Roxy ’n roll
She’s the ﬁery publicist who, thanks to a mix of shameless self-promotion and a serious work ethic, has long been a regular ﬁxture on the social pages. And now Roxy Jacenko’s Instagrammable life is about to play out on national television
She’s the brash publicist who grabs headlines with her unapologetic self-promotion and colourful personal life. Now Roxy Jacenko is ready to share even more.
Roxy Jacenko zooms into the meeting room apologising. Apologising for being late. Apologising for her “horrendous” bruised lips from a recent injection, which wouldn’t have been noticed if she hadn’t mentioned them in the ﬁrst place.
But she shakes hands with the ﬁrm grip of someone who won’t be dominated. And it then becomes clear that Roxy Jacenko is not someone who normally apologises. “What I’ve learnt, because I started so young, is not everyone’s going to like you,” she tells Stellar. “You’ll be loathed [or] you’ll be liked, and you don’t worry.”
That’s if people know who you are. And plenty of people know about Roxy Jacenko, the Sydney-based publicist whose proﬁle is often larger than the brands she represents. She’s a paparazzi-loving, brassy mum of two who – based on regular appearances in the social pages and court listings – follows in the grand tradition of the slick Sydney operator. She is successful, shameless, omnipresent and ostentatious.
The 1990s had cigar-chomping Rene Rivkin; today that force of nature is Jacenko. And millennials love her, a generation of young women aspiring to mimic her professional success and lead her Instagrammable life of private jets, luxury brands, lavish parties and torrid controversies.
Their love, and perhaps the loathing from others, will only balloon with the new Network 10 observational documentary series I Am… Roxy. The show will invite comparisons to global hit Keeping Up With The Kardashians, even if it more likely recalls Being Lara Bingle, another of the network’s reality series about a notorious Australian “It girl”.
Onscreen, at least, a little more happens in Jacenko’s life than the now Mrs Worthington. In 2016 alone, her husband Oliver Curtis was sentenced to two years in jail for insider trading, being released on good behaviour after just one year; Jacenko was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks after his sentencing, and her image was strewn across newspaper pages when she was snapped dallying with her former boyfriend, property developer Nabil Gazal, while Curtis was behind bars.
Given her erratic public life – which has included obtaining the occasional apprehended violence order – allowing a TV production to present an unﬁltered view seems counterintuitive. “Why did I do it?” she asks when posed the theory. “Why not?”
Another answer might be because she can. Jacenko concedes she was a “shit student” and began her own business at 24 with no PR experience, other than some mentoring from Marcs fashion label founder Mark Keighery. “What that taught me was whatever comes your way, take it and make the most of it,” she explains. “’Cause if you don’t, someone else will. It’s like the books – why do I have ﬁve books? Because Allen & Unwin knocked on the door after The Celebrity Apprentice and said do you want [to write] a book?” She chuckles loudly. “Well, f*ck. I’ve never even read a book!
“So I never say no. I’ve always had an open-door policy because that’s what’s given me the edge to grow what I’ve got.”
What she’s got is chutzpah, dynamism and a serious work ethic. Clients who’ve used her Sweaty Betty PR ﬁrm recall an effective operator who’s more switched on than most. And Jacenko has built it into a business that’s often admittedly more about her than her clients. She’s the brand, and clients come for the expectation they will beneﬁt from being in her slipstream.
How the TV series will affect this brand is puzzling, though. On ﬁrst viewing, she appears as tyrannical, and her husband as a lapdog. In further conversation, there’s no hint that is a misperception. Yet she wants the show to be empowering. She wants aspiring young Roxys to feel “no matter what your upbringing is, how you did at school, whether you managed to get into uni or not… as long as you’ve got work
ethic, determination, hunger and creativity, you can make anything of yourself. I think I’m the poster girl for that because, yes, I came from a wealthy family, but my parents gave me f*ck all. Literally.” They gave her an 18-year-old Volvo, she eventually concedes. They also gave her a personality and drive.
Her mother, Doreen Davis, was born in London and came to Australia in her early 20s. She met Nick Jacenko, they married, and moved into fashion together with the Capitol Clothing business, earning a fortune by ploughing their proﬁts into property. “They worked hard,” Jacenko tells Stellar. “I was raised by nannies. They are exactly what I am. I’m a product of my father, as much as I dislike saying it.”
“Not everyone’s going to like you. You’ll be loathed or liked. You don’t worry”
That’s because they don’t speak anymore. She doesn’t even know if he lives in Sydney. Her parents’ break-up six years ago – which is when the fallout is believed to have happened – still rankles their daughter despite her resignation that “it’s very hard for anything to last forever; the divorce rate is huge. I know how many times in my life I’ve thought I’m getting a divorce myself. And I’ve only been married eight years! I threaten Ollie every day with it.”
About that… Curtis, the son of resources millionaire Nick Curtis, sadly observes in the series that his wife has a “very aggressive way of communicating”. She agrees. “My dad’s Yugoslav. You’re ﬁery! You don’t mean it in any other way than trying to get your message across. But I’m a product of my parents. Even to this day, at 39, I still have a desperation to show my parents that, ‘You know what? I worked hard because I wanted you to be proud.’”
She doesn’t know what her father now makes of his irrepressible daughter. Still, she suspects, “My dad dislikes me greatly because he sees me as a female version of him. He’s one of those people, and I’m not dissimilar in a sense, of having the ability to go,” – she mimics wiping her hands – “‘See ya round!’”
She conceals that trait from her children, eight-year-old Pixie – an Instagram star in her own right who has been spotted front row at fashion shows – and Hunter, ﬁve. But, she admits, “That’s why it was very easy for me when the sh*t went down with Ollie to say, ‘See ya later.’ And I did everything – as you would have read and seen – that could have really cemented that during [Curtis’s] imprisonment. But I also have a responsibility to my children. And it’s important for me to ensure they’re supported, and are in a loving environment.”
Even if, in her world, it’s tough love.
I Am… Roxy airs 8.30pm, Wednesday September 11, on Network 10.
ROXY WEARS Alexander McQueen dress, harrolds.com.au; Rochas shoes, cosmopolitanshoes. com.au; her own jewellery (worn throughout); (opposite) Louis Vuitton dress, louisvuitton.com.au
ATOMIC BLONDE (from far left) Roxy Jacenko with husband Oliver Curtis and children Pixie and Hunter May this year; on her new reality TV show I Am… Roxy; front row with daughter Pixie at the Myer spring/summer 2018 show in Sydney.