“I FELT ABAN­DONED”

SHE WAS THE WOMAN AT THE CEN­TRE OF THE NO­TO­RI­OUS ROYAL PRANK. HAV­ING RE­BUILT HER LIFE, AN OLDER AND WISER MEL GREIG IS DE­TER­MINED TO MAKE A DIF­FER­ENCE

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy TIM HUNTER Styling SARAH FAR­RELL Words WENDY TUOHY

For years she was known only as “the royal prank” DJ. But Mel Greig has put the tragic episode be­hind her as she fo­cuses on help­ing oth­ers.

Mel Greig has run into so many brick walls over the past five years that any­one else would strug­gle to get back up.

Most fa­mous was the dev­as­tat­ing de­pres­sion the 34-year-old en­dured af­ter the no­to­ri­ous “royal prank” she and 2Day FM ra­dio co-host Michael Chris­tian made in 2012, in which Greig pre­tended to be the Queen check­ing on Kate Mid­dle­ton’s health and was put through to the Duchess’s hospi­tal room. It proved to be a fate­ful call, fol­low­ing the sub­se­quent sui­cide of English nurse Jacintha Sal­danha.

In the in­ter­na­tional out­cry that en­sued, Greig’s tear-soaked TV apol­ogy made global head­lines for days. Her re­morse was re­warded not with un­der­stand­ing that an oth­er­wise run-of-the-mill, al­beit fool­ish, FM ra­dio stunt had pro­duced such a wildly un­pre­dictable out­come, but with two years of trolling that was so vi­cious it made Greig con­sider sui­cide her­self.

“I got to the point where I thought, ‘Can I live through this?’ I started to be­lieve what those peo­ple were telling me,” she tells Stel­lar. “The English press called me a nurse-killer.”

It was a witch-hunt that brought out the weirdos. Her most ded­i­cated on­line stalker tracked her down, while some close friends she thought she could trust soon aban­doned her.

“I had one per­sis­tent troll who would not go away; he was from Lon­don and was very or­gan­ised and struc­tured. He would do a monthly at­tack on me on so­cial me­dia, con­tact me on email and Face­book, he got my mo­bile num­ber from some­one and he went next level. He re­ally got to me,” says Greig, who, iron­i­cally, is so nat­u­rally open in per­son she is im­pos­si­ble to dis­like.

It was at this low­est point she learnt the “valu­able les­son” that peo­ple you think you know may sur­prise you. “Peo­ple will go one of two ways; they will ei­ther sup­port or aban­don you. I didn’t re­ally find a happy medium.

“I found there are peo­ple who want to be there for you and know how to get you through, and I had peo­ple who wanted to sell me out and aban­don me.”

Dur­ing the worst of it, the woman who hit Aus­tralian screens as the up-for-any­thing Ade­laide res­i­dent on the first sea­son of The Amaz­ing Race in 2011 (com­pet­ing with sis­ter Alana Mun­day), knew she had to make a choice. “The turn­ing point was when I chose life; when I sat there and said, ‘Is sui­cide an op­tion for me?’ and it’s not.

“You han­dle things dif­fer­ently af­ter you make that choice. You get to know what you stand for and who you are deep down.”

One of the last­ing im­pacts of the two lost years Greig says she spent “in limbo”, wait­ing for what she hoped would be the cathar­tic ex­pe­ri­ence of at­tend­ing Sal­danha’s in­quest and apol­o­gis­ing di­rectly to her fam­ily, was that she no longer as­pired for every­one to like her. “If some­one does the wrong thing, or needs to be pulled up on some­thing, I’m go­ing to be the per­son to do it,” she says. “I don’t want to be that su­per-nice per­son and be nice to every­one [no mat­ter what], I want to be that re­al­is­tic per­son. Some peo­ple don’t de­serve that nice­ness.”

Even the fact that Greig shared how dis­traught she was over the fall­out from the prank seemed to work against her. While the self-con­tained Chris­tian – with whom Greig had been work­ing for less than a week be­fore the dis­as­trous call – sailed into a healthy ca­reer on air, the ob­vi­ously shat­tered Greig was an in­dus­try pariah. “I kept ap­ply­ing for jobs and kept be­ing told ‘No’,” she re­calls.

All the while, she was in­creas­ingly bat­tling the painful and de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tion en­dometrio­sis, her health wors­en­ing to the point where she was told she only had a tiny “win­dow” in which to con­ceive if she wished to carry her own baby.

The bright spot was the sup­port of her then boyfriend, and later her hus­band, Steven Pol­lock, her “rock” through­out. The pair mar­ried qui­etly not long af­ter Greig at­tended Sal­danha’s Lon­don in­quest in late 2014. Be­cause of Greig’s dire fer­til­ity out­look, they em­barked upon IVF on doc­tor’s ad­vice.

