MOTHER NA­TURE

DUR­ING AN EX­CLU­SIVE SHOOT IN NEW ZEALAND, MODEL ME­GAN GALE TALKS ABOUT BE­ING MIS­UN­DER­STOOD BY THE PUBLIC, THE FILM CA­REER THAT COULD HAVE BEEN AND HER REAL FEEL­INGS ON GROW­ING OLDER

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy DAVID MANDELBERG Styling GEMMA KEIL Cre­ative Di­rec­tion ALEK­SAN­DRA BEARE Words JOR­DAN BAKER

Me­gan Gale speaks to Stel­lar about baby num­ber two, her par­ent­ing chal­lenges and those diva ru­mours, on an ex­clu­sive shoot in New Zealand. fea­tures

Ba­bies are egal­i­tar­i­ans. They don’t care if mum is a house­hold name, or if dad is a fa­mous sports­man; they cry and feed with­out fear or favour. Just ask Me­gan Gale, who found her­self as raggedly tired, stressed and lonely as any new mother af­ter she gave birth to her son River.

It was footy sea­son, so her part­ner, AFL star Shaun Hamp­son, had one day off for River’s birth. Her mother was in Perth look­ing af­ter Gale’s late fa­ther, who had can­cer. Hamp­son’s own dad had died a month be­fore River ar­rived, and his mum was still griev­ing. Gale tried to sol­dier on alone. “I got so sleep de­prived I was a bit bonkers, and was not happy,” she re­calls. “I was thank­ful and lov­ing the fact that I was a mum, but I wasn’t my­self. I won­der now whether I had a touch of PND [post­na­tal de­pres­sion].

“I started well on my first month of breast­feed­ing, then my flow was all over the shop. I couldn’t get him back on the boob. I was be­rat­ing my­self and cry­ing when I had to give for­mula. I’d pump, I’d feed, I’d set­tle him, he’d sleep. And when he slept I would pump. It was hor­ri­ble.”

That Gale sat sob­bing over a breast pump isn’t un­usual – most mums can re­late. What sur­prises is her will­ing­ness to talk about it. Celebri­ties rarely share their strug­gles in this In­sta­gram-per­fect era, yet Gale speaks can­didly about much that oth­ers won’t: her health, par­ent­ing chal­lenges and ca­reer dis­ap­point­ments. She doesn’t drip with la­bels. She eats carbs. She has a broad ac­cent and a hearty laugh. Gale has long been known for her beauty, but her most at­trac­tive fea­ture might just be her hon­esty.

GALE SITS IN­SIDE a lux­ury pri­vate prop­erty near Kerik­eri on New Zealand’s North Is­land, watch­ing rain de­scend on the sweep­ing cliffs out­side. She is in a robe, wait­ing for a break so she can run out­side for Stel­lar’s shoot. She looks down at her swollen belly – she is nearly six months preg­nant – and de­clares to the crew, “Let’s just do it. Come on, bub!”

Upon reach­ing the rolling hills of Rangi­houa Her­itage Park, over­look­ing the bay below where her Maori an­ces­tors may once have fished, Gale flicks the switch: she charms the cam­era, obliv­i­ous to the el­e­ments. Once the first shot is nailed, a stylist swoops in to pull a sec­ond out­fit over the first. Again, Gale turns it on and trans­forms. It’s like there is noth­ing she’d rather do, nowhere else she’d rather be.

The shoot done, we re­tire to her ho­tel room. Gale has been a good sport since the start of the day – she had preg­nancy re­flux at mid­night, make-up at dawn, a shoot in windswept sur­round­ings and now an in­ter­view, nearly 12 hours later. She doesn’t seem like the same woman who was ru­moured to be a diva.

Around 2011, there were whis­pers of tem­per tantrums and even re­ports she re­fused to meet oth­ers’ eyes on jobs. Were they un­founded – or has she changed? Gale sighs and shakes her head. “[Those stories] blind­sided me. I don’t know how or why it started. The only thing I could pin­point it on was per­haps when I started see­ing Shaun, [it] wasn’t long af­ter I broke up with [co­me­dian] Andy Lee. I’d just started do­ing Project Run­way Aus­tralia. I had a lot of me­dia to do.

“They wanted me to push the show, but all any­one wanted to talk about was Andy and Shaun. I had to do my job and be pro­fes­sional. I wanted to pro­tect my new part­ner. I still had a lot of re­spect for Andy – I wanted to pro­tect him. I was in a po­si­tion where I had to shut it down. As a re­sult there was prob­a­bly a per­cep­tion I was putting a wall up, but it was the best I could do at the time.”

The public was fond of Gale and Lee as a cou­ple. Was she be­ing pun­ished? “It’s hard to say,” Gale replies. “Maybe. It’s lovely that peo­ple buy into the idea of those pos­i­tive as­pects of your life, but at the end of the day, it shouldn’t mat­ter.”

