GILL HARBORD, AUSSIE LADETTE TO LADY
Guy Davis minded his manners when speaking to Gill Harbord, the headmistress challenged to turn Aussie Ladette to Lady’s ugly ducklings into swans.
Some are looking for success, some are looking for respect, some are looking for a way to stop swearing all the time. They’re the latest group of rowdy Australian girls dubbed “ ladettes” who are travelling to the posh UK fi nishing school known as Hereford Hall where, with a little bit of guidance, they just might be transformed into ladies.
Once again, Nine is presenting Aussie Ladette to Lady, the homegrown version of the British reality-TV hit. And in its second season, the show is again aiming to help its eight rough-around-the-edges contestants reach their full potential.
Helping them do so is Gill Harbord, the charming and polite principal of Hereford Hall. Don’t go mistaking her manners for fragility, though – Harbord’s not one to suff er the rude and unruly gladly, as the ladettes will soon discover.
How was this season’s crop of Aussie ladettes?
They were quite a handful, let’s put it that way. They were certainly more of a handful than the fi rst group of girls. It took longer to divide them and get them to settle down.
Is that often the case? That they will team up to take on you and the other Hereford Hall instructors?
It was probably the most noticeable among this group of ladettes, I think, because they’d watched other programs and decided they would work to present this united front.
That’s something I was curious about, actually – whether past participants in Ladette to Lady had seen your work on previous episodes and tried to fi gure out your tricks, so to speak.
I think the core issue is whether they themselves really want to change, and if they do they won’t be watching out for tricks. They’ll be trying their best. And if they’re not trying their best, we don’t want them with us.
Can you tell fairly early on who’s there with a sincere will to change their ways and who just wants to get their head on the telly?
When Rosemary [ Shrager, vice-principal] and I talk of an evening after the girls fi rst arrive, our initial gut feeling nearly always pays off . It’s most extraordinary – you can almost always tell who is going to be there for just a few days and who might weather the storm. On average, you can usually get rid of four straight away because, quite honestly, they are just being selfi sh and wasting the time of the girls who genuinely want to change their lives. And as we’ve seen in past series, in both England and Australia, there are girls who are genuine about this course.
Have you found you’re able to change the thinking of ladettes who take part in the show thinking it’s all a bit of a joke?
Girls with that sort of attitude may leave early but within three or four months you may hear from them. And they’ll email you to say ‘ Even though I didn’t stay for very long, I now realise what you were saying’. They do come around and while I’m not sure it completely turns their lives around it does get them to think. And it’s gratifying that they have paid attention to some of the things they’ve been told. You’ll see that in this particular series – one girl, despite trying very hard, didn’t make it to the end but she is constantly in touch with me now, asking me for advice about facing up to her problems. And I’m constantly in touch with her.
How would you describe your success rate, transforming ladettes to ladies?
It’s humbling for me because I fi nd that if we even get one girl who makes a go of her life, it’s just fantastic. It makes me very happy to do it. And it makes me want to do more of this work. I’d be very happy to do this without the TV cameras.