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Date with Kate

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Tammin Sursok

12th November, 2017

Tammin with husband, Sean McEwen and daughter, Phoenix

Tammin Sursok became a household name from her time playing Dani Sutherland on Home and Away and since then has appeared as Colleen Carlton on The Young and the Restless and Jenna marshall on Pretty Little Liars. Away from acting she has launched her own kids’ clothing line, Stella.Phoenix, founded a production with her husband, producer Sean McEwen and is a mum to daughter, Phoenix. Did I mention she has also found the time to start her own parenting blog Bottle and Heels? Here Tammin takes time from her extremely busy schedule to chat to me about motherhood, living in Los Angeles and how she handles working with her husband…

What is a day in the life of you?

Everyday is always different. As an actor, working with our production company, writing, and designing, whatever is the most time sensitive is what I focus on. I try to keep routine when it comes to my daughter though. We are up at 6am, we eat breakfast together, and one of us takes her to school. It’s the same with our night time routine. In a very unstructured business, I try to give her the most structure in her life.

What are you working on at the moment?

My hubby and I started a production company, Charlie Baby Productions, in 2015 and our projects are slowly but surely getting off the ground. It is extremely surreal to actually see your vision come to life. My business partner Kellie and I are also designing our next collection for Stella.Phoenix. We are actively building my blog, Bottle and Heels and my new show, In Bed with Tammin, on YouTube, where I get to talk real talk with celebrities in bed with a glass of wine.

Tammin’s kids’ clothing line Stella.Phoenix

You have been working on the film Whaling with your husband. What is the secret to working well together?

Believe me it doesn’t always go smoothly. But I’m glad in our relationship we argue over shot lists and not anything more serious. We absolutely love working together and I think we both bring our strengths to the table. But it definitely takes work in learning how to communicate properly. Time management is also important and making sure that your boundaries when you’re on set are clearly defined.

How involved are you with the designs for Stella.Phoenix?

My business partner and I are co-creators of the company. We speak almost daily and we do everything together from nuts to bolts. It has been such an incredible experience and I’ve learned so much within the last year in regards to children’s wear.

Where do you get your inspiration?

For me, travel is a huge way of finding inspiration. Looking out into the water and seeing the rich blues and the different colours of my surroundings. The shapes and textures from being overseas really helps draw inspiration for each collection.

How has life changed after becoming a mum?

Everything’s changed. I’ve really had to work on my time management and communication skills because sometimes you’re just so tired to even do anything. But the biggest thing for me that has changed is I feel like I’m living my life all over again. I see the world through new eyes and I never thought I could possibly feel the love that I have with my daughter.

Tammin with daughter, Phoenix

Where do you find the time to write your blog, Bottle and Heels?

My husband and I are very good with divvying up our time with Phoenix. He understands that on the weekends I need some time to write and I will give him another block of time somewhere in the weekend for him to do his work. But Phoenix now goes to preschool so a lot gets done during the day.

What do mums get out of reading your blog?

I think they get a sense of community and they feel like they have a network of mothers and women who offer support and guidance and a good laugh. The reason I started Bottle and Heels is I didn’t have any mothers that I could talk to after my daughter was born so I felt quite alone. I wanted to create a safe space where women could tell the truth and not be judged because of it.

What do you love the most about being a mum?

I love that I have this little buddy and we get to walk through this life together. She truly is my best friend, as corny as it sounds. Life is just so much more fun…and messy.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspect of motherhood?

I definitely thinking trying to have it all. I think women can, I just don’t think they can have it all at the same time. Also the guilt can be deafening. I never really felt guilty until I had Phoenix and now it happens at least once a day. Also, I think, losing parts of your identity but you definitely gain new aspects of yourself that are more colourful.

What is the secret to maintaining a career and juggling motherhood?

I think the secret is definitely time management. Having lots of lists. Open communication with your husband. Getting help when you need it. And giving yourself a break.

As an actress and singer-songwriter, which medium do you prefer the most?

Since Charlie Baby Productions was born, I honestly just love creating. I could never have a top choice but telling stories about the human experience in whatever form is what I love to do. I’ve always been a storyteller and that’s what propels me forward.

What is your favourite memory from Home and Away?

Being cast in the show was a pivotal point in my life. Everything changed from the moment I got that phone call. I will be forever indebted to that show and the opportunities it brought me, including my family.

Why did you decide to return to Pretty Little Liars playing your character Jenna Marshall?

I never left the show. I was on the show for seven years but Phoenix was born in between so I took a year off.

What was it like to play Jenna who is such a controversial character?

It was wonderful. I think being visually impaired taught me a lot about acting with my body. I learned a lot from that character.

Tammin spending time with her family

What’s on your bucket list?

Travel to places like South America, India, Japan. Build our company so we can be producing and creating more stories, especially for women. Have another child at some point. Expanding Stella.Phoenix into America and the rest of the world. And spend more time in Australia.

How do you keep your energy levels up?

I am almost militant about health. Without your health you have nothing. I’ve been eating and exercising in a healthy manner since I was 15-years-old. I’m a big advocate for superfoods. I don’t eat meat, and I don’t touch dairy. I was a huge coffee drinker for 15 years as I thought it gave me more energy, but I realised it was just frying out my adrenal glands. I haven’t had caffeine for three months and I can’t tell you how much better I feel. I sleep less but am never tired, my skin doesn’t break out, and I have tons more energy. Go figure.

What do you miss the most about Australia?

The lifestyle. The beaches, the food, my family. I feel like I can breathe when I’m there. Los Angeles is always a race and you always feel like you’re catching your breath.

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Lorna Jane Clarkson

29th October, 2017

Catching up with Lorna Jane Clarkson at China Diner in Sydney’s Double Bay

As the woman behind one of Australia’s biggest activewear brands it seems only fitting that Lorna Jane Clarkson’s love affair with fitness apparel first began when she was an aerobics instructor in the 80s. Unable to find fashionable clothes to wear to her classes she decided to design and create her own and found herself inundated with orders for her designs from other women in the gym. The rest, as they say, is history. Today she is a fashion designer, entrepreneur and author and there are now more than 200 Lorna Jane stores across Australia and the United States, as well as stockists in Europe, the UK, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Lorna’s first cookbook, NOURISH – The Fit Woman’s Cookbook was released in 2014 and Lorna’s first ever coffee table book INSPIRED was released in 2015. The fifty-two-year-old businesswoman spoke to me about the inspiration behind her brand, who she looks up to and the most difficult part of being in the public eye.

What is a day in the life of you? 

I wake up around 5am, squeeze in a workout, have breakfast, catch up on my international emails from overnight and then head into the office by eight. No two days in the office are ever the same (which I love) and on any given day I could be writing, designing, on a campaign shoot or in marketing, strategy or creative meetings. I always try and leave by six and go for a walk with my husband and our dog Roger to catch up on each other’s day before dinner. I love to finish the day with some yoga or meditation, then I go to sleep, wake up and do it all over again!


What does healthy and fit mean to you? 

Being healthy is essentially taking care of yourself so that you can think, feel and be at your best every day. Our health is the one thing we can ALL invest in, and I honestly believe it’s the ultimate investment you will ever make. Without your health, you have nothing, which is why I’m so passionate about empowering women to embrace my Active Living Philosophy and daily practice of Move Nourish Believe – for the simple reason that it makes being fit and healthy really easy.


What is your favourite piece in the current collection? 

At the moment I’m obsessed with The Gothic Rose bra and tights!


What do you think was the key to being able to successfully expand your empire? 

Authenticity. Since day one, I’ve always done things my own way and I’ve never tried to emulate anything another brand is doing. I think our authenticity is why we have such an incredible and loyal customer base, which is what has allowed us to be able to expand internationally.


How did you get into the health and fitness space? 

