the ‘must have’ corporate fad of the moment and they tested me for it: I had boatloads.

I’ve spent most of my life working in radio, dealing with high profile egos and to do this you need boatloads of EI! (that’s EI not E… although that could also help).

Ok, so I’ve veered off topic again, the simple answer is understanding. Understand what drives females; why they are the way they are. I find all women interesting and fascinating, so I treat them with respect and a slight bit of awe.

Also please understand, I believe a Prince Charming should be a Prince Charming to everyone, not just females. But of course, for the #TheFairyTalesLied I’ll stick to women.

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

Again, understand women!! Well at least try. Think about this young man, a little girl is usually treated like a princess because, well let’s face it, little girls are so damn cute (in a baby bunny rabbit kind of way). Bear in mind, I have a son not a daughter, so parents of girls may not agree with me on this.

The little girl grows up to be a young girl and starts to go through puberty, then the period arrives. At which point, putting myself in that young girl’s sparkly sneakers for a moment, I would be thinking… ‘You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!? I bleed!? For how long?? How often? Fuck off!!!!!’ All of a sudden the cute little bunny rabbit must feel betrayed and horrified. Surely there’s some mistake???

Here she is at her most vulnerable emotionally, trying to look attractive while battling the old raging hormones, acne and then the period happens. Monthly. Faaaaarck me!

So this alone makes me (and remember the website quiz I took told me I am empathetic and don’t forget, the EI part) have enormous respect for young girls, even though some appear to be batshit crazy, I know they have good reason.

Ok, so after that kick in the guts my young male friend should we talk about what it feels like to be penetrated? Why are you squirming?

And just to top it off, after all of that, the girl is now a woman, and pregnant. After watching my wife (whom I am proud to say is a #STFLKween) go through this fun 9 months, my level of respect for women could go no higher!

Childbirth? OMFG!!! The horror!

I don’t want to bring religion into this (well obviously I do) but not only would the christian God be male, he would also be misogynist! Surely, there has to be a way to make life easier for women. Men have none of these problems! Imagine if you were sitting down with a clean sheet of paper to create the human race and went “Right, I’ll have 2 sexes for humans, to procreate, the male will stick it in here for amazing pleasure, the female… well fuck it, I’ll make her life a bloody misery!!”

When it comes to females procreating, wouldn’t eggs be a better solution? Really not my field. But, if I was a woman and made it to heaven, the first thing I’d do is punch God in the face.

Naturally, at this stage, the young man I was giving advice to would be backing away going “Ok, dude, I’ve gotta be somewhere…”

The point is, try to put yourself in the place of the human you’re dealing with. Have a think about how easy the male gets it compared to the female.

And then think about everything else girls/women have to go through. Jackson Katz, a social researcher, asked men what they do on a daily basis to avoid being sexually assaulted. Then he asked women.

Just awful! Once again. Men don’t think, because it doesn’t happen to them. But they can always be aware!!

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

To me, it is standing up for women through fairness. There has been a lot of great stuff to come out of the #MeToo campaign. Not the least of which, was calling out these pricks that gave all men a bad name like Weinstein. I hate that people stood up for them because they’re powerful, celebrity or worst of all ‘creative’. Don’t mention Woody Allen please.

For me, one of the really helpful things for men was the notion that ‘it’s not ok to have a mate who talks about women like they’re sluts without calling them out on it’: this is literally once again misogyny. Why are you hating on women?

For some reason (and it seems to start with young boys), you’re not a real man unless you point at girls and go “I’d love to have my way with that dirty bitch!”. Whoa! Dude!! Hang on, you want to think about that statement? Do you have an IQ of 3? Seriously.

Feminism also means equality. In every way. To be honest, I’ve been lucky working in radio, where some women earn more than their male partners (on-air and off-air). I like to think I treated everyone equally on my staff; although it was and still is a corporate battle wages-wise.

But being a huge fan of Twitter and tech, I follow a lot of geek girls & tech journos. They are forever pointing out horrendous inequalities. Like, serious female scientist being ignored for awards or even basic recognition. Uni scores being marked down for scholars because they’re female.

I don’t understand it. I am always outraged. White male privilege is a serious problem.

