SAM’S FIGHTING BACK Sunrise star Samantha Armytage talks candidly about life, love and her critics.
The ‘Sunrise’ star is setting the record straight about being ‘ high-maintenance,’ her love life and why she won’t be body-shamed into dieting
Presenting Sunrise is one of TV’S toughest gigs. Besides the obvious downsides—the early starts, the competitive nature of morning television, the need to know something about pretty much everything—breakfast-tv stars come under intense scrutiny from the media and public alike.
Samantha Armytage, 41, knows that better than most. In her five years co-hosting Channel Seven’s flagship breakfast show, she has become one of Australia’s most talked about people. From what she says on-air to what she looks like in her time off, seemingly no topic is off-limits.
While Armytage is first to acknowledge that being in the public eye comes at a price, she’s not about to put up with it, especially when what is written about her isn’t always true. “I have had years of false reports around me,” she tells WHO. “And I am fed up with them. Now I take them on.”
In our candid interview, Armytage discusses the stories that frustrate her, how she deals with life in the spotlight, her attitude to dieting and exercise, and the status of her love life.
How hard is it to cope with false items in the media? One that continues to rear its head is that you and your Sunrise colleague Edwina Bartholomew don’t get along ...
When you are in the spotlight, people are going to make things up about you. It does surprise me in this era, where women are getting it together and supporting each other, that still, gossip writers want to pit women against each other. They don’t do it to men. I know men in this industry who have appalling falling-outs with other men over professional jealousies. Yet they continually make stuff up about the women. Most of us women get along really well.
Where do you think all that negativity comes from?
I don’t understand the negativity. I understand modern media and there is a huge cycle to fill. And I understand there are gossip writers who have to make things up to fill their pages. It’s a privilege to be in the media and I think people who write content should take that a bit more seriously. You can’t just make stuff up. And I’m not going to put up with it anymore.
What about when it’s the public themselves being vicious? How do you contend with internet trolls and the like?
How I get through it is I turn my social media off and I ignore it. I talk to a lot of young girls at schools about
empowerment and my No. 1 thing to them is don’t listen to social media, shut it down, block the idiots, so I had to take a note out of my own book on that one. But it’s good anyway for your mental health to take a break, otherwise it can get you down.
Do you feel more able to take things like this in your stride now you’re in your 40s?
Oh my God, yeah. I am so much braver now than I used to be. I was raised by country parents who used to say, “You have got to rise above it if somebody is being awful.” So I did rise above a lot of things. And then I got to an age and stage where I thought, “Hang on. You have got to fight for yourself!” And I have. I have never had to act like a man to do that. And I really pride myself on retaining my authenticity and keeping my femininity in a world that has been very masculine and aggressive.
Have you ever questioned your decision to be so visible and so public?
Occasionally, I will think: “Is it worth it?” I look around the media and think, “Who else gets the attention I get and is basically just a journo?” It is a bit unusual. I have questioned the job and my career choice. I never set out to do this job. It all kind of happened, and it’s been a great ride. It’s an incredible job. I am not going anywhere right now, but I don’t want to do it forever. The hours are a grind and the attention is still, some days, difficult.
Do you think part of the intrigue is because people can see themselves in you?
I am not sure what the intrigue is. My girlfriends from school who have known me since I was 13 say, “Sam, we can’t work it out. You’re not that interesting.” And I am like, “I know! I’m not!” Maybe it’s because I am an average girl. What you see is what you get. Maybe that connects with people.
You look fantastic in our photo shoot. Are you in the best shape of your life?
I have probably been in better shape, to be honest. Like a lot of other women, my weight goes up and down depending on my tiredness level. In April, we spent two weeks in a hotel on the Gold Coast doing the Commonwealth Games. Anyone who travels for work will tell you living out of a hotel is not conducive to weight loss. There are times where I think, “I could just sleep for a month and eat salads,” and it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea at the moment. But I know how to hide it.
Are you trying to lose weight?
No, I am not trying to lose weight at all.
Are you an 80/20 kind of person?
I come and go. I try to be good during the week. It’s a lot simpler—i go to bed early, exercise most days and eat well most of the time. I have to—i just feel better if I do. [On the weekend] I eat well, I love a glass of wine, I still have fun.
You don’t find you eat more because you are up so early?
I am actually quite disciplined as far as that goes. I have bad days, too. I am pretty routine as far as what time we do breakfast here. For my dog, Banjo, 3.30 in the morning is like a party. He lies on the floor of the bathroom while I have a shower, then he has his breakfast—he’s on my schedule, ’cause you have to be in my house. Then, I have an early lunch and early dinner. I don’t drink during the week. I have discovered Upcycle, which is like Spin.
At a gym?
No, I hate gyms. It’s at a cycle studio and it has a really good energy. I do a couple of those a week because I feel like I need to do a bit of cardio. I like to spend time outside because we spend a lot of time in the studio, so my afternoons are spent outside walking the dog or catching up with friends, but no gym— I can’t stand the gym.
Banjo must be great for getting you out and about ...
He’s great fun and keeps me motivated for getting out. Don’t tell the paparazzi, but I’ve managed to find a whole lot of places in the Eastern Suburbs where they haven’t found me so I can swim in peace with Banjo!
Do you ever consider having a child or starting a family?
No, it’s not something I think about.
What about romance—are you seeing anyone?
If I was, you would be the first to know. I really don’t talk about that stuff, but I am fine and life is good. There are good things happening … I don’t talk about anyone before I’m 100 per cent sure, because you have got to keep some things private. I give a lot of myself for four hours a day, so there has to be some stuff you keep private.
“I really pride myself on retaining my authenticity and keeping my femininity”
“I never would have thought in a million years that this is where I’d be,” Armytage says of her job on Sunrise. “This is the ultimate job for a woman in TV right now.”
“Eddy and I get on very well—we always have,” Armytage says of Edwina Bartholomew. “I have supported her a lot, as has she to me.” In her downtime, Armytage exercises her Labrador: “Banjo has become the best little poser. He is now used to being followed down the road and photographed while trying to do a poo.” “I used to hate doing photo shoots because I was so bad at it,” Armytage admits. “I’m still not great at it, but I sort of relax into shoots now, because it’s just dress-ups.”