A life of pure joy

De­spite her child­hood suc­cess, Joy Smithers keeps her daugh­ter off the stage, writes

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

BY THE time Joy Smithers turned 20 she’d graced the pages of top fash­ion mag­a­zines, landed a ma­jor record­ing deal and had a promis­ing act­ing ca­reer.

But grow­ing up in front of the cam­era had its price, which is why she was alarmed when her el­dest child, Sasha, 16, showed in­ter­est in fol­low­ing in her foot­steps.

‘‘I’ve kept her right away from (the busi­ness), but when she was in year 9 she au­di­tioned for the school play hop­ing to get a tiny part,’’ Smithers, 45, re­calls.

‘‘But the thing is, they gave her the lead. Of course, it was un­for­tu­nate be­cause every­one thought, ‘That’s be­cause your mum’s an ac­tress and you must have grown up in the busi­ness’ but she didn’t re­ally.

‘‘So that re­ally shocked us all, but she was fan­tas­tic. I know all par­ents think (their kids) are fan­tas­tic, but she re­ally was.’’

How­ever, Smithers re­mains wary of let­ting any of her brood, rounded out by Phoebe, 8, and Or­lando, 2, pur­sue star­dom.

‘‘Per­son­ally, I don’t think it’s healthy for kids to work. They don’t get treated well enough,’’ she says.

‘‘I was work­ing from the time I was 12. My first job was for Vogue and I did my first tax re­turn when I was 13.

‘‘I worked all through my school hol­i­days. I worked at least one day a week af­ter school. It sep­a­rates you from your peers. It to­tally does. And I was mak­ing such a lot of money that there was no point me stay­ing at school. I had a mod­el­ling ca­reer, act­ing ca­reer and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll travel now and I’ll make the cash’ and all the teach­ers said to me: ‘Why are you leav­ing?’ And I said: ‘Be­cause next year I’ll make three times what you make’.’’

While the dol­lars came rolling in from di­verse sources such as a hit record in Swe­den and teenage skin care com­mer­cials, Smithers lacked the one thing money couldn’t buy— sound ad­vice.

‘‘I was so young I gave it (the money) all away any­way,’’ she says with a laugh.

‘‘So I’m like (say­ing) to Sasha: ‘When you fin­ish uni­ver­sity . . .’. I al­ways drum that into her ‘When you fin­ish uni­ver­sity’. It’s a fore­gone con­clu­sion.’’

Smithers cred­its her model sis­ter, Su­san, for paving the way for her own ca­reer.

Su­san’s suc­cess helped land her photo shoots for mag­a­zines such as Cleo and Dolly and mod­el­ling as­sign­ments around the world.

When Su­san wanted to break into mu­sic, a 15-year-old Joy sang backup and was dis­cov­ered by a US mu­sic pro­ducer.

She won a five-year record­ing con­tract and an ARIA Award for one of her songs.

‘‘I’ve had so many dif­fer­ent branches to my life and that’s one of them,’’ she says of her mu­sic, a high­light of which was per­form­ing in front of Prince Charles and Princess Diana with Perth band Euroglid­ers.

But when Smithers de­cided to fo­cus on act­ing, she found the go­ing tough. De­spite be­ing cast in lead roles, she was merely con­sid­ered ‘‘good for a model’’.

It wasn’t un­til she played deathrow drug ad­dict Mandy in the 1989 mini-se­ries Bangkok Hil­ton, costar­ring Nicole Kid­man, that she shat­tered the stereo­type.

‘‘When I did Bangkok Hil­ton, which was a very hard-bit­ten role, that changed peo­ple’s minds. It was al­most like my act­ing life be­gan. I started to get proper, more com­plex and in­ter­est­ing parts.’’

Smithers has re­mained a fa­mil­iar face on the box, ap­pear­ing in shows such as

The Fly­ing Doc­tors, Heart­break High Blue Mur­der.

and spent four years play­ing the psy­chotic Rose on and even had a stint co-host­ing

Aus­tralia. All Saints

Good Morn­ing

She re­cently signed a three-month con­tract with in which she plays Brid­get, Alf Ste­wart’s (Ray Meagher) love in­ter­est.

Home and Away,

Model child: Smithers started work when she was 12 and moved into act­ing. She plays Ray Meagher’s love in­ter­est (left) in Home And Away .


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