Nicole O’Neil is on the Foxtel series The Real Housewives of Sydney and won Miss Australia in 2002. She has two daughters and owns the events planning company Pret-a-Party. O’Neil, 37, chatted to me about the most challenging aspects of being on reality TV and the biggest misconception about her and her family.
What is it like to be on The Real Housewives of Sydney?
It has been an incredible experience … a rollercoaster … a lot of hard work. We filmed from the end of August to the end of December and it was a very intense period because not only had I just moved back to Sydney, I was trying to settle the girls into school, I was trying to find a house …
What made you decide to do the show?
I was … asked if it was something I would be interested in and I’ve always been a huge fan of some of the international series and I just thought it’s such a great brand and not only will it showcase Sydney but it’s going to be recognised internationally … I thought it would be great exposure.
Your family is very private. What did they think when you accepted to do the show?
My family were very against the idea … They tend to fly under the radar … But once I had made my decision, they supported me 100 per cent.
Are you friends with the girls on the show outside the show?
I’ve always been very good friends with Krissy [Marsh] because her sister is married to my cousin … And I’ve also known Lisa [Oldfield] because my father was friends with David. And then through the show I met [others] … I have been friends and seen them post-show.
What has been the most surprising thing about being on reality TV?
How intense it can be. I think that it’s everybody’s characters but very exaggerated versions of who you are because people have only got a very short time to get to know you … It’s like looking in the mirror and seeing your character and who you are, and that can be very difficult to watch yourself.
Do you watch the show?
Well, I do watch the show because I’m learning to live tweet during the show. It’s quite surreal to see yourself back.
Will there be another series?
I’m not sure – that’s obviously up to Foxtel. I think they’re very happy with the show and the way it’s going, but who knows.
Have you had many people recognise you now?
It’s slowly starting to happen … People will look and then point and sort of whisper something to their partner or friend, and then point again. All I ask is, “If you do see me, come up and say hi. Please don’t take a sneaky photo,” which I’ve caught a few people doing. I’m like, “They must be disastrous.” Me eating a burger or something like that!
What has been the most surprising thing about being a reality star?
It’s funny how people feel like they really know you and … come up to me and quite often they go, “Oh, hi Nicole,” and I’m like, “Hi, do I know you from somewhere?” And I’m there racking my brain and going, “Oh my God – how do I know this person?”
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about you?
I think a lot of what is said is taken out of context: statements and paragraphs and conversations that have been hours of filming are whittled down to only a few lines … So I’m hoping that people understand that and that everything is said in good fun.
You received some headline attention about your girls being spoilt. What is your opinion of this?
You know what, my girls are two very lucky girls to be brought up by a huge family around them that absolutely adores them and they’re probably very spoilt with love and attention, but no one has ever called them spoilt. My girls are very, very aware and appreciative of how lucky and blessed they are. As I said, anyone who wants to say that they’re spoilt, meet my children and then you can adjudge my parenting style.
How do you keep your girls grounded?
I think that we do a lot of things as a family and I think we spend a lot of time with our children and it’s about listening to them. Children act like brats when they’re screaming for help or attention basically. It’s when a parent is not there or is not listening because anyone who acts spoilt or is screaming for attention is only doing it because they want attention and no one is listening to them. So I think it’s about taking the time out to listen to your children.
What did it mean to you when you won Miss Australia in 2002?
It was very exciting at the time to represent … the multicultural face of Australia … I think for the first time, in a long time, I wasn’t the blonde, blue-eyed, immediately what you think about being Australia. And I felt that being half Swedish, half-Lebanese allowed me to represent what Australia was at the time.
You also completed a Bachelor of Commerce on scholarship from Bond University. Did you imagine you would go into the business world?
I’ve always been very entrepreneurial and … love to trade. I have my hands in many pies and I’m a businesswoman through and through. For me, it’s the art of the deal and the art of negotiation – which I got from my dad – which I’ve used my whole life.
As owner of Pret-a-Party, what is the best tip you have for someone who is planning an event?
It’s the little things that people notice – when they arrive, or a basket of slippers in the corner. If you want people to dance all night and their feet are hurting them, you’ve got to provide them with slippers to change into or midnight snacks that come out.
WE WENT TO Bistrot Gavroche, Chippendale
WE ATE Watercress salad with celeriac and blue cheese, toasted pine nuts and raisins and Vegetable tart, tomato coulis
WE DRANK NV Brut Rosé Dominique Portet
NICOLE WORE Zimmerman dress and Christian Louboutin wedges.