“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

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents - Pho­tog­ra­phy DAMIAN BEN­NETT Styling KELLY HUME In­ter­view AN­GELA MOL­LARD

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

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