Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: BENJAMIN NORRIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I felt like I was having an identity crisis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is where we are now.

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

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

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

Why does our trans community need more visibility?

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

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

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

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

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

Kween Katch Up: ANGIE & YVIE

Kween Katch Up: ANGIE & YVIE

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

Angie asks Yvie:

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

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

2. What’s your biggest regret in life?

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

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

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

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

I’d love to be better at confrontation.

5. What do you hope for your future?

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

Yvie asks Angie:

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

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

2. What is your biggest fear?

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

3. Why do you think we’re here?

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

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

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

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

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

What are our favourite gal pals up to now?

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

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

@angie_and_yvie

@angieandyviegoggleboxau

I have a confession.

I have a confession.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big love,

Cliché Carmela

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

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

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… 😉

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 🙌🏼