The ru­mours were dam­ag­ing. Gale de­scribes how the public cooled. “Just how peo­ple en­gaged with me was dif­fer­ent – more aloof, pulled back. Peo­ple in­ter­viewed me dif­fer­ently – I felt like I was be­ing pro­voked at times.

“I prided my­self on treat­ing a crew as one team: ‘I’m not spe­cial here…’ [I was] so far the op­po­site to [the re­ports], that was what re­ally hurt – ‘I am not that girl,

now I am be­ing painted as that girl.’ It was my worst night­mare.”

Gale has long since moved on from that dif­fi­cult year. She’s still on good terms with Lee – “We have great re­spect for each other, he’s an amaz­ing guy” – and has now been with Rich­mond Tigers ruck­man Hamp­son for six years.

There was fuss about their 13-year age dif­fer­ence when they got to­gether, but Gale, 41, says “that all shifted when I be­came preg­nant. It was less ‘a fling with a younger guy’ and more ‘they are a fam­ily’.” She says the only time she no­tices an age gap is when her gadgets die. “He’s more tech-savvy than me!”

Asked about the prospect of mar­riage, Gale tells Stel­lar they have no firm plans in place. “It’s a re­ally lovely thing to do to cel­e­brate your love and your re­la­tion­ship, but at the end of the day – not that I’m an anti-ro­man­tic; I love wed­dings – but to me, cre­at­ing hu­man lives to­gether, that’s for life. You’ve bonded in the most in­cred­i­ble way, so to start a fam­ily is more of a com­mit­ment than walk­ing down the aisle.

“If we do cel­e­brate our love in that way and for­malise it and le­galise it, it will be great, but I feel the com­mit­ment we have al­ready taken far ex­ceeds that.”

Ca­reer-wise, the cou­ple are a good fit. Mod­el­ling is not un­like sport: one minute you’re up, the next you’re down, and a long ca­reer re­quires re­silience. So Gale can em­pathise with Hamp­son’s match-win­ning highs and painful lows. “When they are los­ing [or] injured, es­pe­cially when you see it hap­pen, you see them dis­ap­pear into the rooms and you don’t know what’s go­ing on,” she says.

Adds Hamp­son: “Count­less times post-in­jury she has nursed me when I’ve been un­able to care for my­self and has been there as a psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port as well.”

Hamp­son is a hands-on dad, and no mat­ter how tir­ing his day, al­ways has en­ergy to rum­ble with his boy. He looks af­ter River on his day off, and to­gether the cou­ple man­age so they rarely need a babysit­ter. They are deep in the parental trenches, and Gale is now en­coun­ter­ing some of its pol­i­tics.

Take play­grounds. Hamp­son and Gale are not smack­ers, but will send River to time­out when needed. “From early on, we dis­ci­plined him; we are big on good man­ners.” Other par­ents aren’t as keen on au­thor­ity, and Gale is dis­cov­er­ing the dilem­mas that can cause. Re­cently, a kid threw a hand­ful of sand in River’s face. The child’s par­ent had no re­sponse. “If River had done that, I would have given him an ab­so­lute ear­ful,” she says. “I have seen a kid get him in a head­lock, pinch him and wallop him, and there’s no dis­ci­plin­ing go­ing on! I’m at the point where I want to al­most tell off some­one else’s child, but I feel that is over­step­ping the mark.”

The gap be­tween her kids’ ages will be big­ger than planned. Last year Gale fell preg­nant again; in June, while film­ing Aus­tralia’s Next Top Model, she mis­car­ried at nine weeks. She de­cided not to try again im­me­di­ately, owing to “the worst health pe­riod I’ve had”. When she felt bet­ter in Jan­uary, Gale be­came preg­nant straight away. The first few months were dif­fi­cult be­cause of their loss, but now the bump is grow­ing and kick­ing nicely. The cou­ple know the sex, but in­tend to keep that a se­cret.

Gale is not freak­ing out about hav­ing a sec­ond child. “Peo­ple have three, four, eight – hu­mans are adapt­able, we get by.” Things will be eas­ier this time. It will be the off-sea­son, so Hamp­son will be around more. “Me­gan’s an amaz­ing mum and took to it so nat­u­rally,” he tells Stel­lar.

“I was lov­ing be­ing a mum, but I wasn’t my­self. I won­der now whether I had post­na­tal de­pres­sion”

“She’s so car­ing and pro­tec­tive and River’s face lights up when she enters the room.”

This time around, Gale is chang­ing her ap­proach. “I should have asked [for help] more [with River],” she says. “We don’t – we think we have to do it all; there’s a level of guilt from hand­ing it over. This time I’m much more pre­pared.”