Yes, I call myself a feminist.

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

Well apart from my mum Edith, my aunt Aggie and of course, my beautiful wife Ronni; whom I hired not because she was incredibly beautiful and sexy (and still is) but because I thought she was a hugely talented communicator on-air (and still is).

And aside from the 60s boyhood crushes on Barbara Eden (I Dream Of Genie) and Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched), I tend to go with current gals. Mainly, because I have a shocking memory and spend so much time on Twitter!

I guess, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, JK Rowling are all amazing humans. I love intelligent women, who are not afraid of a fight, who stand up to (male) bullies and destroy them (verbally).

My current crush right now is Jacinda Ardern: The New Zealand Prime Minister. She is all those things and more. And gave birth while running the damn country!

Amanda Keller, who I worked with at WSFM in Sydney, is an incredible woman and with an astonishing talent. Once again, Amanda is bright, quick witted and a great role model for women (and men to be honest).

6) What are your working relationships like with women?

I pushed hard to get female announcers/presenters on-air. There was a lot of male push-back. They said “Research shows even women don’t like female announcers/presenters”.

Bullshit. It never seemed to bother the U.S stations. They were 50/50.

I prefer working with women. I find them more dedicated and capable of giving great feedback. I guess because women are naturally more empathetic and have lots of emotional intelligence. Whether they are behind the scenes or on-air, I just like working with them more. Radio is all about communication, and I think women excel at that.

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

Simple, equality. Not because it’s enforced but because men wake up to themselves and try to understand the injustice that has prevailed forever and is still in place.

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

Well animated it would be Shrek.

Otherwise, I would be all of the three bears, all played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Scarlett Johansson would play a kick-ass Goldilocks. Pretty much like her Black Widow character in Marvel. The bears would get what’s coming to them for being so whiny and self-centered. Actually, maybe Scarlett is playing me in this… hmmm definitely needs more thought.

Charlie Fox has worked in Sydney radio for a long time but only at three stations, 2SM, 2MMM & WSFM (where he also looked after The Edge 96.ONE); all were #1 radio stations. He was Group Program Director of the MMM network, until he chucked it in to start his own web design company (NetHead): with clients like KFC and network TEN. Charlie then spent a year setting up a streaming radio station in New York before returning to Australia as Content Director of one of the world’s very first streaming music video stations thebasement.com.au. In 2013, Charlie won ‘Best Program Director’ – Metropolitan at the Australian Commercial Radio Awards but apart from radio, he also loves tech & gaming. Charlie is currently a gentleman of leisure.

When it comes to the radio legend that is: Charlie Fox, Carmela can testify to all of the above and more. What Carmela cherishes the most about Charlie though, is not that he simply was the first man to give her that lucky big break in radio (which changed her world forever). But it’s the other things, that she’s sure, Mr Fox is not even quite aware of.

Let her indulge…

Carmela once caught Charlie mouthing the words ‘Thank you for Carmela’ to another radio acquaintance (who had recommended her to him). Proving that not only can he nurture talent but be gracious about them being in his company at the same.

Charlie was the first male boss that Carmela wasn’t afraid to be herself around: if anything, he encouraged it. Proving again, that women don’t need to dumb themselves down or look a certain way to be noticed, that good men will always see beyond that.

Even after ‘not’ working for Charlie for 5+ years, he would still pick up the phone whenever she would call out-of-the-blue and be more than happy to help her.

Charlie was consistently firm but fair, he knew just how to empower Carmela, and also how to handle her wild ‘potty mouth’ ways. 😉

Charlie Fox is a great human. The only criticism that Carmela would have towards him, is that he is ‘too’ great. So much, that she struggled with the many bosses that came after him (especially the male ones in radio), because nothing would or will ever compare to being guided and trusted by the one and only, C-Fox.

Naturally, Carmela is beyond thrilled that Charlie Fox is the next #STFTL Prince Charming.

Happily Ever After? Guest King: MATT BASELEY

Happily Ever After? Guest King: MATT BASELEY

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…

Well, here we are… one year on. Firstly, a huge congrats to #STFTL on their first year anniversary. I can’t even commit to making a cup of tea, so well done!