My mother has always been a great role model for health, so it’s been important to me for as long as I can remember. I got really into the aerobics craze when it launched in the 80s and ended up doing my instructor training and teaching aerobics classes after work. At that time I couldn’t find any gym clothes that inspired me to want to workout—so I started making my own. When I started wearing them to the gym, the women in my classes really loved them, so I started taking orders and before I knew it I was completely swamped (and my lounge room was an absolute mess). I found a real niche and loved what I was doing, so I decided to quit my day job and start designing activewear full-time. And I can honestly say it was the scariest but absolutely BEST decision I’ve ever made!

What were the biggest challenges you faced when you started the company? 

The very first one was getting people to believe in my vision, that comes down to self belief as well. I think you need to need to come from a very powerful place with your vision because for me to say that I want active wear that inspires women and changes the way they think about their workouts, people are thinking “yeah yeah”. I could see women wearing their activewear beyond their workouts and people thought I was crazy to open a store that just sells womens activewear. But a lot of hard work and I proved them wrong!


What are you most passionate about? 

Inspiring women to live their lives at 100 per cent.


Who do you look up to? 

I admire so many people for so many different reasons. I admire strong women like Oprah, Michelle Obama and Diane von Furstenberg. My mum for being such an inspiring role model for me when I was growing up. And of course my husband Bill for being such a visionary and fearless leader!


What is the most rewarding part of having such a successful brand?

Hand over heart, the most rewarding part of my job is when our customers tell me how Lorna Jane has helped them overcome an obstacle in their life. Our ‘Inspo Tanks’ have become a big part of our brand DNA and I’m humbled every time a customer tells me wearing one has helped them push through an obstacle in their life. I’ve heard stories from fitness instructors wearing them to help motivate their members in class right through to women wearing them whilst fighting for their lives in hospital. Hearing stories like those are the reason I do what I do and it makes the more challenging and stressful times so worth it.


Did you have any struggles and setbacks in creating the Lorna Jane brand? 

Of course! I can’t even count the number of times—but it’s all part of the journey and to be completely honest I wouldn’t change a thing, because it’s the setbacks and obstacle that teach you lessons, make you stronger and help you to appreciate what you already have so much more.


What is the most challenging aspect of being in the public eye? 

When people are quick to make a judgment or assumption about you based on something they’ve read or heard.


What motivates you on a day-to-day basis? 

My customers, my team and my amazing family.


How important is it for you to be a role model and embody the Active Living Philosophy and daily practice of Move Nourish Believe?

The reason I put my name on the door 28 years ago, was to make sure that I stayed 100 per cent authentic to who I was as a person. Lorna Jane the brand really is just an extension of Lorna Jane the person and Active Living is my personal philosophy that’s achieved through the daily practice of Move Nourish Believe—plus it’s the very thing I credit for getting me to where I am today.


What is your favourite meal? 

Breakfast! Hands down!


Who do you turn to for support? 

My husband Bill. While he’s the CEO of Lorna Jane, he’s first and foremost my husband and I know I can turn to him for anything.


Your husband Bill also works actively in the business. Is it hard to switch off as a couple? 

We always make sure we schedule some quality family time together every day, even if it’s just a 20-minute walk together before we have dinner so we can really connect as husband and wife. I think when you run a business it can be so easy to get carried away and think “I’ll just send one more email” or “I’ll talk to him about it when I get home”, so actively scheduling ‘no more business’ time is the way we switch off.

Why do you think the activewear industry has seen such growth over the past few years? 

Two things—I think that people are finally starting to realise the importance of good health and that wearing activewear is so much more comfortable and conducive with how we live our lives today. Activewear has become an important part of the modern woman’s wardrobe and I think more and more brands have realised this in the last few years, which is why the activewear industry has absolutely boomed.


Where do you see the Lorna Jane brand in five years? 

Global.


Do you get to relax? 

Of course. There’s no way you can be in business for 28 years and stay at the top of your game if you don’t take the time to rest and relax.


What do you do in your downtime? 

We love to go to the beach and Byron Bay is a popular spot for us to escape for the weekend. But I also make sure I schedule a little bit of down time every day, even if it’s just half an hour of yoga or reading before I go to bed.

BITE SIZE

WE WENT TO China Diner, Double Bay

WE ATE Pork & scallop san choi bao with green bean and almonds; “Asian Slaw” of shredded cabbage, snow pea, carrot and coriander with plum and yuzu dressing; Crab spring rolls with plum sauce; Massaman curry of wagyu beef shin and roasted peanut

WE DRANK Lemongrass and Coconut Sour

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Jimmy Choo

8th October, 2017

His name is synonymous with one of the most renowned designer shoe brands in the world so it should come as no surprise that for Jimmy Choo, creating footwear runs in the blood. As the son of a shoe maker he learned the craft from his father in Malaysia, before moving to England in the 1980s to undertake formal study at the London College of Fashion. He opened his first shop in Hackney in 1986 and eventually co-founded the Jimmy Choo shoe label with British Vogue’s Tamara Mellon who had worked with Choo on the magazine.

After a successful career at the label that included being appointed official shoemaker to Princess Diana and opening stores in New York, Milan and Paris he stepped down from the brand in 2001. Today he is an Ambassador for Footwear Education at the London College of Fashion, is the recipient of an OBE for services to the British fashion industry and is preparing to launch a capsule shoe collection under his Chinese name Zhou Yang Jie. I caught up with Choo during his inaugural visit to Sydney with American Express to chat about the secret to his success, what he does for fun and if he ever finds himself visiting a Jimmy Choo store…

 

Where did your love of shoes come from? 

I was born in Malaysia and my father is a shoe designer. So, when I was young I saw my father making shoes. After I finished school, I would finish my homework, then help my dad learning the skill.

So many celebrities have worn your shoes over the years. Is there a person who stands out in your mind?

I have to say thanks to the late Princess Diana. Because I had been working with her for seven years, and now this year is the 20th-year anniversary of her passing and all over the world people still remember her and what she did for the legacy. She did a lot of charity events. Not many people do that.

What was it like to create shoes for the late Princess Diana?

She would call me to Kensington Palace to show me all the garments and everything that she was going to wear as she traveled all over the world. So we would look at all the garments and we would match the shoes for her. She was a very nice, very kind person.

What do you believe is the secret to your success?

When people say to me, “You are [a] successful person”, to me it’s not yet. I’m not successful yet. Because growing up my father always said, “One day you still alive, you don’t know what happened yourself”. People can seem [successful] and suddenly disappear, you know… we must, continue to learn all the time. So I’m not [successful] because I’m still learning.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I think, patience is very important. If you have no patience, you’ve lost everything. Because you need to talk to people. Communication is very important.

And what advice do you give to up-and-coming designers?

They still have to have patience. Every time [you] see something new, you mustn’t lose [your] temper and keep your mind open. Also always [ask yourself] what’s the next fashion? If you don’t sell, you must find out why it isn’t selling.

Why are you so passionate about the art of making shoes?

I love designing shoes, I love shoes. Sometimes when I go to factories, or one of my students comes [to me] with some idea [for] shoes, I would start to tear. True, true. You know, some of them are very beautiful and they take a lot of time, the detail and the design.

Although you are not involved in the company anymore. You must feel very proud that the Jimmy Choo brand you created is doing so well all these years later.

Yes I feel very proud. They’re all doing very well. I congratulate them, I wish them doing better and better.

Do you ever go into the stores?

No, I don’t do that. I don’t go in the shop. I never went into the shop. Because I think soul is soul, you wish them the best; you do what you want to do.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

For the people, who surround me and take care of me [day to day], I like [to] say thanks to them, I like to organise a holiday for them. I think it’s very important, you know, they are working with me day and night, traveling with me, they haven’t got time for their children and family. So I like to organise so they can go on holiday together. Or I like to invite them to my house. We cook and I love music so I listen to music… Elvis is my favourite.

