A life of pure joy
Despite her childhood success, Joy Smithers keeps her daughter off the stage, writes
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
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 .