A new Arena

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page - – Debbie Schipp

Tina throws the spot­light on fresh Young Tal­ent

Tina Arena is jug­gling sev­eral lan­guages, a phone rapidly run­ning out of charge and credit and an exit from a Mel­bourne cab as her voice bub­bles down the phone.

Time, it seems, is al­ways at a premium for the diminu­tive star with the big, big voice who this week re­turns to our screens as Young Tal­ent Time judge, rather than as the “Tiny Tina” who en­tranced au­di­ences in the orig­i­nal ver­sion of the show. Time, and tim­ing. For Arena, who has been in the spot­light since the age of seven when she be­came a star on Young Tal­ent Time, and par­layed that into a ca­reer now span­ning more than 30 years, mul­ti­ple hit songs, six Aria awards and more than eight mil­lion record sales, join­ing the re­boot of the show that launched her was all about the tim­ing.

“It just felt right,” she says, with her cus­tom­ary no-fuss frank­ness.

“And don’t think I haven’t been asked be­fore – there have been many, many ap­proaches and plans to re­vive the show in the past – but it just wasn’t the right time.

“As a singer I’m all about the tim­ing, and the tim­ing is right and the qual­ity is right so it just made sense.

“Any time be­fore would have been too early to re­visit this show – not for me, but for view­ers.

“But now I think with the tal­ent and singing shows that are on at the mo­ment, the in­ter­est is there.

“And this is a dif­fer­ent genre again to those shows be­cause it has a core cast and it’s just good fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment. Young Tal­ent Time is an Aus­tralian prod­uct.

“It’s ours, it’s not a for­mat that’s been adapted for here – and that makes it all the more valu­able. “Aus­tralia is ready for it.” It’s that readi­ness that has seen Arena, who is based in Paris with her part­ner, French artist Vin­cent Mancini and their son Gabriel, six, re­turn home for the show in what will be her long­est stint in Aus­tralia since 2008.

They en­joyed Christ­mas in Mel­bourne with the fam­ily, and she and Gabriel will be here for six months, with Vin­cent di­vid­ing his time be­tween Mel­bourne and Paris.

Arena will clock up the fre­quent flyer points be­tween Mel­bourne, where her par­ents are lov­ing time with their grand­son, and Syd­ney for the show.

“I re­ally didn’t have to think hard about it,” Arena says. “It com­pletes a cir­cle for me, and I be­lieve lots of things in life go in cir­cles.

“This isn’t the end; it just com­pletes a cir­cle for me and quite pos­si­bly will start a new one.”

Arena will take up men­tor­ing and judg­ing du­ties on the show but says she shies away from the word ‘judge’.

Her style is far more hon­est than tough love.

She was part of the judg­ing panel of a French ver­sion of re­al­ity tal­ent show Sing Off late last year, and laughs that she was seen as the “the nice judge”, be­cause while she can be blunt, she has noth­ing on the French.

“The show fea­tured a cap­pella groups which suited me down to the ground, and it re­ally im­proved my French,” she laughs.

“The funny thing was I was seen as the re­ally po­lite and nice judge, be­cause I was play­ing it straight and hon­est, but the French are so much more di­rect.”

Arena isn’t into the idea of “judg­ing” chil­dren – as she and fel­low judge and men­tor, US chore­og­ra­pher Chucky Klapow will do for weekly tal­ent quest show­cases on the show, but she is into hon­esty.

She’s ea­ger to men­tor YTT’S new core cast – and nur­ture as well as de­velop them.

“I think it’s im­por­tant you be hon­est,” Arena says.

“Ten has been great as far as look­ing af­ter these kids.

“They are lov­ing Millsy ( YTT host Rob Mills), he’s great fun.

“They need to be nur­tured and not pa­tro­n­ised – and it’s a del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act.

“We were nur­tured on YTT and it was a dif­fer­ent time.

“To­day these things are so much more pub­lic and the kids have to be bet­ter pre­pared to deal with pub­lic ex­po­sure.”

Arena can teach them plenty, aside from tech­nique – in­clud­ing life in the spot­light, and the im­por­tance of al­ways re­mem­ber­ing the joy of per­form­ing.

“All I can re­mem­ber of my first ap­pear­ance when I was seven is ( be­ing) ex­cited,” she says.

“I don’t re­call be­ing ner­vous. I do re­call hav­ing that buzz of per­form­ing.

“I still get it now. If I ever lose that feel­ing, I will stop do­ing it.”

Pub­lished by News Magazines. Printed by Han­nan­print, Holt St, Surry Hills, NSW Doody St,

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