If you had never gone down this career path of making shoes, what would you be doing?

I would like to be a healer and heal people. You know in London, they have a healing school. You can learn how to heal people with your hands. If you feel pain. They lay a hand on you and you heal them with your energy.

What has been your biggest career highlight?

I would say I’m very grateful to my country. A nine-year-old student, they can see my history in the textbook. Money cannot buy [that]. [Influential] people pass away, and then they talk about them. But I’m still alive.  Thanks to my country and the education minister, the leader allowed my history in a textbook for all the young children to learn as part of their education.

BITE SIZE
WE WENT TO American Express events at Café del Mar, Cockle Bay Wharf.
WE ATE market fish.
WE DRANK Sparkling water.
Date with Kate, Fashion & Beauty

Date with Kate: Jessica Gomes

13th August, 2017

Catching up with Jessica Gomes in the David Jones food hall, Bondi Junction

 

Model Jessica Gomes appeared in the Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated every year from 2008 to 2015. She also appeared with Bruce Willis in the recent action comedy film Once Upon a Time in Venice and alongside Owen Wilson in the movie Bastards, set to open late this year. The David Jones ambassador has also recently launched her own beauty brand, Equal Beauty. Gomes, 32, chats to me about how she stays in shape, what she likes to indulge in, and the best advice her actor boyfriend Xavier Samuel has given her.

What are you working on at the moment? 

[I’m] back for the David Jones spring/summer launch, which is really exciting; just came back to shoot the new Jets campaign, which is amazing; working on Equal Beauty – we launched four months ago; still auditioning and doing the film side of things.

Jess’ Equal Beauty range has just launched. Photo: @iamjessicagomes

 

What are some of the spring/summer trends we should expect to see.

Red is a huge trend, so just like colour blocking – beautiful bright reds, florals…

Do you have a favourite fashion piece for spring/summer? 

There’s so much to choose from. I would say one of my favourite pieces would be a lace dress from Self-Portrait, or a dress from Ginger & Smart. I always think it’s nice to have a printed dress or a bright colour for your wardrobe.

What does being the face for Jets involve? 

I came on with them just recently, so we just launched the first campaign, and we just shot the second … I’ve always been shot in their swimwear, and I always wear Jets in the [David Jones] show as well, so it’s a nice affiliation … [I’m] definitely in with them for longevity, and we’re going to be doing some exciting collaborations in the future.

As a swimwear model, how do you stay fit? 

I do lots of things. Right now I’m really into yoga, and I’ve been doing a lot of yin classes … I feel the best when my mind’s feeling good, like mentally I’m feeling sharp, and clear, and great. For me, lately, I’ve been doing a lot of meditation and yoga, and doing lots of long walks; nothing too aggressive.

Jess Gomes modeling. Photo: @iamjessicagomes

 

What do you indulge in? 

I love food, I really do. I definitely try and keep it 80 per cent pretty lean, but I’m not too strict on myself. As I get older I’m just like, “You know what, babe? Life’s too short. You deserve whatever it is as long as it comes from a good place.” I’m very much into shopping at farmers’ markets, and eating organic as much as I can, especially in LA … I get my vitamin drips. I do my smoothies. I do my green juice everyday … I have to have my coffee, but I’ll indulge in a really good bowl of pasta, some really good food, especially when I come home … I’m definitely a little more lenient in terms of what I like to eat.

Is modelling or acting your No. 1 focus? 

Definitely modelling is still my No. 1. It’s what I do well … I think acting is more a hobby, something that I have there because I really love being creative and telling stories and working on film sets, but modelling has always been my core, and it will always will be what I do.

Tell me about your coming film Bastards. 

Bastards is a film with Owen Wilson, Glenn Close and Ed Helms. It’s about two brothers who are on the hunt for their biological father. I shot it two years ago; it just hasn’t come out yet … The studios have been waiting for a right time for it to come out, but it’s a comedy film. It’s really funny; I’ve seen it.

What’s life like in LA? 

LA’s amazing, I love it. I just feel so comfortable there. I’ve got my house there, and I’ve got all my things, and I love the lifestyle. I’ve got such a great group of friends there, and I just love it. It’s central to everything. I still duck off to New York if I need to, or it’s one flight over to Australia, or one flight to Europe. I get to dip into the film industry and then dip into the fashion industry too.

Will you ever move back to Australia? 

I feel like Australia will always be a place that I come back to. Obviously it’s where I’m from so I feel like my roots are here, but I do feel rooted, also, in LA. I feel like I’ll always do both … I definitely would move back here in the future when I have a family.

Jess and her Equal Beauty products. Photo @iamjessicagomes

 

What inspired you to go into the beauty business? 

I love beauty, and I’ve always been obsessed with cosmetics and beauty products, and I spent a lot of time in Asia, and in Seoul, and in South Korea. I discovered so many amazing beauty cosmetics … I thought it would be amazing to start my own brand, and be able to use the David Jones platform as well, as a way to launch it … I wanted something that I could travel with, that was the whole inspiration. I need an easy routine that I can travel with around the world, for hydration and protection, and fragrance free. I wanted it all natural but still effective, and still medicinal, still a preventative, because I was finding that other products weren’t working for me.

What were the biggest challenges of starting your own business? 

The biggest challenges would probably be being resourceful. I think becoming a business person, and becoming an entrepreneur, you realise that it’s just problem solving the whole time … Putting out fires, problem solving, making sure that you’ve got the right team. You’re constantly running into certain things and … you’ve just got to push through. But then the rewarding side of it is seeing the creativity come to life.

Who do you look up to and admire? 

I look up to my sisters because they work so hard and run a household. They’ve got three kids each, and I just see how hard they work and how dedicated they are to their family, and they do it all.

Did you ever think when you were younger that you would have the successes that you do today? 

I did not think that I would ever be in the position that I’m in now. When I first started out my career in Australia … it wasn’t really happening for me, so I had to go overseas, but David Jones has changed my life … and I’ll be forever grateful for that … I’m just proud that I’ve been able to stay grounded and still be true to who I am, and still keep my integrity with everything that I’ve been doing.

Jess in Sports Illustrated. Photo @iamjessicagomes

How’s everything going with Xavier?

Everything’s going great. He’s amazing. We’re doing really well. He’s just been in LA with me. It’s been wonderful, because he’s obviously in the film industry as well, so we’re really, really good.

Is he a big support to you?

He is, he’s very supportive. He’s been really amazing throughout everything, and just been so great, and I feel really lucky that we’re very supportive of each other’s careers, and we definitely let each other do our things.

Do you find it easier to date someone in the industry, or do you find it more challenging?

It’s important to let one another be your own person and … that you both can have your identity, and both do your own thing, but still have that support and come together, so that’s been really nice … He helps me with auditions. We read lines together.

What’s the best piece of acting advice he’s given you? 

He’s like “Don’t second guess yourself.” He’s just like: “You’ve got it” and “You can do it.”

What do you guys do when you have time off together?

We have had the best time in LA because it was the first time that both of us didn’t travel, so we had two months in LA together. We went and saw concerts [and went] on little road trips … we like discovering new restaurants in LA … We go for hikes, we just chill out [and] go see movies …

What’s next for you?

I am heading to Asia. I’m going to Singapore, Seoul and Shanghai for Equal Beauty. We’re going to do some research there, and we’re setting up to launch over in Asia, and then I’m back [in Australia] for a Dior event with David Jones.

BITESIZE

WE WENT TO The Restaurant at the David Jones Food Hall, Bondi Junction.