Speaking of tea, I thought I’d take this opportunity to mention an award I picked up this year. Bit of a humble brag, but it seems there was some kind of vote amongst the children of the world of ‘who the greatest Dad’ was.

They held the ceremony on Father’s Day and as a shock to me, I was awarded the trophy which comes in the form of a tea cup with the words ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ on it. So, yeah, pretty chuffed to receive such a prestigious award. I imagine it’s like winning a Logie. 😉

So other than winning the above mentioned award, what’s else has been happening in the last 12 months since this?

  • My 3 and half year old daughter ‘Billie’ has learnt how to crack eggs and worked out that Nanny Plum in Ben & Holly and Miss Rabbit in Peppa Pig have the same voice! (So voice over actors, you’ve been put on notice, mix it up a little!!)
  • Clearly as you can probably tell by the above: I still haven’t got myself a ‘proper job’. I do get to dabble in the world of show-biz every now and then (thanks to my amazing wife and extended family), but stay-at-home-dad is what is on the email signature. It’s not really, it just says ‘Sent from my iPhone’.
  • I have become terrified of my 18 month old. I never experienced this fear with my first born, as I do with him (Ziggy). I feel like he warms you up by batting his eye lashes and giving you this cheeky grin, and then he will burn your fucking house down, but I love him all the same.
  • I ran a marathon… blah blah blah! I’ve pretty much told everyone I have come into contact with by shoehorning that into the conversation, so it’s only fair to them that I bore you with it too.
  • And, oh yeah, we are having another baby!!! Well, I’m not, my super wife will be. So yeah, another mini-human will be living with us early next year. Yep, we just really like the idea of being out numbered.

It’s funny telling people that you are having a third child. With the first one: people are thrilled like, genuinely excited for you.

The second: well, they kind of expected it. Especially considering they haven’t stopped asking you since the firstborn “Soooo, when are you going to have another one?” but, there is still that sense of excitement.

Some people would consider us lucky to have had a girl and a boy. I think it’s called the ‘pigeon pair’ (not sure why, except for the shit on the ground part). People would congratulate us on it (unlike when I won the award I mentioned earlier), but I did nothing to earn that congratulations; I couldn’t care less if we had two boys or two girls.

Telling people you’re having a third child when you already have the ‘pigeon pair’: the excitement from the first two announcements is replaced with more of a confusion. It’s always followed with “Why?” “But don’t you already have one of each?” “Are you fucking crazy?” Well, possibly. Grandparents excluded, they would have us breed a mixed netball team if they had their way.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a scenario where we needed to sync up our routines and make sure we were ‘doing it’ at that moment when the moon was aligned with the stars: we know how babies are made, but this wasn’t expected. And after the initial shock, we are now pretty damn excited/terrified. Bella & I had always dreamt of having three kids (weirdos), this just happened earlier than we thought.

When the newbie gets here: Billie will be 4, and Ziggy, 2. So much joy has come into my life through Billie & Zigs; a joy that I never knew I could experience. I can’t wait to do it all again. Sure, the dream-feeds, the witching hour and the fear that the baby isn’t breathing are pretty brutal, but the good far out weighs the bad and at least we’ve increased the odds of one of them looking after us in old age.

Something that people do keep telling us, that is true, is that ‘a party of 5’ changes everything.

This year we are saying goodbye to cool, grungy, eclectic, hipster filled suburb of Newtown in Sydney and we are off to the suburbs: the land of active wear, SUVs and wine memes.

We are super pumped about it, we’ve out grown this place, but it will always hold a special piece of our hearts. We will even miss the homeless man who uses our wall in the back lane as his urinal (every morning).

Whenever a mate of mine calls me, his first words are “You bought a KIA Carnival yet buddy?” We won’t be going down the people-mover path but a car change is definitely a reality. Unlike when I was growing up, there are actual safety rules when it comes to kids in cars, we need to have 3 car seats across the back seat until they are 8. I used to have to get in the boot of the station wagon of our Toyota Corona when we’d have Nan in the car.

Sure, we are going to need more arms, more patience, more food, more hours in the day, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe ask me in a year if I feel the same way. 😉

Anyway, I’m considering anyone who has read this far as a willing babysitter and I’ll be in touch with your allocated times.

