I WON’T APOL­O­GISE”

EVEN FOR A FRAN­CHISE THAT TRADES ON SHOCK VALUE AND MELO­DRAMA, LISA OLD­FIELD, THE BREAK­OUT STAR OF THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF SYD­NEY, AD­MITS SHE MIGHT HAVE GONE TOO FAR

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy DAMIAN BEN­NETT Cre­ative Di­rec­tion ALEK­SAN­DRA BEARE Words NI­CHOLAS FONSECA

She’s the out­ra­geous star of The Real Housewives Of Syd­ney. And, as Lisa Old­field tells Stel­lar, she’s not about to stop be­ing her­self – on­screen or off.

Wher­ever she goes, Lisa Old­field leaves a trail of chaos, con­fu­sion and – if she’s not care­ful – a spill or two of sau­vi­gnon blanc in her wake. So when The Real Housewives Of Syd­ney put out a cast­ing call last year for its in­au­gu­ral sea­son, it was these very at­tributes that made her the per­fect can­di­date. By the time the show fin­ished air­ing this month, they had also turned her into a cau­tion­ary tale.

There is noth­ing, Old­field ad­mits to Stel­lar, that she will not share with the world. “Ask me and I’ll tell you straight. Why deny things? I am who I am.” A busi­ness­woman and one-time TV pre­sen­ter, Old­field, 42, was long known mostly for her mar­riage to One Na­tion co-founder David Old­field, 58, whom she wed in Oc­to­ber 2001. For years, most Aus­tralians recog­nised her – if they recog­nised her at all – as lit­tle more than a pro­fes­sional plus-one.

Things have changed. Dra­mat­i­cally. When RHOS bar­relled onto the na­tion’s TV screens in Fe­bru­ary, Old­field proved an im­me­di­ate stand­out – for all kinds of rea­sons. View­ers loved her. View­ers hated her. There was no in-be­tween. “I knew I would be po­lar­is­ing,” Old­field says, “be­cause my mouth has al­ways got­ten me into trou­ble.”

Within the se­ries’ first few weeks, Old­field had lashed out at co-star Krissy Marsh, call­ing her “a slut”, com­plain­ing about “smelly” parts of her anatomy and liken­ing her to Star Wars’ Chew­bacca. She told her youngest son Bert, four, that he was “act­ing like a dick­head”. And in a par­tic­u­larly trou­bling scene, she ad­mit­ted her mar­riage to Old­field was in a sham­bles, pro­nounc­ing: “I just hate the mon­grel that I’m liv­ing with.”

Old­field’s on­screen be­hav­iour is of­ten un­savoury, to say noth­ing of her pres­ence on so­cial me­dia (more on that in a mo­ment). But on a pleas­ant af­ter­noon at a pizze­ria near her home in Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches, Old­field ex­udes a dif­fer­ent vibe. Over cae­sar salad and a few glasses of wine (none of them tossed, Housewives- style, in this in­ter­viewer’s face), she is friendly and re­laxed. When a group of school­child­ren stop to peer in the win­dow, she beams and waves back. “I’m huge with the 14- to 17-year-olds,” she says. “They’re so cute. [But] they shouldn’t be watch­ing, [the show] is so rude.”

As she re­flects on her dicey pub­lic per­sona, re­veals the cur­rent (for now) state of her topsy-turvy mar­riage and tries to ex­plain why her an­tics make such com­pelling view­ing, the rea­son for her break­out suc­cess grows clearer. Re­al­ity TV ex­ploded right around the time the Old­fields be­came new­ly­weds – and much like their union, it has changed in dra­matic, not al­ways pos­i­tive ways. No won­der Lisa Old­field has be­come its mas­cot of the mo­ment.

TRY­ING TO SOLVE a prob­lem like Lisa Old­field is next to im­pos­si­ble – just ask her hus­band. “Lisa is an enor­mously in­tel­li­gent per­son,” David tells Stel­lar, “and she re­ally has a very sparkling per­son­al­ity. She is out there, she is edgy. But a lot of her ap­proach to The Real Housewives Of Syd­ney did not, I think, project those nat­u­ral tal­ents. She could have main­tained a bit more con­trol.”

But “con­trol” is not a word that seems to be part of Old­field’s vo­cab­u­lary, which is extensive in a way that but­tresses her claim she falls asleep with a Kin­dle on her dé­col­letage most nights. She grew up near Syd­ney’s Palm Beach, an out­cast at school and at home. “I was al­ways the odd one out,” Old­field says. “I never wanted to hang out with the cool girls.” She points to the mag­a­zines she has brought with her. “I’m a nerd who reads All About His­tory rather than Vogue. I’m ob­sessed with the Tu­dors, I don’t care about fash­ion. And I don’t apol­o­gise for be­ing any­thing other than that per­son.”