WE ATE  Oysters – Raw, Kilpatrick and Mornay;  Market prawns with parsley, garlic and extra virgin olive oil; Shredded raw vegetables with Sriracha vinaigrette and pecorino; Grain Fed Wagyu Beef.

WE DRANK Mineral water and herbal tea.

JESS WORE a Dion Lee dress

Photo Christopher Pearce

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Kathryn Eisman

30th July, 2017

Kathryn and I enjoying lunch at Hotel Centennial

Kathryn Eisman is a two-time Emmy Award Nominated Television Journalist, host and producer. She is an International Best-Selling Author of two books,  How To Tell A Man By His Shoes and How To tell A Woman By Her Handbag. She was the Features Reporter for NBC’s No.1 rating Today In New York, then heading all Fashion and Lifestyle coverage at E! News in Los Angeles and has interviewed the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Denzel Washington and Bono. She is married to Australian entrepreneur Siimon Reynolds and they have a three-year-old daughter, Capri. The 36-year-old chats to me about career highs, motherhood and her new blog, High Heel Jungle.

What is a day in the life of you?

Some days I’ll be on location shooting a TV interview with Ariana Grande or Lisa Vanderpump, other days I’ll be in studio filming a live segment for Good Day LA, other days I’ll be working from Soho House in West Hollywood writing a feature for my new blog, High Heel Jungle. No matter how exciting my day, the best part without doubt is walking into my daughter’s room each morning, alongside my husband Siimon, and waking her up together and seeing her little face. We have breakfast together, which includes lots of music and dancing – and occasionally some eating.

Did you always want to be an author and TV reporter?

I was that girl at school studying four-unit English and three-unit history and as many essay-based subjects as possible. I have always been passionate about communicating ideas, about analysing society and seeking meaning in the “ordinary”; asking “why do we do what we do?” It could be the choice to wear a particular item of clothing and what it reveals about our subconscious values and self-identity, or digging deeper during my TV interviews to understand what motivates the people shaping popular culture and why we are fascinated with them.

What was your first big break?

I think when there was a bidding war to publish my first book, How To Tell a Man by His Shoes, at the age of 20 and it then going on to become an international bestseller.

What was your biggest pinch-me moment?

Perhaps landing the role as on-air chief features reporter for NBC in New York and getting to pitch, produce, write and report for the No. 1 morning news program in the world, interviewing everyone from politicians to pop culture royalty, like George Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker, alongside industry icons like Katie Couric. Getting to cover social issues and trends from my own point of view was like being given the key to the city!

Who has been your favourite celebrity interview?

Dwayne Johnson, aka “the Rock” . He is such a presence, and not just physically. I was recently interviewing him for his role in [the film] Moana and when our time was up and they started wrapping me, he interjected and said, “Now this is interesting … let’s continue!” No one argues with the Rock! He is so honest, open and generous. It’s little wonder his is the most bankable star in Hollywood. Oh, and Jon Hamm, for obvious reasons [laughs].

Who would you still like to interview?

Elon Musk.

You have written two bestselling books. Do you have plans for any more?

Yes, I have a book I’m dying to write. I’m just looking for a window of time to write it. It might have to be between midnight and 4am!

What inspired you to launch High Heel Jungle? 

Social media has ushered in with it a culture of comparison, of peddling this false perception of living the “perfect life”. High Heel Jungle is the antidote to that. Yes, it’s beautiful to look at; yes, it celebrates success, but every article I write, every celebrity interview is rooted in truth so that my community leaves feeling empowered rather than inadequate.

What is life like in LA? 

Very happy. We feel like we have found a second home with wonderful friends, a home we love sharing as a family, and we get to do what we love in a hub of modern media and entertainment.

What has working overseas taught you? 

Work ethic and resilience. Every time I’ve landed in a new city, be it New York or LA, I’ve done it without knowing anyone or having any industry contacts, so I’ve had to keep proving myself again and again. The world doesn’t owe me anything, and knowing this has been a great gift.

What do you miss most about Australia when you are abroad?

So much. My parents and having them around me as we raise our daughter; my childhood friends; the food and beaches.

How do you balance the juggle of motherhood and success?

Like all working mums I wish I had five more hours in the day, but I’ve become so much more efficient because I don’t want to waste a moment that’s keeping me from my family. When I’m at work, I’m 100 per cent focused on work. When I’m with my daughter, I’m not cruising Instagram or thinking about my next assignment, I’m really present.

What was life like before motherhood, and how has motherhood changed your life?

Now I ask myself, “What would Capri enjoy”. You sacrifice downtime, but now everything has so much more meaning. I feel a great sense of purpose and a deeper love than I could ever imagine.

What’s the best thing about being a modern mother? 

We can make up our own rules and are no longer confined to traditional roles. Just because you are a mother doesn’t mean you cease to be a woman or a human being with dreams of your own. And the world has finally woken up to the fact that a fulfilled woman makes for a better mother!

What’s the hardest thing about being a modern mother?

Having it all isn’t easy! I often feel as though I have two full-time jobs and only the time to fulfil one of them.

What is the one thing you hope Capri grows up to know and appreciate?

Kindness and resilience. No one who ever truly succeeded did so without facing enormous odds. Knowing that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong is a great advantage. Also, it’s important to be strong, but never let any person, any job or circumstance make your heart hard.

What’s your number one fashion tip?

Dress to make yourself happy. If that means pastel dressed – like it does for me – then go for it. If it means black basics, great.

Who is your role model? 

My grandmother, Anna Reich, was the epitome of what it is to be a lady. She was a brilliant businesswoman who oversaw her portfolio well into her 90s. She was always impeccably dressed, but above all else she valued family.

Who do you turn to for help and advice? 

My mother, my husband, my best friend.

How would you describe Siimon as a Dad?

Endlessly patient, joyful and kind. He never loses his temper, he is so gentle and fun-loving.

How do you unwind and unplug from social media?

I just turn my phone off! It isn’t always easy but I force myself to physically unplug. I also try to make eye contact with Capri and Siimon more often because we have a society that’s always looking down at our phone instead of looking up into the eyes of the people we love.

What’s your favourite way to spend a day off? 

We’re trying to take more family vacations. It’s hard to justify the time off, but when I think of my childhood, it’s our family trips that I remember most clearly. This year it was a month in Sydney with family and taking Capri to Capri for the first time!

BITE SIZE

WE WENT TO Hotel Centennial, Woollahra

WE ATE King trout sashimi style breakfast bowl with avocado, wombok, nori, organic brown rice & soft egg; Spinach & feta biodynamic egg white omelette served with salad & grilled sourdough.

WE DRANK Mimosa with prosecco with strawberry & basil.

KATHRYN WORE a Herve Leger dress.

photo: Fairfax Media.

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Charles Edwards

23rd July, 2017

Charles Edwards and I enjoying lunch at Toko Sydney

English actor Charles Edwards has starred in roles from theatre to television’s Downton Abbey to the films Philomena and Batman Begins. He is in Australia playing Professor Higgins in the return season of My Fair Lady, which opens in Sydney on August 24. Edwards, 47, chatted to me about working under Julie Andrews’ direction, funny moments with Downton fans, having dinner with Michael Palin, and his dream role.

Is this the first time you have visited Australia?

I’ve visited once before, when I left school, did the backpacking and stayed in Melbourne. I think the longest time we stopped anywhere was Melbourne… [There] were about six of us crammed into a studio flat… We didn’t really see the country, we just went from place to place working. My partner’s parents have a flat in Balmain… so we have that connection with it.

What drew you to work here and do this play?

They rang up and said that Julie Andrews was directing My Fair Lady and they needed a Professor Higgins. So I said, “Great”. I mean, the opportunity to work with her and be part of it because it’s very iconic … and the fact that she is directing it, it’s a big deal.

What has it been like to work with Julie Andrews?