Thanks for your application,

Matt

Matt Baseley is a 34-year-old former pastry chef, who dreamt of captaining the Australian cricket team or playing the Phantom on Broadway but he wasn’t good enough at either, so he ended up working in commercial radio for almost 13 years. Matt is now a stay-at-home-dad, who also features as ‘that guy’ in a few TV commercials and a reporter on Channel 7’s Sydney Weekender.

@MattBaseley

Matt and Billie also have a ton of fun in the kitchen making healthy(ish) food in a simple, realistic way. You can follow their cooking adventures here. #CookingWithBillieCoco

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

Kween Katch Up: ANGIE & YVIE

Kween Katch Up: ANGIE & YVIE

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

Angie asks Yvie:

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

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

2. What’s your biggest regret in life?

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

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

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

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

I’d love to be better at confrontation.

5. What do you hope for your future?

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

Yvie asks Angie:

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

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

2. What is your biggest fear?

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

3. Why do you think we’re here?

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

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

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

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

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

What are our favourite gal pals up to now?

Well, these two spunks have just smashed the latest season of Australia’s ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

#STFTL had a feeling these beauts were going to blitz it and that it was only a matter of time till Australia would fall in love with two of the best.

Watch this space! I don’t think this is the last we’re going to see of #AngieAndYvie.

📸: @angie_and_yvie

🐦: @angieandyvie

F: Angie and Yvie

Prince Charming: PAUL RIGGIO

Prince Charming: PAUL RIGGIO

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

Introducing Paul Riggio:

1) Describe yourself in three words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6) What are your working relationships like with women?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kween Krush: ALICIA GARDINER “From Screen Dream To Dancing Queen.”

Kween Krush: ALICIA GARDINER “From Screen Dream To Dancing Queen.”

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

Alicia, we have a big fat crush on you! We’ve watched you from our living rooms for a while now; famously as ‘Kim’ in the Network Ten series Offspring but also in Wolf Creek, Redfern Now and Miss Fisher’s Mysteries. Over the last few months you’ve been touring Australia and wowing audiences on stage as Rosie in the musical Mamma Mia; sooo we’re not going to pretend that we didn’t go into complete ‘fangirl meltdown’ when you started following us on Instagram.

First of all, bravo, well done, hooray! How long have you been acting for? And most importantly, why are you an actor? 

Thank you! It’s nice of you to have me here.

I was always interested in performing growing up, thanks to Young Talent Time in the 80s, and ended up studying voice and drama at the Victorian College of The Arts but my first gig almost felt like an accident – I’d heard the ABC were looking for an actress, who could sing,  for their new mini series Queen Kat, Carmel and St Jude with Ben Mendelsohn. Somehow, I landed the job and twenty years later I’m still here! I have no idea how or why. Part tenacity and part luck, I guess.

I’ve really focused on my acting work over the years, by choice. I’m fascinated by how people and relationships work, or fail, and there’s something very juicy about delving into a new character’s psyche and trying to bring it to life. Acting teaches me about people, and myself. It forces me to stay present. I also like playing dress ups and I like the on set catering!

Is making your mark in the world of acting and entertainment in Australia. as challenging as one might think?

I don’t think I’ve ever tried to ‘make my mark’. Things really have just evolved over time in terms of my work and there’s been no method whatsoever. I’d like to say it’s all planned but, really, nope! I think a lot of people get to this ‘middle aged’ point in their lives and think “how the hell did i get here?”. That is me. Most days.

Did you have moments where you wanted to give up and do something else? If so, what gave you the strength and courage to keep going? 

A few years ago, I remember questioning the relevance of what I was doing. I had two little babies on my own and life just suddenly became more meaningful!  I remember thinking that perhaps I should be doing something with a deeper impact; something which made a difference to people’s lives and something less self focused. But over the past ten years I’ve really been reminded that there’s a side to this business that is far greater than any of us – most recently in fact, a girl came up to me on the street to tell me she is living with stage 4 terminal cancer. She told me she watches Offspring religiously and that my character ‘Kim’ makes her laugh and reminds her of the nurses who helped her in hospital. I could see how much the show has meant to her during her illness. Stories like these make me realise that what we do actually does make an impact; helping people feel and think and laugh. It’s important and, I guess since becoming a mother, I get that now.

