Not happy Jan

As TV multi-tasker Jan Fran pre­pares to host her lat­est show, she’s not above (play­fully) fum­ing about the fact she’s still yet to be hon­oured with a Lo­gie

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

As TV pre­sen­ter Jan Fran pre­pares to host a new se­ries, she (face­tiously) fumes on why she’s yet to win a Lo­gie.

In 1989, as Jan Fran em­i­grated with her fam­ily from their home­land of Le­banon to Aus­tralia, the four-year-old could barely sit still. Ac­cord­ing to a long-re­counted story her mother likes to tell, the ex­cite­ment was down to a par­tic­u­lar be­lief the young­ster held: that her nat­u­rally dark hair would in­stantly turn blonde when their plane touched down.

“Hasn’t hap­pened yet!” Fran quips 30 years later, as she sits down to talk with Stel­lar. Blonde hair may not have even­tu­ated, but what fol­lowed was a quintessen­tially Aus­tralian ado­les­cence in the sub­urbs, al­beit one she did not re­alise was just that un­til very re­cently.

“I had this idea of what Aus­tralian child­hoods are; they’re by the beach, you have sleep­overs and you live that kind of Home And Away life. That was never my child­hood,” says Fran, 34. “When you’re a kid, you’re just grow­ing up like that and there’s a lot of other Le­banese fam­i­lies in and around that area as well. So you never felt – or you learnt later on in life – that you were a mi­nor­ity. I had to rec­on­cile my very Aus­tralian story with what I thought the Aus­tralian story was.”

If Fran’s child­hood was ac­tu­ally a typ­i­cal one, the life she’s forged since has been any­thing but. Given her self­pro­claimed “in­nate cu­rios­ity” about the world, her inquisitiv­e na­ture car­ried her to France for a year to study; in 2010 she worked in Bangladesh as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist for UNICEF and in 2012 she was in Uganda pro­duc­ing doc­u­men­taries as a video jour­nal­ist.

Back in Aus­tralia a year later, Fran be­gan work­ing as an SBS re­porter be­fore land­ing a role as writer and co-host of SBS Viceland’s news and com­edy show The Feed, along­side Marc Fen­nell. Be­ing

in front of the cam­era came nat­u­rally to Fran, who ini­tially wanted to be an ac­tor.

Asked why she gave up that dream, she just laughs. “Have you met my very Le­banese par­ents? There’s a lot to be said for ac­cess to the arts when you come from a mi­grant com­mu­nity, and when your par­ents ar­rive in Aus­tralia $5000 in debt, lit­er­ally no-one’s go­ing to say, ‘Hey, you should be­come an ac­tor! You like putting on stage

shows and ru­in­ing ev­ery sin­gle din­ner party we’ve ever had. Why don’t you try that pro­fes­sion­ally?’” She and Fen­nell also produce a pod­cast ti­tled The Few Who Do, which high­lights Aus­tralians an­gling to tackle so­ci­ety’s big is­sues. Fran says their steady work­ing re­la­tion­ship and easy chem­istry is thanks to their dif­fer­ing in­ter­ests.

“Our turfs don’t cross at all; he does celebrity, I do news anal­y­sis,” says Fran. “I rarely com­pli­ment the man, so please al­low me to say that he is one of the most hard­work­ing peo­ple I know. It does feel re­ally good to work with him. You feel like you’re in very good hands.” And Fen­nell is equally ef­fu­sive. “I’ve never had an eas­ier work­ing re­la­tion­ship than the one I have with Jan,” he tells Stel­lar. “She’s an in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous per­former, a world­class jour­nal­ist, stag­ger­ingly sharp and very, very funny.”

But with her lat­est host­ing gig, Fran – who has also ap­peared on panel shows in­clud­ing The Project, Q&A, In­sid­ers and Late­line – is fly­ing solo. Medicine Or Myth? is an eight-part SBS se­ries that fea­tures a panel of med­i­cal ex­perts – Dr Char­lie Teo, Dr Ginni Mans­berg and

As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Ashra­ful Haque – who lis­ten to tes­ti­monies from peo­ple about their al­ter­na­tive reme­dies. From ear­wax that cures cold sores to mag­got tea for acne, noth­ing is con­sid­ered too out­ra­geous.

In­clud­ing an­ti­dotes from Fran’s own mother. “She was re­ally big on pota­toes cur­ing di­ar­rhoea. Look, it worked, and you trust your mum be­cause she’s so cer­tain about it – goes into the kitchen, boils a potato, comes out like My Mother, MD,” says Fran. “Turmeric was an­other pop­u­lar one; gin­ger… maybe she’s onto some­thing, but also maybe do see a doc­tor.”

Fran mar­ried di­rec­tor Al Mor­row three years ago, but has no plans to take his sur­name, un­less “it was sex­ier than my last name. But his last name’s Mor­row, so no of­fence to any­one with that last name, but I’d al­ready bought the do­main names jan­ and jan­ It doesn’t have that same ring to it.”

Her birth name is, in fact, Jean­nette Fran­cis, and short­en­ing it to the TV-ready Jan Fran has been one of the few con­ces­sions she made along the way. Her younger self may have wanted blonde hair, but these days Fran is happy to stand out – and stand up for her heritage. “An­gela Bishop was on TV the other day talk­ing about how commercial net­works don’t take peo­ple with curly hair,” she says. “Do you want to put me in the Queens­land hu­mid­ity? You’re not go­ing to get straight hair. There is very much an ideal of what a pre­sen­ter, re­porter or jour­nal­ist is like in Aus­tralia.

“A lot of peo­ple think this dis­cus­sion about di­ver­sity in me­dia is like, ‘Where did this come from? Every­one’s just gone crazy about it.’ No. I’ve been hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions for 20 years, you just haven’t been lis­ten­ing or you haven’t been in­volved.”

And while she might not be pin­ing for a Lo­gie nom­i­na­tion, it would cer­tainly be a wel­come nod for even more in­clu­siv­ity. “Look, it’s ob­vi­ously a dis­grace that I haven’t been nom­i­nated for the Gold Lo­gie,” she says face­tiously. “It’s tes­ta­ment to how many tal­ented peo­ple there are – this is the diplo­matic an­swer. It’s all about who votes for you, right? The peo­ple who do get nom­i­nated, I think, are de­served. Hav­ing said that, I think TV’s chang­ing a lit­tle bit, the way peo­ple con­sume tele­vi­sion is chang­ing. Lee Lin [Chin] was very pop­u­lar on­line, and there was this on­line cam­paign to get her to win the Lo­gie.”

She grins. “Maybe if I stay at SBS for 25 years, I too can win a Lo­gie and just wear out­ra­geous out­fits. I’m on track.”

Medicine Or Myth? pre­mieres 8.30pm, Mon­day May 20, on SBS and The Feed airs 8.30pm Thurs­days on SBS Viceland.

“There is an ideal of what a TV pre­sen­ter is like in Aus­tralia”


(from top) Jan Fran on her new se­ries Medicine Or Myth? with rem­edy con­trib­u­tor Achuei; in 2017 with her The Feed co-host Marc Fen­nell; at her 2016 wed­ding to Al Mor­row in Tas­ma­nia.

JAN WEARS (be­low) Valentino vin­tage dress, carami­av­in­; (op­po­site) The Vin­tage Cloth­ing Shop skirt, (02) 9238 0090; Wind­sor Smith shoes, wind­sor­smith.; her own blazer

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