In her youth, Old­field used her wit like a cud­gel as she tried to wres­tle her par­ents’ af­fec­tion away from her lit­tle brother, who was of­ten sick. It rarely worked. “I was never their favourite,” she ex­plains. “Moth­ers and sons have a spe­cial bond. And my dad wasn’t that in­ter­ested in me be­cause I was a girl. So I said things to shock peo­ple, to make them laugh, to re­mind them I was still there. My rea­sons weren’t ne­far­i­ous… I just wanted some at­ten­tion.”

When she was 29, Old­field – whose fa­ther of­ten ac­cused her of be­ing fool­ish – proved him wrong: she sold her par­ents’ soft­ware com­pany for $60 mil­lion and sent her ca­reer in merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions into over­drive. In an­swer­ing the ques­tion as to what ex­actly she does to earn a liv­ing, Old­field ad­mits her CV is un­der slight con­struc­tion and that her Linkedin pro­file “doesn’t make any sense”.

Al­though she still con­sults for the tech in­dus­try, she spends the bulk of her work­ing hours as general man­ager for busi­ness de­vel­op­ment at the Aus­tralian Egg Bank. En­cour­ag­ing other women to freeze or do­nate their eggs is per­sonal for Old­field, a mother to two boys (older son Harry is six). A few years ago, she do­nated eggs to her best friend, who now has a son who’s nearly two.

Aside from her nat­u­rally acidic sense of hu­mour and a self-di­ag­nosed case of life­long “ver­bal di­ar­rhoea”, Old­field blames “the con­struct of the show” for the re­al­ity-tv fall­out she’s ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. “You have to see these peo­ple you find in­tol­er­a­ble or ob­nox­ious, three or four times a week,” she says. “So the Lisa you saw on the show was pro­voked and put into an un­nat­u­ral sit­u­a­tion.”

Old­field’s at­ti­tude to­wards the truth ended up land­ing her in trou­ble with her co-stars, the view­ers, the press and her hus­band – all in equal mea­sure. Her fond­ness for a drink has caused just as much strife. “It’s too close,” is how David sums up her re­la­tion­ship with

al­co­hol. “It’s the source of the ma­jor­ity of our is­sues.” Lisa ad­mits as much: “I love a drink. Un­for­tu­nately I can’t re­ally han­dle it. I can go with­out. But once I start, it’s very hard to stop.”

Ex­hibit A: her no­to­ri­ous In­sta­gram ac­count, where cheek­i­ness some­times cur­dles to­wards churl­ish­ness. Old­field seems al­most con­sti­tu­tion­ally in­ca­pable of not tak­ing the bait, re­ply­ing to rude com­menters with tart re­torts and per­sonal slams. On May 10, she seemed to in­sin­u­ate a di­vorce from David, only to re­cant the next day. “I don’t of­ten have a lot of com­mon sense,” Old­field ad­mits. “And with a bit of bravado and Bollinger un­der my belt, I make mis­takes.”

The Old­fields un­der­went mar­riage coun­selling on-air, and Lisa says it “very much [re­mains] on the agenda”. David sug­gests oth­er­wise. “It’s spas­modic, and I don’t think it’s help­ful,” he tells Stel­lar. “Be­cause the source of the ma­jor­ity of our is­sues is her lifestyle – she smokes, she drinks, she isn’t healthy.” None­the­less, each of them say they re­main com­mit­ted to try­ing to make the mar­riage work, cit­ing their young sons as a key rea­son.

So why doesn’t Lisa just turn off the phone when things get heated? “I know, I should,” she con­cedes. “I stupidly look at In­sta­gram like a di­ary, and my fans are ter­rific, so I get ex­cited and I want to give them a peek be­hind the vel­vet rope. But maybe I’ve gone too far.”

YET GO­ING TOO far is ex­actly what re­al­ity TV now re­quires. Whereas once the genre ped­dled sto­ries of as­pi­ra­tion and suc­cess, to­day it rev­els in the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of friend­ships, fights be­tween part­ners and din­ner par­ties gone hor­ri­bly, hi­lar­i­ously wrong. “Years ago, you were re­mem­bered for be­ing some­one fan­tas­tic or warm or hon­est,” says Kath Rose, who owns a Bris­banebased PR and mar­ket­ing agency. “Now it has to be more. You use a word, you start an ar­gu­ment, you be­come a so­cial-me­dia event. It’s car-crash TV. And they cast The Real Housewives Of Syd­ney per­fectly – we all en­joyed watch­ing the Jaws of Life be­ing brought in.”