You’ve played some gutsy, witty and glorious characters, are taking on these kinds of roles a conscious decision? 

Sometimes. I actually prefer working on drama than comedy, believe it or not. Overall, I’m more likely to want to play roles that are different to others that I may have played in the past, so it’s more about contrast and challenge than anything else. But there were certainly times, long ago, where I had to say yes to whatever work came along just to pay the rent.

📸: Giovanni Lovisetto

Bear with us but we need to get a few burning Offspring questions in. What was the best part of playing Kim Akerholt? 

Playing ‘Kim’ was a huge adventure. We never really knew what the writers were going to throw at us at any given time, so there was a lot of joy in that. I also really valued the freedom we were given from our directors and producers. So much of the final cut was born from the playfulness that existed on set; we were encouraged to take risks and make bold choices – an actor’s dream.

Kim is funny, sincere, brutally honest, a lesbian, a working mother, a devoted partner and beautiful friend. How did it feel to cover the sensitive and complex subjects she dealt with? 

We really did cover a lot, didn’t we?!  Cleverly, Offspring was able to flow from absolutely heartbreaking storylines to ones with mayhem and hilarity, sometimes within the one scene. We felt supported as actors with the directing and writing team so I knew the balance between ‘Kim’s’ bluntness and heart was always going to be kept in check. The comedy/drama line can be a tricky one to find, sometimes. I just feel very lucky that I was able to discover and develop this as ‘Kim’ over such a long period of time.

📸: Sarah Enticknap

What was it like being on-set with such a diverse cast and are there any cast members that have become like family? 

In many ways, the cast and crew did become like family. I guess that happens after 8 years of long hours making television together! Many of us had children during that time, got married, got divorced, got pregnant! Huge milestones.  This industry is quite unique in that you can work extremely intensely with each other for years but, next minute, you start a new job and inadvertently become part of another ‘family’ with similar intensity! So, yes, we stay in touch but this business means we are not always in the same city or country at the same time. Thank goodness for social media!

Seriously bear with us. Did the death of Patrick devastate you too? Haha. 

I do remember the first time I read that particular script and I gave Matt LeNevez (Patrick) an extra big squeeze at breakfast the next morning! We knew it was going to upset the audience but had no idea it’d be to the extent it became. I STILL have people telling me they haven’t recovered! Many liken it to when ‘Molly’ died in A Country Practice and I remember that sadness myself so I can feel how much this particular storyline meant to people. It’s a great testament to the show and to actors like Matt and Ash (Keddie) to have people respond like they did to their work.

📸: Giovanni Lovisetto

We get the impression you’re a proud feminist, is this true? 

I guess so! I’m the daughter of a strong minded women who was very independent and outspoken and I almost feel as if I am becoming more like her, the older I get.  My Mum was always about fairness and, growing up,  I never had the feeling that I couldn’t achieve or do anything different than my two brothers. There have been relationships along the way that have challenged me and these beliefs but, in hindsight, I’ve only come out the other side even stronger and more determined that I can have and do anything I want.

If so, does this change how you raise your children? Does this change how you are at work? 

I hope my kids don’t feel a difference between their genders. I’ve taught them that Princesses can slay dragons and that Kings can cry too and my daughter knows very much that her worth is not tied up by her looks or the dress she wears. I guess when my kids leave the nest and step out into the world they’ll come across experiences and attitudes that will contradict their own but hopefully I’ve given them a solid enough base.

I think we are progressing slowly, in Australia, with content for women in our industry and you only need to look at what’s happening in the states to see how much this will change over the next few years. Thank goodness! So, this is exciting and I’m happy that my children are growing up in a period where equality and attitudes within the workplace are being so widely discussed.

📸: James Morgan Photo

What women are you krushing on at the moment? 

