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
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 janfran.net and janfran.com.au. 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, caramiavintage.com; (opposite) The Vintage Clothing Shop skirt, (02) 9238 0090; Windsor Smith shoes, windsorsmith. com.au; her own blazer