A lot of work has gone into it and she is the surviving DNA of the [1956] production and … my God, she knows her stuff.

Has Julie given you any special advice?

[She] remembered how Rex [Harrison] did things – not that she told us to do everything as was done then, but gave us a quite rigid structure of the recreation. We had the freedom to do our thing and that is very important to me because no one wants to go and see someone impersonate Rex Harrison or impersonate Julie Andrews, you want to see … a different performance, so that’s what we’ve achieved.

What is it like to play Professor Higgins?

It’s really fun. It’s particularly fun because he causes so much outrage in the audience and you hear them gasping. He is very, very rude and very self-centred and very selfish – precocious child, effectively … I find it tempting to play parts like that … Then [he] changes… as does Eliza, and that’s the joy of the story: that the two opposites meet and then they change each other.

What drew you to a musical?

They used to cast me in musicals at drama school, and then I did something where someone said, “Oh you can’t sing” … and it has always stuck with me… But to be part of something like this is mammoth.

How did you prepare for the role?

Well, I had some singing lessons and that was sort of it, really … It was deciding how to mould the singing and the speaking together.

You have played so many roles. What would be your most recognisable role with fans?

Without a doubt Downton Abbey, just because it’s so universally watched. And even though it’s finished, it’s still it’s the thing people still love.

Have you had any funny moments with Downton Abbey fans?

I really noticed it in the States – I was in LA for a few months doing a play. In England, people are less effusive. You can see them looking at you, but they won’t say anything. But in the States, it’s very different. They’re just so effusive and they adore it, they’re obsessed with it. So all you get is a sort of fanaticism about it because they just think it’s the best thing ever.

Out of all the characters you’ve ever played, which has been your favourite?

It’s so hard, that. I think at the moment I would say Higgins but that’s because I’m doing it at the moment. In two years’ time, I might say something else. But the things I’m most fond of: I played Michael Palin in a TV comedy film [Holy Flying Circus] about Monty Python and I loved that because he was a real person and I met him and he thought it was great, too. That was a high point, just having dinner with him. He came to see me in the play The King’s Speech purely by chance. He wanted to see the play because his father was a stammerer and he set up The Michael Palin Stammering Centre in London and it was something that was close to his heart … I was so excited.

Is there a character you would still love to play?

The one I always say is in the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which is George, the husband. I’ve got probably another 10 years probably to do that effectively, but I do always say that part because it’s a wonderful play and it’s vicious and it’s funny and it’s tragic and all those things that I like to do. Comedy laced with darkness – I like that.

What is it like working on a stage play compared to a big Hollywood set?

Movie sets can be very intimidating because it’s so big. [With theatre] you spend six weeks – or however long it is – rehearsing; you’re gently sort of eased into it. On the films, you’ve got to turn up, do your thing and go. So if you turn up and you don’t know anybody and you’re standing on a huge set, it’s nerve-wracking … In theatre you have the opportunity, obviously, to change things over the course of the long run. Both mediums are very satisfying, but you just need to shift your priorities in each.

What was it like working with Judi Dench and Naomi Watts?

It’s really exciting … I just want to drink in what they have to offer in terms of their wisdom, experience and stories … I think in film and television, if you’re a big deal, you can often get treated slightly reverentially, and they often don’t like that because it makes them feel different from everybody else. And particularly these women are all stage-trained, and what they love is the company of other actors, and then they’ll just chat away, just as anyone does, and be indiscreet and rude and naughty because they love it, that’s what they love to do, they always love going back to the stage. And I think I probably have that in me as well.

Do you have any plans while you’re in Sydney?

It will depend on the schedule. I’m realising, having done the show now for a few months, that it takes it out of you.

Is there any time for fun?

Well, there is on a Sunday, and we do our Sunday matinee at 3 o’clock. Come 6.15, that’s the weekend, because we have Mondays off. So Sunday night there is always something planned and Monday is usually spent recovering.

What do you do in your time off?

Right now, back in England, we’re doing renos [on our] very pretty little cottage very near Goodwood, down near [the] south coast … It’s my total passion. And my dog.

What’s next after My Fair Lady?

When I get back in mid-October, I don’t know what’s next … I would be very happy to have the rest of the year free, but knowing that something is happening in January, that’s what I would be very happy with.

My Fair Lady opens at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney, on August 24; tickets from $79.90, myfairladymusical.com.au.

BITESIZE

We went to Toko Sydney, Surry Hills

We ate Edamame soy beans, maldon sea salt; Gyuniku no tataki seared beef, pickled onions, mizuna, garlic chips; Japanese salad seasonal leaves, fennel, cucumber, avocado, light-wafu, tofu croutons

We drank NV Chandon Yarra Valley, SA and 2016 Hunky Dory Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ

Charles wore Thomas Pink shirt and MJ Bale suit

Photography by Steven Siewert

 

Date with Kate, Fashion

Date with Kate: Steven Khalil

16th July, 2017

Enjoying lunch with fashion designer Steven Khalil at Bistro Moncur, Woollahra

Steven Khalil is one of Australia’s leading designers, specialising in red carpet and bridal gowns. His creations have been worn by the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Jenner, Kelly Preston and Jesinta Campbell. He also launched an e-boutique last month, and is launching a new perfume next month. Khalil, 39, chats to me about dressing celebrities to royalty, and shares his best advice for brides-to-be.

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in Sydney. I was raised by a single mother. I was the youngest of four children … I struggled at school because I was creative and I think back then they didn’t know how to deal with creative students. So I was always in trouble or never really connecting. I could never sit down and keep still. In the end, they had to keep paper and pen away from me because all I would want to do was sketch dresses in class. So growing up was a struggle, but I was a happy child and really positive and I think that’s what got me through.

Did you always want to be a designer? 

Yes, I decided I would make wedding dresses at the age of six.

 

One of Steven’s wedding dress creations. Photo: @stevenkhalil and photographed by @yervantphotography

 

What influenced your choice of career?

I was watching Princess Diana and Charles’ wedding and I remember being really excited about the wedding and my mum was really baffled by it and she said, “Why are you so excited about this wedding?” I didn’t know why, and then when I saw the gown I said to my mum, “I’m going to make wedding dresses when I grow up”… I got my first sewing machine when I was 11.

What route did you take to pursue your dream?

I went through high school and did textiles and design at school, I was very drawn to all the creative subjects. And then the minute I left school I went to college and I studied design, fashion and clothing production and manufacturing, and I got my first real job when I was about 19: I was making flower girl dresses for a company. Then I … got head-hunted to go and work in a bridal boutique in Double Bay, called Mark Holt Bridal, when I was 22 years old, and I was living the dream, really. My gowns were on the covers of all the magazines and I stayed there for about seven years, and then I opened my own store.

You’ve dressed so many celebrities and influential people. What has been your biggest pinch-me moment? 

When we dressed Kylie Jenner for the Grammys – it was very unexpected, although that dress was with Jennifer Lopez, so I was hoping she would wear the dress, but it didn’t fit her and so that dress was sent to Kylie.

You recently dressed the Crown Princess of Greece. How did that come about?

The next day after the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia show we received this e-mail [saying that the Princess Olympia of Greece] wanted to wear [a piece from the runway] for her 21st birthday.

Princess Olympia wearing one of Steven’s creations. Photo: @olympiagreece

 

What was it like to dress royalty?

Well, it’s a first for me … although it has been an ongoing dream for me to make a royal wedding gown because it stems back to the [Princess] Diana thing of me being so obsessed with her wedding dress. So to make a royal wedding gown would be the ultimate for me.

If you could dress anyone, who would it be?

I’ve always wanted to dress Cate Blanchett because she’s Australian and has done so well overseas.

What is the most expensive dress you’ve ever had to create? 