I’m currently working on Mamma Mia! The Musical which is produced by three incredibly, strong women – Louise Withers, Linda Bewick and Phillippa Gowen. I’ve known Louise and Linda for almost 20 years. They put their whole heart and soul into producing these mega musicals and run an incredibly tight ship yet, at the core, have a genuine love for bringing beautiful stories to life on stage and bringing good to the world. I’m learning a lot from them and the way they operate. I’m also working alongside two amazing actors; Natalie O’Donnell and Jayde Westaby. We are touring together for 13 months and I have major crushes on them both! It can be a tough gig but these two slay it every single night and I watch them in awe, not just as performers but how they just tackle their days as working women and mothers. We spend a lot of time together; mostly in fits of laughter in our dressing rooms but also propping each other up in support. It reminds me daily of how important it is for women to be there for each other. I don’t have sisters, but I’m glad I have these two.

Is it an absolute thrill being back on stage? 

It really is! Musical theatre can require so much more of you, especially vocally, and I’m enjoying that challenge. Our physio calls us athletes and when you see what our ensemble do, you wouldn’t be surprised. We need to be meticulous with our sleep and food routines and coffee is now my new best friend! The challenge is real but the buzz of working live is so worth it.

What’s the whole experience of rehearsing and touring been like so far? 

It’s quite intense. I’m a single Mum and my kids tour with me. I’m not exactly sure how we are making it work, but we are – and that’s all that matters right?!  We’ve toured to Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney already and each city has been full of new adventures for us. I’m looking forward to bringing the show to other states over the next few months.

Touring a show like this is a lesson in logistics and the company is like a well oiled machine in regards to the crew. The work we do on stage is only the tip of the iceberg.

Is it possible to prefer performing on stage over being on-screen? Or is it like having to choose your favorite child? 

It’s hard to say. If I look back on past jobs, my favourites have always been the ones who have had great people involved. Yes, the piece itself matters, but to me it’s also about who I’m collaborating with and what they stand for. There’s nothing worse than working in a toxic environment. It stifles creativity and prevents people from doing their best work. My life is too short for unenjoyable experiences!

Speaking of favs, ready for another tough one? What’s your favourite ABBA song? 

We sing Dancing Queen twice in Mamma Mia! and it’s now becoming my favourite – which is surprising because it’s actually quite a killer song to sing. ABBA were tricky like that. Many of their songs are quite easy to listen to but once you pull them apart they’re often really bloody difficult! Our audiences are absolutely going off during Dancing Queen though so that softens the blow!

How did you do/feel/think when you heard that after 35 years ABBA have reunited and are making music again? 

The first thing I said was “I need to be in the front row!”. It’s going to be one of those tours – everyone will want to go to. I met Bjorn 17 years ago when I performed as ‘Ali’ in the original Mamma Mia! musical. He seemed like a great guy but we have barely kept in touch so it’ll be great to see him again (haha!).

📸: Richard Dobson

📸: James Morgan Photo

Why should we come and see Mamma Mia!? What makes this show so special? 

Firstly, you should come and see it because it’s great to support live theatre in Australia. That’s a no brainer! Secondly, this show is like a delicious cupcake! It’s story is simple and beautiful, focusing on love and family and friendship – but it’s blended with kick ass ABBA tunes and some incredible spandex costumes. We genuinely want people to come along for a laugh and a cry and let loose a little!

And finally, you must be super chuffed with everything you’ve achieved in your life. What’s one thing you would now tell your younger self? 

Oh, gosh!  I think I would tell my younger self that life is not always lollipops and rainbows; you’re going to win friends and loose friends, you’re going to fall in love but it will hurt like hell too, you’re going to miss out on that gig you really want and society is probably going to tell you you’re no good or ugly at some point – so just ride it out because one day you’ll see that none of that really matters at all.

Carmela has been a ridiculous fan of Alicia Gardiner for like a gazillion years! So she was thrilled when Alicia turned out to be an absolute treat and gem of a human through out this whole interview process; reaffirming once again that it’s ok to meet your heroes guyssss.

📸: Peter Brew Beven

MAMMAMIA NATIONAL TOUR DATES

PERTH

Crown Theatre From May 15th 2018

MELBOURNE

Princess Theatre From July 10th 2018

ADELAIDE

Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre From October 9th 2018

TICKETS ON SALE NOW!

@mammamiainoz

Carmela’s Mum and Aunty Maria went to see the show at the Crown Theatre in Perth and they had an absolute ball! Do yourself a favor… 😉