Gale be­gins six months of ma­ter­nity leave in Au­gust. Un­til then, she will stay busy with roles in­clud­ing Tourism New Zealand’s of­fi­cial am­bas­sador in Aus­tralia. The ap­point­ment is a nat­u­ral fit as Gale has a per­sonal con­nec­tion to the coun­try – her mother, May, is part-maori, and be­queathed Gale the dark colour­ing many in­cor­rectly as­sume is Ital­ian. “I am a be­liever in not just do­ing things for the pay cheque,” Gale says. “This wasn’t one of those thingsg where you are clutch­ing at straws – my mum is from here, I havee an amaz­ing her­itage, and it’s a beau­ti­ful­ful coun­try.”

May is from the Ngāti Kahu Iwi tribe. She grew up in Kaitaia,aia, close to the Bay of Is­lands, whereere her daugh­ter is shoot­ing for Stel­lar. This sec­tion of the North­land land coast­line is an his­tor­i­cally y sig­nif­i­cant re­gion, and a spec­tac­u­lar one; it was the he first place in New Zealand d set­tled by Euro­peans. It’s also close to Wai­tangi, theh site of the first treaty be­tween ween Maori chiefs and the Bri­tish.ish.

Gale hasn’t been to her rmother’s mother’s birth­place; for years, nei­ther her has May, who set­tled in Perth h and mar­ried Gale’s fa­ther decade­sades ago. Gale sug­gested a fam­ily visit isit to the re­gion dur­ing a last-min­u­teute hol­i­day to New Zealand with Hamp­son­mp­son and River last year, but May de­murred,emurred, so the fam­ily of three went ntwith­out with­out her. “She said it’s some­what a pil­grim­age for her – it’s sig­nif­i­cant to go back, es­pe­cially as a fam­ily,” Gale says. “With the Maoris as well, there’s a bit of a rite of pas­sage, check­ing in with peo­ple in the area. She wanted to do it the ap­pro­pri­ate way, which I re­spected. I’d like to try to hold off [vis­it­ing her vil­lage] un­til I can go with her.”

Gale has long since com­menced the tran­si­tion from model to busi­ness­woman. Her ca­reer is di­verse – am­bas­sador­ships, a judge on Aus­tralia’s Next Top Model and a busi­ness ven­ture that re­mains se­cret for now. Un­like many whose face is their for­tune, Gale doesn’t seem wor­ried about get­ting older. “One would prob­a­bly make the as­sump­tion that [be­ing a model] my big­gest fear would be los­ing my looks… it’s not,” she says. “What scares me more than any­thing is los­ing my health, los­ing my mind, los­ing my body’s abil­ity. Hav­ing seen my dad and Shaun’s dad go through dis­ease… that stuff scares me.”

She is keen to do more act­ing, and ad­mits the suc­cess of Won­der Woman is bit­ter­sweet, since it was the role she was set to play in di­rec­tor Ge­orge Miller’s planned Jus­tice League fran­chise a decade ago, be­fore it was shelved. “I’d be ly­ing if I said it wasn’t,” she says. “She’s such a great role model for women, I am happy it’s do­ing well. But I’ll al­ways won­der what our ver­sion would have been like.” IN MAY, RIVER turned three. Al­ready, Gale and Hamp­son are be­ing asked if he’ll be a model or a foot­baller. The an­swer is no and no – un­less it’s some­thing he wants. “[River] could be the best foot­baller on the planet in 20 years but that will be his choosing,” she says. “Shaun has seen how hard it is. Shaun’s body is bro­ken. He’s 29. He’s go­ing to be rid­dled with arthri­tis. We don’t want that for our son, nec­es­sar­ily.

“Same for mod­el­ling. I loved my ca­reer, I’m thank­ful for it. It has been amaz­ing. But it has been hard, and I’ve had some hor­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ences. At least I am armed with that knowl­edge, and can guide them in that world.”

Beauty is nice, says Gale, but it’s no sub­sti­tute for char­ac­ter. “It’s nice [River] is a pleas­ant-look­ing child. I don’t want him to think that’s some­thing… I try to dis­cour­age that kind of talk. You are lucky you are ap­peal­ing to look at. But it’s not the be-all and end-all.”

ME­GAN WEARS Max Mara coat, world. max­mara.com; In­tropia knit, (02) 9328 9755; Kitx skirt, kitx.com.au; Chris­tian Louboutin shoes, (02) 8355 5282

ME­GAN WEARS By Ma­lene Birger coat, (02) 9328 9755; Paris Ge­or­gia Ba­sics dress, my­chameleon.com.au

Left: Me­gan Gale and her part­ner Shaun e Hamp­son. Below: with son River.

HAIR Sara All­sop MAKE-UP Leisa Welch

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