“I don’t move in celebrity circles”
She is one of the most recognisable faces on our screens but, as Kylie Gillies tells Stellar, her life is far removed from the world of celebrity. The TV host opens up about marriage, raising teenagers and why the best compliment you could give her is… sh
She’s a familiar face onscreen, but Kylie Gillies says she doesn’t live a showbiz lifestyle. The television host and fashion ambassador talks to Stellar about motherhood, marriage – and why she’s just like you.
Kylie Gillies has warned us in advance that she doesn’t like talking about herself. “I don’t think you’ll get much out of me,” she says, in a manner which transmits as part apology and part journalistic challenge.
Indeed, the day before she meets with Stellar she even confessed to her hairdresser that she’s more comfortable asking questions than answering them. Fortunately, her hairstylist-turned-psychologist had some great advice: “Just stand up and own it.”
So it is that the following morning the TV host and 51-year-old mum of two rocks up to our shoot in denim cut-offs and a denim shirt, and promptly kicks off her shoes. Barefoot in the sunshine, her face free of make-up, she looks more like a surfer girl who’s swept in from the set of Home And Away than one of the key personalities pivotal in the Seven Network’s continued ratings success.
If the machinations of morning television are second only to politics in terms of scrutiny and skulduggery, then Gillies and her co-host Larry Emdur are unique not only for their stability but their longevity. They’ve sat side by side on The Morning Show couch for more
than 11 years covering everything from elections and economics to horoscopes and the Kardashians, yet their tenure has been remarkably free of slip-ups, speculation and spats.
“We have a terrific working relationship, a similar work ethic and a similar expectation of the quality of the show,” Gillies says. “I think it’s really special and it’s something Larry and I are super proud of.”
While familiarity can breed contempt, in the fast-moving, high-stakes environment of live television, it can also provide a safety net. Both talk of having an “instinctive” sense of what the other is thinking and, as Emdur points out, it’s the glue in their TV marriage. “We just know where the other one is going to go and if that takes us somewhere special and fun and outrageous then that’s great because we have that deep, deep trust. I trust her and she trusts me.”
While both are enduringly televisual – Emdur celebrated his 50th birthday by posing shirtless for Men’s Health magazine – they’re also just like any other suburban couple hanging out at a weekend barbie. Gillies, for instance, loves the royal family and admits having screenshotted a particular mascara because the Duchess of Sussex reportedly wears it, while Emdur, like most blokes, couldn’t care less about the world of titles and tiaras. That said, he reveals to Stellar that he’s learnt a lot from his co-host: “The most important thing she’s ever taught me is to exfoliate before a fake tan.”
Their banter and mutual relatability are qualities Gillies embraces: “When people talk to me about The Morning Show the greatest compliment they give me is not about my hair or my dress, but when they tell me they feel they know me and they also feel I’m like them.” She smiles: “You know, it’s because I actually am. I’m a girl who grew up in Tamworth, my mum and dad have been married for 50-plus years and I didn’t come to Sydney until I was 28. If they see themselves in me, I think it’s because I am them.”
While her choppy bob and enviable ease in heels and flared pants might suggest a city aesthetic, at heart Gillies ascribes to country values. She phones her mum most days, cooks a meal for friends who are going through tough times and, along with her husband Tony, who she met aged 19, spends her weekends watching their sons Gus, 16, and Archie, 14, playing AFL. She even microwaves her coffee – sometimes twice – when it gets cold. To celebrate her 50th birthday last year she flew her parents, her sister’s family and her own to Fiji for a week. As she says: “I have this lovely life in TV, but I don’t live where celebrities typically live. I’m heavily involved in the local school community, my friends are school mums and I don’t move in celebrity circles. Yes, I get to wear nice clothes and drive a nice car, but in two weeks’ time we’re going away with a bunch of friends we’ve been going away with once a year for 30 years.”
“My friends are school mums and I don’t move in celebrity circles”
Gillies married two days after her 22nd birthday and next year marks the couple’s 30th wedding anniversary. “We should probably celebrate by doing something romantic just the two of us,” she muses. “But I’d probably spend the whole time going, ‘Oh isn’t this fabulous? Wouldn’t the boys love to jump off that pier?’ So it might need to be a family affair!”
As for the success of their marriage, she credits a similar outlook and morals. “We’re a really good team and we have a shared vision. If something good happens, he’s the person I want to tell first, and if something bad happens, he’s the person I go running to crying. We figure things out together. The longer you get into a marriage there’s so much shared history. I couldn’t stand [it] if something was to happen to that. He’s my person.”
Gillies admits she values actions over words. When a friend who’s a counsellor pointed out that she’s “even-keeled” because she has a solid family foundation and was raised with strong values, she says she’d never really thought about it. “I don’t do too much self-analysis and navelgazing. I read these quotes about being your ‘authentic self’ and I don’t know what that means,” she says. “We tend to do things rather than talk about it.”