Gam­ble Breaux, a child­hood friend of Old­field’s who joined The Real Housewives Of Mel­bourne in 2015, agrees. “They cast you be­cause you’re badly wired,” she tells Stel­lar. “They want Step­ford Wives – but not the ones who be­have per­fectly. They want the ones whose cir­cuits have started to break.”

Even so, Old­field says, pro­duc­ers stepped in dur­ing the ini­tial episodes of RHOS to drum up the hys­ter­ics. “We were sat down like er­rant school­girls: ‘You’re not bring­ing it, there’s not enough drama,’” she re­veals. “Peo­ple watch these shows ex­pect­ing a train wreck. So we had to fig­ure out how to give Aus­tralia the show that they wanted to see. But you get to a point where you don’t even know what’s real and what’s not any­more.”

The in­stant rat­ings suc­cess of the Mel­bourne se­ries, which de­buted in 2014 and has since earned a run in the US, only amped up ex­pec­ta­tions for its north­ern coun­ter­part. “The pres­sure was on,” Old­field says. “[Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer] Kylie Wash­ing­ton said it: ‘We want Syd­ney to be a punch in the face.’ Well, they cer­tainly got that.”

Breaux in­sists the RHOM cast is un­der no sim­i­lar in­struc­tions to turn the dial to 11 for their up­com­ing fourth sea­son in the wake of Syd­ney’s head­line­mak­ing bow. “If any­thing, it’s the op­po­site,” she de­murs. “Those women are ruth­less. We’re not. We don’t throw drinks in each other’s faces.” Al­though, she al­lows af­ter a pause, “I also haven’t filmed with our new cast mem­bers yet.”

If the fran­chise opts to ex­pand even fur­ther in Aus­tralia, Bris­bane would seem the log­i­cal next lo­ca­tion. “Un­like Syd­ney and Mel­bourne, Bris­bane doesn’t be­lieve its own hype,” Rose tells Stel­lar. “There wouldn’t be as much make-up. Fewer cat fights. A lot of sauv blanc, a few rum and Cokes. And you’d prob­a­bly see some­one wear­ing dou­ble plug­gers.”

Given she’s a well-known iden­tity on the so­cial scene, would Rose put her hand up for a role on The Real Housewives Of Bris­bane? “Not in a mil­lion years,” she vows.

Old­field, mean­while, has “in­di­cated that I would” do a sec­ond sea­son – which is al­most cer­tainly on the cards. She claims on­screen bête noire Marsh is out – “she was so dif­fi­cult to work with and so un­pro­fes­sional” – and ques­tions whether Melissa Tkautz will be asked back.

Ar­guably the only house­hold name ahead of the show’s pre­miere, Tkautz spent much of the sea­son shrink­ing away from the the­atrics and earned very lit­tle screen time. “Mel?” Old­field asks. “I call her Meh. Does she have a pulse? Why did she want to be on a re­al­ity-tv show? We’re hired to ex­ag­ger­ate, to em­bel­lish. That’s our job.”

Still, she says her emo­tional out­bursts and more po­lar­is­ing ac­tions were spur of the mo­ment. “I never went in [to the show] with a plan; noth­ing was thought out in ad­vance to get at­ten­tion,” Old­field says. “The con­se­quence is that I get pil­lo­ried. I’m a pariah. Yet on the other hand, [peo­ple say] ‘She’s brave! She’s hon­est!’”

Old­field takes a mo­ment to con­sider such char­i­ta­ble as­sess­ments of her be­hav­iour. “No,” she con­cludes with a Cheshire Cat grin. “I’m prob­a­bly just a bit pissed.”

“We had to give Aus­tralia the show they wanted… You get to a point where you don’t know what’s real”

LISA WEARS Rachel Gil­bert dress, rachel­gilbert.com; Cer­rone ear­rings and bracelets (all worn through­out), cer­rone. com.au; Bul­gari bracelet (worn on left wrist, worn through­out), bul­gari.com; her own wed­ding ring “I don’t have a lot of com­mon sense. And with a bit of Bollinger un­der my belt, I make mis­takes”

LISA WEARS Carla Zam­patti dress, car­lazam­patti.com.au

HAIR Kim­ber­ley Forbes MAKE-UP Ja­clyn Hnitko

SHOT ON LO­CA­TION At Mar­ble Bar, Hil­ton Syd­ney, 488 Ge­orge St, mar­ble­barsyd­ney.com.au

RE­AL­ITY BITES (clock­wise her fel­low Housewives; with The Real Hous

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