The re­silience she says she de­vel­oped as a re­sult of the fall­out from the royal prank came in handy sooner than she may have ex­pected.

In April last year, Greig found her­self on Stu­dio 10 ex­plain­ing how it felt to be con­stantly asked about how the new­ly­weds’ preg­nancy hopes were pan­ning out. “It’s hard when peo­ple ask you, ‘How’s the baby-mak­ing go­ing, when is he mov­ing to Wol­lon­gong?’ [south of Syd­ney, where Greig is cur­rently based for work],” she told the show’s hosts. “Now I just have to put it out there and say, ‘This is what’s hap­pen­ing: he’s not mov­ing to Wol­lon­gong, there are no ba­bies on the way and we’re go­ing to deal with it in pri­vate as best we can.’”

Greig has main­tained dig­ni­fied dis­cre­tion with re­gards to what caused the split. “I don’t want to drag him

“I got to the point where i thought, `can i live through this?´ ”

through the mud,” she says now. “It ended and we’re both mov­ing for­ward.” But she con­fesses it hurt.

“I’d built up a lot of re­silience but to be hon­est there was a month where I was re­ally tested. I could feel the symp­toms of de­pres­sion com­ing back – that numb­ness – it was hard to deal with when the shock set in.

“I had let my­self cre­ate this fu­ture I thought was locked down. I thought that I had the hus­band and the white picket fence. He was due to move to Wol­lon­gong. I felt like I’d gone back to that time [when] I had no con­trol over my fu­ture. When I tapped into my re­silience I was good; I’m great now.”

It sounds like the ac­cep­tance of the ra­dio lis­ten­ers of Wol­lon­gong, a city that un­der­stands set­backs and hard knocks, has healed Mel Greig. While most sta­tions would go nowhere near her as she strug­gled to re­launch her ca­reer, early last year an old col­league, work­ing as a man­ager at Wol­lon­gong’s Wave FM who re­called Greig with af­fec­tion, de­cided to give her a shot. He as­signed her to the break­fast shift with co-host Travis Winks – a gam­ble that ap­pears to have paid off, with the most re­cent rat­ings show­ing the pair has made great gains for their times­lot.

“It has been fan­tas­tic,” she says, clearly grate­ful for the sec­ond chance. “There was a point where I didn’t think it was ever go­ing to hap­pen again, and when I got that job it was an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing. It’s been an amaz­ing 12 months.

“The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple kept say­ing, ‘No, you’re just the royal prank DJ’ and didn’t even think about what I had to of­fer, how I could con­nect with peo­ple, they didn’t take that into ac­count,” she says. “But [her new em­ploy­ers] didn’t care. They saw me for me and wanted to wel­come me into the com­mu­nity.”

And Greig has kept a res­o­lu­tion that she made dur­ing her dark­est time. She promised her­self that if she did get back on air she would use the plat­form to do what­ever good she could, as well as build her own fu­ture. She has been an ac­tive am­bas­sador for En­dometrio­sis Aus­tralia (March is en­dometrio­sis aware­ness month) and has writ­ten widely about a con­di­tion that not only causes se­vere pain, but still car­ries a stigma for many women.

She runs pub­lic health cam­paigns, such as her drive to get women to have their sched­uled mam­mo­grams and check for lumps, which she dubbed “Mel’s Booby Bus”, and she launched the well-re­ceived na­tional Troll Free Day, which runs each March, to fight cy­ber­bul­ly­ing.

“I made my­self a promise when I re­turned to air that it would be dif­fer­ent,” says Greig, who lives with her In­sta­gram-friendly “moo­dle”, pet dog Mia. “I’m still Mel but in­stead of all the boobs and bum jokes, I make sure to make enough time to make a real dif­fer­ence. Mel’s Booby Bus gath­ered a heap of women who had been putting off hav­ing a mam­mo­gram and took them to all get tested. I had a lady call up say­ing, ‘You telling all th­ese sto­ries made me get checked. You saved my life.’ She was di­ag­nosed with a very bad form of breast can­cer.”

Greig says that made her feel proud, and adds that af­ter hav­ing let her­self fully ex­pe­ri­ence the pain of the prank de­rail­ment, she now feels stronger and more fear­less.

“My life is where it needs to be. I learnt from that hor­ri­ble time, I am us­ing it to help other peo­ple,” says Greig. “Bad things are go­ing to hap­pen but you don’t need to let them de­fine you.”

“I learnt from that time; I am us­ing it to help other peo­ple”

MEL WEARS Max Mara coat, max­mara.com; Witch­ery shoes, witch­ery.com.au; stylist’s own belt

FAC­ING THE MU­SIC Ra­dio co-hosts Mel Greig and Michael Chris­tian dur­ing the af­ter­math of their 2012 royal prank.

MEL WEARS Max Mara coat, max­mara.com; Karen Millen dress, karen­millen.com.au

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.