We did a wedding gown for a client in Dubai and she paid $54,000 for that gown. She had seen something that we had done for somebody else, but she wanted a grander version of it, so a lot of it came down to the detail.

What do you love most about being part of a wedding day?

A bride is like the centerpiece of the wedding, isn’t she? The anticipation of her arrival, everybody waits to see her gown. So it’s really special to be chosen to make the gown, it’s such a special honour to do that. So I just love being part of that process.

How do you deal with “bridezillas”?

Over the years I’ve started to realise that it’s so much bigger than me and the dress … You put out the best you can put out… [but] a lot of it is just being patient and they’re under a lot of pressure from their families, [and] under financial pressure a lot of the time, to have this beautiful wedding. So you’ve got to really stop and think about what’s going on for the person and try to be as patient as possible.

What do you think the secret is for a woman looking great on her wedding day?

A lot of it is confidence. I know it probably sounds cliche, but I think if you feel good in something and you’re carrying that really well, you’ll give a good vibe.

What are the biggest fashion mistakes you see?

I think when you seen an image of somebody that looks amazing and you’re like, “I want that whole outfit,” but you always should make something your own. Don’t try to emulate what someone else is wearing because they might have a different body shape to you and the clothes might not fall the same way on you.

Have you got plans to open stores internationally?

I would like to, yes. So what we’re doing at the moment is just developing the brand more, creating more products so that we can then just open beautiful boutiques in chosen cities.

 

Some of Steven’s new jewellery line. Photo: Steven Khalil

How are you expanding?

We are adding more to the line, adding in jewellery, robes; we’re going to go into more beautiful lingerie as well … So we’re working on a new collection for that, because the first season of those christening gowns sold out so quickly… and we still have waiting list for them.

Tell me about the perfume. 

The perfume is really gorgeous and it’s going to be launched in [early August]. We’re just finalising all the labels and the packaging at the moment. The fragrance consists of rose, patchouli and lily of the valley… I want people to come into the store and be able to buy various products, not just the dress. So it’s kind of following in the footsteps of Elie Saab, Vera Wang, to create a really beautiful brand experience.

If you hadn’t gone down this career path, what would you be doing?  

You know, I have no idea because this was the only thing I wanted to do … when I was growing up, so many people were saying to me, “You can’t be a dressmaker, that’s not a real job.” What is a real job? So I thought about becoming a hairdresser or a lawyer.

What do you do for fun when you’re not working?

I love going out with friends to eat, I love Sunday morning breakfasts, I love being by the water. Yeah, I’m quite simple … I love to shop, I love beautiful clothing, I love going to art galleries.

Where do see yourself in five years?

I would love a concept store with sales people, beautiful products everywhere and just a really beautiful shopping experience.

BITESIZE

We went to Bistro Moncur, Woollahra

We ate Pan Fried Barramundi Fillet, Mashed Peas, Creme Fraiche & Confit Spring Onion, Sunflower Seed & Caper Beurre Noisett

We drank San Pellegrino Mineral Water

Steven wore Ralph Lauren shirt and jacket and Nudie Jeans

Kate wore a Hansen & Gretel top.

Photograhy Jessica Hromas, SMH.

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Sheppard

11th June, 2017

Enjoy lunch with Amy and Emma from Sheppard

 

Siblings Amy and Emma Sheppard are in the indie pop band Sheppard, which also includes their brother George. The Brisbane-based six-piece’s 2014 debut album, Bombs, reached No. 2 on the ARIA chart and their single Geronimo spent three weeks at No. 1. Amy and Emma chat to me about the makings of Geronimo, the pressures in the “cut-throat” music industry and their current tour, which includes tonight’s Sydney gig at the Metro Theatre.

You have had so much success. How did it all start for you guys?

Amy: It really started when I was at TAFE and I had to do a music assignment and I got [my brother] George [Sheppard] to do harmonies on my track … It sort of snowballed from there … [and when] we met our guitarist Jason Bovino things really took off.

What was it like to win an ARIA award?

Amy: That was the best feeling ever, I think, because we had been working so hard for so long and we had been nominated for a few ARIAs before in previous years. So when we got to take that one ARIA home, it was just really special.

Geronimo was one of the biggest hits of the decade, what did that feel like?

Amy: It was a whirlwind, to be honest. It was huge; I couldn’t believe that people were still buying our single after so many weeks … It’s really a humbling feeling that we get to do this every day for a living. We don’t have other jobs and I think that’s rare for a musician to be able to say that.

Is there a pressure for the next album to have the same success?

Emma: Yes and no, just because we want to continue doing this for a living. But I guess we wrote Geronimo without any pressure, so we really were careful not to put the same amount of pressure on ourselves because there were so many eyes around, like, what we were going to do next. We’ve written the album now, we’re really proud with what we have.

What’s the writing process for you?

Amy: There are three writers in the band: myself, my brother George and Jason Bovino. So it really just depends on the day as to how collaborative we are. Sometimes I come to the band with a finished song and sometimes I just have a hook or a melody and then we all jump on board and finish each of the songs. With Geronimo, I think, it first started from scratch and we were all together. It started before a show in Melbourne and we were backstage and Jason had the little guitar part that you hear in the song … [We] forgot about it for three months and then we were all together one day thinking about doing some writing and we were like, “Oh, I remember this is really cool,” and within two hours we had written Geronimo around our kitchen table at home.

What is it like to work with your siblings?

Emma: It’s really good. Being in this industry that’s so cut-throat, it’s good to know and have people that you trust with you on tour. And we’re in this business as a family – like, Mum and Dad are involved … Mum comes on every tour.

With 400 million streams and top 10 chart placements globally, what has it been like to have such international success?

Emma: It’s pretty crazy, we just kind of followed the success around the world. We never really expected it and are still pinching ourselves today.

What is the biggest aspect in your life that has changed since you’ve had success?

Amy: Probably sleep deprivation. Before Geronimo, we could choose our hours and we would be pretty free with what we could do, but now I think we just work harder, which is a great thing. We’re really busy.

What is it like to work with your siblings?

Emma: It’s really good. Being in this industry that’s so cut-throat, it’s good to know and have people that you trust with you on tour. And we’re in this business as a family – like, Mum and Dad are involved … Mum comes on every tour.

With 400 million streams and top 10 chart placements globally, what has it been like to have such international success?

Emma: It’s pretty crazy, we just kind of followed the success around the world. We never really expected it and are still pinching ourselves today.

What is the biggest aspect in your life that has changed since you’ve had success?

Amy: Probably sleep deprivation. Before Geronimo, we could choose our hours and we would be pretty free with what we could do, but now I think we just work harder, which is a great thing. We’re really busy.

Where is the strangest place you’ve been recognised?

Amy: The craziest for me was in London. I think it was Emma and I who were just shopping and someone yelled across the street, like, “Sheppard. We love you, Sheppard”. Because it didn’t chart in the UK, I was not expecting to be recognised at all.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Amy: Never let success go to your head; never let failure go to your heart.

Emma: Stick with the people that pull the magic out of you and not the madness!

What advice would you give to someone wanting to make it big in this industry? 


Emma: Push yourself because no one else is going to do it for you. Also be confident in what you do and don’t let people bring you down!

What are you up to at the moment?

Emma: At the moment we have our Australian tour … Next month, we fly out to the UK and we have 13 shows with Little Mix.

Where has been your favourite performance?

Amy: Our favourite performance would have to be when we played Rock in Rio in Brazil. It’s hard to explain how overwhelmed you feel when 100,000 people are singing your song back to you.

How do you feel about security during big performances these days with recent attacks and bombings?

Amy: We were so shocked and saddened by what happened in Manchester. Our hearts are with those who lost a loved one. But crimes like this won’t shake our resolve to deliver live music to our fans, and we hope they will still come to our concerts. Together, we will get through this more resilient and stronger.

