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

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - /contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy JEDD COONEY Styling IRENE TSOLAKAS In­ter­view MICHAEL BODEY

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.

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