Indeed, those who know her say she’s very straightforward. Emdur values her honesty and openness – “I know at any given moment on any given day exactly where we stand” – while Sarah Stinson, The Morning Show’s executive producer and also a close friend, appreciates her loyalty and sense of humour. “Like the
“I couldn’t stand it if something were to happen to my marriage. He’s my person”
mafia, or maybe it’s the country-girl upbringing, once you’re in, you’re in. She’s fiercely loyal – the first to celebrate life’s victories, and she will drag you back on your feet when you fall.”
Yet for all her pragmatism, Gillies worries. Right now, she’s worried about two families she knows closely who are facing heartbreaking
times. Tears well in her eyes as she talks about their suffering: “I just wish I could take away some of their pain,” she says quietly.
She tries to keep it in perspective, but she also worries about raising teenagers, and constantly wonders whether she’s being too hard or too soft. She laughs that a “date night” with Tony now involves collecting their eldest from a party, and beside her bed are a pile of parenting books. “I’m always shoving a book under Tony’s nose, saying ‘Read this, this is us at the moment.’ But I don’t think men sweat the small stuff; that’s important because we can’t all be like me.”
When in doubt she resorts to supplying her sons with bacon and eggs and sending them memes. She pulls out her phone and scrolls through the messages, stopping on one in particular. “Mums are better than the CIA,” she reads. “They know you did it. How you did it. Why you did it. And they can hear you trying to hide the evidence.” So how did the boys respond? “Ha,” she laughs. “They didn’t!”
If Gillies doubts her parenting, her husband reckons she’s “all over it”. He points out that her job and profile offer opportunities to go out to endless events, but she balances her responsibilities carefully. “Kylie is so nurturing, but she’s prepared to deliver the tough love when it’s needed,” he tells Stellar. “There are a lot of conversations about respect – for women in particular – about truth and trust. Basically, raising decent human beings is a priority for both of us.”
Equally, Gillies’s success is not born of connections, but hard work. After leaving school, she worked briefly in radio before spending a decade at Prime television in Tamworth. She and Tony moved to Sydney when she was offered an assistant producing role at the Seven Network, and for the next 12 years she presented the news and sport on virtually every show in the network’s stable. Tony
credits her “meticulous preparation” for her success, while her boss believes she operates with one key thing in mind: the viewer. As Stinson says: “She puts them first every single time.”
But for all her old-school values, Gillies is also a hoot. When the pregnant Duchess of Sussex wore a white Karen Gee dress on the first day of the royal tour, The Morning Show host was dressed and about to go on air. Dashing back to her wardrobe, she fossicked around to find her own Karen Gee black shift dress. On air minutes later, her Sunrise colleagues ribbed her good-naturedly for being so on-trend.
“I’m not obsessed with fashion, but I’m interested in it,” she says. To that end, she’s recently become a fashion associate for Harris Scarfe. “I’m typical of their customers because I’m a busy working mum and I like fashion that doesn’t cost a fortune,” she says. “You’ll never see me Instagram the latest Oscar de la Renta clutch. I do shudder at what some of those things cost.”
Middle-age hasn’t changed the way she dresses so much as modified it. She still wears sleeveless dresses, but her hems are a little lower. She’s not keen on her double-d breasts – “I wish they were smaller” – and never shows them off. Likewise, if the stylist is showing her a dress, she knows instantly if it’s not right. “I’ll say one word: ‘Mutton.’ I’ll call it before they will,” she says with a laugh. But she also thinks clothes should be fun. When a Harris Scarfe colleague observes that Gillies is aspirational for women in their 40s and 50s, the woman herself laughingly interjects: “Yes, young women. Or the woman who likes to think she’s still young!”
Which brings us to work and how much longer she might continue in co-hosting duties. She says she has no desire to leave – “I’m staying if for no other reason than to annoy Larry” – but Emdur points out that since appearing on Dancing With The Stars in 2009, she’s something of a frustrated showgirl.
“Sometimes I think she has to tuck her jazz hands into her pockets,” he laughs, before revealing that during those many hours on the couch the pair have cooked up a retirement plan. “We’ve decided that long after the show has finished we’re going to tour around nursing homes doing dancing lessons for people. I’m quite excited about that and she’s very excited about that, too.”
KYLIE WEARS Ginger & Smart blazer, gingerandsmart.com; Bianca Spender pants, biancaspender.com; Harris Scarfe top, harrisscarfe.com. au; her own jewellery (worn throughout)
A COUNTRY GIRL (from top) Kylie Gillies and her husband Tony on their wedding day in 1989; at home on New Year’s Day this year with Tony and their sons, Gus (left) and Archie; Gillies pulled off a rapid wardrobe change into a Karen Gee shift dress during the royal tour in October, as a homage to the Duchess of Sussex’s choice of Australian fashion label.
KYLIE WEARS Bianca Spender coat, biancaspender.com; Harris Scarfe top, harrisscarfe.com.au; Marni skirt, (02) 9327 3809; Tony Bianco shoes, tonybianco.com
KYLIE WEARS Camilla and Marc coat, camilla andmarc.com; Lee Mathews top, leemathews.com. au; Harris Scarfe pants, harrisscarfe. com.au; Tony Bianco shoes, tonybianco.com