Sheppard perform on June 11 at the Metro Theatre, Sydney; $31.75.

 

BITESIZE                 

We went to Tokonoma By Toko, Sydney

We ate Hiramasa kingfish, truffle ponzu, pickled daikon; Moreton Bay bu tempura, yuzu koshu mayonnaise; Chicken polenta karaage, toko hot sauce; Jerusalem artichoke, 3 ways, teriaki ;Soft shell crab maki; Wagyu beef cheeks, bone marrow tempura

We drank Mineral water, 2015 Ros Ritchie Sauvignon Blanc; 2012 Chandon Vintage Altius

Amy wore: Aje  

Emma wore: Rollas

Photography: Fairfax

Date with Kate, Fashion & Beauty

Date with Kate: Jessica Kahawaty

4th June, 2017

Jessica Kahawaty and I at Catalina Rose Bay

Jessica Kahawaty was born and raised in Sydney and now lives in Dubai, where she is a model and was the host of Arabic TV show Project Runway Middle East, season one. She won Miss World Australia in 2012, has worked with luxury brands including Louis Vuitton and Rolls-Royce and has more than 300,000 followers on Instagram. Kahawaty, 28, talks to me about her rise to fame, her biggest  “pinch me” moment and what most people find surprising about her.

You grew up in Sydney. How would you describe your childhood?

I had a great childhood growing up in Castle Hill. I absolutely loved the suburbs because they were so relaxing and I went to a great school as well not too far. My parents always encouraged us to travel and practice the languages we speak so we found ourselves in Europe and Beirut a lot during our summer holidays.

You have such a striking look. What is your heritage?

My mother is olive skinned and has very light green eyes and brown hair. She is Lebanese. My father has white skin and black hair – his ancestors are a mix of Armenian, Lebanese and Syrian. A bit of a cocktail [mix]!

How did you get into modeling?

I started modeling when I was 14. My mother was a model and was rehearsing for a show when I got scouted. I had to stop for a few years because I had a very awkward period with braces and bad skin [laughs], then [I] started again at 18.

Jessica modeling pool vibes with @VogueArabia x @ToryBurch Captured by @MazenAbuSrour. Photo: @ jessicakahawaty

What did it mean to be crowned Miss World Australia in 2012 and how did winning impact your career?

I always saw Miss Australia’s role as an ambassador to her country as well as a spokesperson for regional and international philanthropic causes. I loved that their aim was always to choose someone well rounded who can speak and bring light issues that matter. It definitely impacted my career positively but the title lasts for a year so it definitely took a lot of hard work and perseverance to have a long lasting career [after].

You were born and raised in Sydney but have become a superstar in the Middle East, how did that come about?

News travels fast! The Middle East was very embracing of the fact that an Australian girl with part of her heritage being from there had won Miss Australia and was a runner up in Miss World. They were so proud of that fact and it was an opportunity for me to bridge a gap between East and West. I was pretty lucky that I spoke Arabic and English and was able to translate all my experience and upbringing into the Arabic culture and vice versa without a language barrier. I found Dubai to be such an amazing base for all the things I wanted to do in the Middle East, Paris, London and New York.

What was it like to land the prime-time role as host of Project Runway Middle East?

I had always looked up to Heidi Klum as a successful businesswoman and entrepreneur who was one of the first to combine the modeling, TV and fashion worlds together. The show was another point in my career that I am so proud of doing especially considering Arabic isn’t my first language and I had no TV experience at all. It was an incredible experience to have the likes of Carine Roitfeld, Toni Garrn, Milla Jovovich and many other international guests on the show and to hear their perspectives on emerging Middle Eastern talents.

Jessica in her first 6-page editorial in @voguearabia featuring empowering women, wearing @toryburch. Photo: @jessicakahawaty

How did that impact your career?

Television presents immense exposure and is such a traditional form of media that takes you into the living room and private spaces of people and families. Becoming a household name definitely presents new opportunities, as well as challenges!

How is life different in the Middle East?

Life is so dynamic and fast-paced there; I barely have [any] time to myself. There’s always something going on and Dubai is a melting pot for a lot of expats, tourists and visitors. There’s a lot more travel (almost every 2 weeks) and the activities differ a little from Sydney… You spend a lot of time outdoors in Australia whereas in Dubai it’s 50/50…

You’ve been touted as Dubai’s ‘It Girl’. What is that like?

It’s an honour every time I hear that. I think it’s just really important to present whatever country or region you are in, in the best light possible. I love that I was able to put a mark specifically in Dubai.

What are some of the perks of being a superstar in a place like Dubai?

I love flying in and out of Dubai… I’ve been to the most picturesque British countryside with Rolls-Royce but also experienced the hub of London with other brands. I’ve seen Paris during fashion week but I’ve also shot in a forest and on the side of lakes outside of Paris.

What has been your biggest “pinch-me” moment?

This would definitely be riding a bike with IWC watches for the Laureus event in the South of France with Olympic champions and athletes like Nico Rosberg, Fabian Cancellara and many others. We rode from Monaco to France and ended in Italy. The pinch-me part was the company I was with and the fact that I had never ridden a bike before (super overprotective parents who thought I was too clumsy [laughs] and [I] managed to cross borders!

What’s it like being recognised everywhere you go in the Middle East?

… It’s humbling and grounding when they come up with such loving words especially when it’s from young girls.

What’s the most exciting campaign you have ever worked on?

There have been so many. I loved the mini IWC campaign earlier this year with Lewis Hamilton. I also loved the cover shoot I recently shot for Harper’s Bazaar Arabia in the desert. The most exciting and memorable I would say is shooting a campaign with Oscar winner Adrien Brody in Abu Dhabi where I was chasing the guy who stole his suitcase in a Rolls-Royce!

You are a superstar in the Middle East, yet you remain largely unknown in your home country. What is that like?

I put so much focus overseas in Europe and the Middle East in the last three years to create so much value to bring home. Geographically, Australia is quite far and you have to be physically present here. This is why I am aiming to spend a bit more time in Australia whilst continuing all my endeavours overseas.

What did you miss most about home?

I definitely miss the nature, people and food! All my close friends and family are in Australia and I love the outdoors so I miss the beach, the beautiful sky and definitely the best food in the world!

Do you have plans to spend more time here?

Definitely! I was coming back two to three times a year just to visit my family and friends – no work, just downtime. But I’m aiming to try and come back every three to four months – also for some chill time but to work with some of my favourite brands here.

You have a finance and law degree – is that helpful for the work you do?

I specialised in Human Rights Law and all the subjects I ever studied revolved around humans and international rights. I love that aspect of the law and I feel like it translates into the charity work I do. It’s definitely a great complement to the industry that I am in.

What human rights issues are you most passionate about?

We all have a soft spot for something. For me, it’s children’s rights and displaced children with no access to education. If only we can provide this basic human right and need to millions, we would be able to pave a golden path for the next generation.

You speak English, Arabic and French fluently; did you grow up being multilingual?

My parents sent us to a French school in Australia for a few years where we spoke English in the playground and Arabic at home! It wasn’t easy but they wanted us to be fluent so they refused to speak to us in any other language inside the house. Traveling abroad every year also helped because you were forced to speak the local language. I’m currently learning Italian and find that I improve drastically when I travel to Rome for work.

What do you do for fun?

We go out on the boat a lot in Dubai or I spend time with my friends at the beach or doing some sort of activity like wakeboarding. I like watching TV series and movies so we’ll do that as well if it’s too hot to go outside.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I definitely see myself doing what I’m doing on an even bigger scale and creating a platform that can help bridge this industry together (it’s all I can say for now). I would also love to have a family of my own. I’m very close to my parents and would love to have that relationship with my children.

What is something people would find surprising to know about you?

I have never tried coffee in my life! In an industry that’s so fast-paced and extremely long working hours as well as international flights, people are usually shocked as to how I am full of energy. I would like to try it one day though as I’m usually left out when all my girlfriends are drinking coffee and I’m slowly sipping a juice.

BITESIZE

We went to Catalina Rosebay

We ate Pan fried snapper, garlic potato mash and lemon caper butter; Kumara tortellini, pine nuts and sage beurre noisette; Rocket and parmesan salad.

We drank Mineral water

Jessica wore Celine top and pants from David Jones.

Photography by Louise Kennerley

Date with Kate

Date with Kate: Lisa Wilkinson

28th May, 2017

Lisa Wilkinson and I catching up at Bather’s Pavilion in celebration of her 10 year anniversary as co-host of channel 9’s TODAY show

 

Lisa Wilkinson today marks her 10th anniversary as co-host of Channel 9’s Today show. She began her career at Dolly and at 21 she became the magazine’s youngest editor. Kerry Packer appointed her editor of Cleo and she went on to be its international editor-in-chief. Her television career began in the late-’90s as a regular panellist on Ten’s Beauty and the Beast, during the 2000 Sydney Olympics she co-hosted Seven’s The Morning Shift and in 2005 began hosting its Weekend Sunrise. Wilkinson, 57, chatted to me about her biggest highlight, why she almost gave up television and how she defines success.

Congratulations on 10 years with the Today show. What does it feel like to have been in a prominent role on TV for a decade? 

Extraordinary … because at the beginning there I thought, “If I can last six months in this job I’ll be doing well”… So much has happened in 10 years … I mean we’ve just been there with such big stories and against that we have all the fun times and the amazing people that you get to interview. So when I look back over what we’ve covered in 10 years, I’m surprised I’m not exhausted.

What do you love most about your job?

The audience – the feedback that we get, the fact that we’re privileged enough that people actually want to make our show part of their morning; that’s the way that they want to wake up. And that they trust us, they want to have a laugh with us and hopefully we put a skip in their step as they head out to work or send the kids off to school or stay home, or whatever form their day takes. If we can make their start to the day just a little bit better, for me the payback is huge.

Lisa on the Today show. Image source: @lisa_wilkinson

What’s the most challenging aspect of your role? 

The hours, the lack of sleep. I’ve got a sleep debt, but I’ll be a long time paying back to my body!

If you had to pinpoint your biggest highlight in the last 10 years, what would it be? 

Interviewing the entire cast of children from The Sound of Music on their 50th anniversary. It was such a treat because I grew up watching The Sound of Music.

Who do you still hope to interview?

Michelle Obama, closely followed by Barack.

What is it about live TV that really excites you? 

Just the adrenaline rush of having a rough idea what’s coming up next, but invariably things go off the rails, particularly when you’re sitting next to Karl Stefanovic … Some mornings are very challenging, like the one particular morning after the Logies! [Laughs.] Watching it back, I do get offended sometimes when people say that they knew that Karl had had too much drink when he said 76 times that I was beautiful. It was just like, “Thanks a lot, he had to be really drunk to say that.” With Karl and me, we push each other and we know after all this time each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we celebrate them, but we also like to push each other as well. It’s like a marriage.

When something goes wrong live on air, what’s your secret to getting things back on track?

I think, first and foremost, you can’t take yourself too seriously. In the end our viewers will forgive a lot, as long as we’re honest with them, and if things are going wrong, we tell them. We screw up all the time …

Who do you look up to and admire?

I admire so many different women, I mean everyone from Gail Kelly, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett … Ellen DeGeneres, like wow, because she has got such a beautiful heart and the generosity that she imparts daily. I mean the fact that she finishes every show with, “Be kind to each other”, I think says everything about her and it’s such a positive program.

The early covers of Dolly magazine where Lisa’s career began. Image source: @lisa_wilkinson

 

You started your journalistic career in magazines. Did you always know that you would go into TV? 

Not in a million years, I couldn’t have ever imagined that this is where I would end up. In fact, I got that job at Dolly at the age of 19, after answering a three-line ad in the women and girls’ employment section of The Sydney Morning Herald. I still have the ad and remember the exact phone number … It’s the only job I’ve ever applied for.

How did you end up at Cleo?

I was planning to take a trip to Europe for four weeks … It was right then that I got a call from Kerry Packer because he was looking for an editor at Cleo … I just thought, “I’ll go to lunch because he is the legendary Kerry Packer and I just want to be able to one day tell my grandkids, ‘I met the great Kerry Packer and I said ‘no’ to his job offer …’ ”

Did you know he was going to ask you to be the editor of Cleo?

No, he just said, “I really want to meet you” … So I went to the pre-arranged address that his secretary gave me … It was just like this nothing address with no restaurant except for the Channel 9 helicopter, that was sitting there with the blades roaring, and there was Trevor Kennedy, who was Kerry Packer’s right-hand man, ushering me into the helicopter so that we could go up to the Palm Beach and have lunch with Kerry Packer … Needless to say, I was very impressed … He [Packer] just made me so excited about what I was going to be able to do with Cleo. So I was there for 10 years as well.

Having worked at Dolly and Cleo at such young age, what did you learn about yourself?

To listen to your gut instinct … I learnt it’s so important to communicate with the people that you work with and to keep the lines of communication open. For everybody to work together, for everybody to be supportive of each other – and that’s when you get the best out of people – and also being given that extraordinary opportunity at such a young age, I could never understand why I got that, why me.

How do you define success? 

To feel challenged by what I do. To work hard enough that I can feel satisfied that I’ve done a good job, but also to be able to combine that with family and to make sure that the space is there for my kids and for my marriage.

How do you juggle it all?

I’ve always made sure that the kids have been very involved, particularly during the last 10 years, that they’re comfortable with the hours that I’m doing and the ways in which it can impact their lives at times, when they really want me to be at a play performance or parent-teacher night or whatever things come along … I have to be honest, I’ve missed a few. Not a lot, but I’ve missed a few … Every time my contract has come up, it has been a big family meeting about checking in and making sure that no one feels like they’re missing out. There was one time there where I thought, “I think this is impacting too much on the family,” and Pete was doing breakfast radio at that time, but he volunteered to stop doing the same hours … There was a time a couple of years ago where I thought, “I’m not sure that I can keep doing these hours and everyone is going to be OK”, so … I said to the kids, “How would you feel if I gave up the Today show?” There was just like this resounding, “No, you can’t. No, Mum.”

Lisa and her husband Pete. Image source: @lisa_wilkinson

Being married to Peter FitzSimons – a fellow journalist – you must be a great support to one another? 

Pete and I never get enough time together and we just have such common interests …  It’s lovely being married to somebody whose work you’re really incredibly proud of because his main gig now is writing books and so it’s lovely that every six months or so he is onto a new project. I’m always fascinated by the work he is doing and he is probably the most enthusiastic viewer the Today show has … The phone in my dressing room goes at 10 past 9 every day, it’s always Pete, who gives me a critique of what he has seen, and he asks me how the ratings are.

Will your children follow in both your and Peter’s footsteps? 

Well, we’ve got two that are heading for journalism … Our oldest son, Jake, has very strong opinions on things and he challenges us because Pete and I aren’t peas in a pod when it comes to our views on things, and so to now have a third one …

What do you do in your time off when you’re not working?

We’re just about to start some renovations at the house. I think, if I come back, next time around I think I will be an architect … I’m really passionate about photography as well. So they’re kind of the two things that really spark me up.

BITESIZE

We went to Bathers Pavilion, Balmoral Beach

We ate Scones with cream and jam; biscotti

We drank Earl Grey tea and cappuccino

Lisa wore Vitteroy trench

Kate wore Christopher Esber

Photography James Brickwood.