New hus­band, new baby, new book — and all of the same old crit­i­cisms. But Con­stance Hall won’t let any­body de­throne her as Aus­tralia’s most con­fronting (and com­fort­ing) so­cial-me­dia sen­sa­tion. NAOMI CHRISOULAKIS re­ports

The Sunday Times - - Front Page -

AS Con­stance Hall walks into a room, she takes pos­ses­sion of it. It is not just the phys­i­cal pres­ence — that wild head of hair, a leop­ard-print coat and rings on al­most ev­ery fin­ger — but also the larger-than-life per­son­al­ity that ac­com­pa­nies it.

As the mother of five re­gales tales of fly­ing from Mar­garet River to Syd­ney with a new­born, her husky laugh fills the space; hus­band Denim Cooke looks on qui­etly as he holds their one­sie-clad son Raja, now five weeks old. They’ve left the rest of their blended brood — seven, all up — at home in WA.

“Just stop me, be­cause I bab­ble,” Hall, 34, says as she sits down for a chat. But it’s an or­der that will prove im­pos­si­ble to fol­low be­cause Hall’s “bab­bling” is re­spon­si­ble for her im­mense suc­cess. A best­selling book un­der her belt and an­other out now, a prof­itable cloth­ing line, a ra­dio show, sell­out tours and mil­lions of fans on so­cial me­dia — all kicked off by a Face­book post on “par­ent sex” that went vi­ral.

Hall has be­come a by­word for un­fil­tered, shar­ing unedited pho­tos of her “mum tum” and writ­ing posts on post­na­tal de­pres­sion, call­ing out sex­ism and slut-sham­ing, and be­ing bru­tally hon­est about the down­sides of par­ent­ing, all with a take-no-pris­on­ers at­ti­tude. Her self-pub­lished mem­oir

Like A Queen be­came the high­est gross­ing book in the coun­try last year, sell­ing 150,000 copies on­line.

Not bad for some­one who was kicked out of high school — twice — and strug­gled to read as a child.

None of this has been with­out the pre­dictable draw­backs: be­com­ing “Aus­tralia’s most hated woman”, as Hall puts it, would top the list. Her swift rise as our most no­to­ri­ous mummy blog­ger-with-a-dif­fer­ence was quickly fol­lowed by a back­lash when she re­vealed last year her mar­riage was over and, less than three weeks later, an­nounced she was with a new man.

“When I first started go­ing vi­ral, it was 95 per cent pos­i­tive com­ments on news sto­ries but very quickly, within about six months, it was about 95 per cent neg­a­tive,” Hall re­calls.

“Re­vis­it­ing what hap­pened, I couldn’t have done any­thing dif­fer­ently, but it was re­ally, re­ally hard. I was al­most just about to fade out and go, ‘That was fun but it didn’t work out.’ And then I thought, ‘No. F--- it, I am not dis­ap­pear­ing like that.’”

It’s not the first time Hall has used hard times to mo­ti­vate her­self; as the daugh­ter of a young sin­gle mum, she says her up­bring­ing gave her grit and drive — she hates to see op­por­tu­ni­ties pass her by.

“When I’m walk­ing through the rich ar­eas in Perth, I’m like . . .” She blows a loud rasp­berry. “Be­cause those mums are the kids who shunned me. Ev­ery­one thought us kids would be f---ed up, so as soon as my mum sees any­one from that life she’s like, ‘Oh don’t you know? My daugh­ter’s Con­stance Hall, best­selling au­thor, cloth­ing line, over a mil­lion fol­low­ers.’

“It’s a good feel­ing. I didn’t go to high school long enough to get in­vited to any re­unions, but I’m al­ways telling my friends, ‘Make sure they know! Do you want to FaceTime me in?’” She roars with laugh­ter.

Her rad­i­cal hon­esty is, Hall in­sists, not one bit cal­cu­lated.

“I’ve al­ways been an open book, and it’s not some­thing that I’ve pur­posely de­cided to do. When I was a hair­dresser, a client would leave and I’d go, ‘Why did I have to go and tell her that?’ But it’s so much more re­lax­ing to be like that. I feel re­ally good get­ting ev­ery­thing out there. And you know what? If you want to hate me for that, go for it.”

But with a di­vorce go­ing through the courts and two lawsuits against her for breaches of con­tract, she has to be a lit­tle more care­ful.

“That’s def­i­nitely clipped my wings – I might be hav­ing a sh-- day be­cause of that, but I can’t re­ally talk about it, legally.” She is happy to talk about ev­ery­thing else though, from fall­ing in love with her new hus­band (she has al­ways

main­tained it hap­pened months af­ter she and her hus­band sep­a­rated) to thoughts of sui­cide.

On that last topic, she re­veals: “It was when too many things hap­pened at once. I’ve had days when I’m stressed out about a court case, when some­one threat­ens to pub­lish my phone num­ber and then I’m served some more pa­pers. So many peo­ple are re­ly­ing on me now and I’m just jug­gling all th­ese balls . . . and I’m ly­ing in my bed think­ing, ‘I could just jump off that bal­cony, it would be so much eas­ier than deal­ing with all the things that I have to deal with.’ And then I think about my friends with ter­mi­nal cancer and I’m like, ‘Get a f--king grip, Con.’

“I think that is all be­hind me now, though. I think that af­ter ev­ery­thing I’ve gone through, noth­ing is go­ing to stress me out, ca­reer-wise. I love, love, love what I do now and I am not as af­fected by the ha­tred. It was ob­vi­ously some­thing I had to go through to learn that les­son.”

Ca­reer aside, Hall says she is un­apolo­getic for the hap­pi­ness in her life. “To­wards the end of last year, I was fin­ish­ing the book and a lot of peo­ple bagged me for meet­ing Denim so quickly. That’s when I thought, ‘No, I de­serve to be happy.’ The peo­ple who love me were there for me, sup­port­ing me. They’re the peo­ple I’m writ­ing to.”

Those women are the ones who come up to her on the street and tell her she’s help­ing them, the ones she buys drinks for and hugs when they cry in her pres­ence. Ask Hall why she strikes so many nerves, and she reck­ons it is be­cause her ap­proach has given women ex­plicit per­mis­sion to be real with them­selves and each other. “You just need some­one to break down the bar­rier first, and that was me. It’s like when you first meet some­one and they’re like, ‘My hus­band’s such a f--khead,’ and you can go, ‘So is mine!’ It makes it so much eas­ier to be hon­est when some­one’s be­ing hon­est with you.

“We get to a point as women where we start telling our­selves, ‘No, that’s not for me.’ We can’t travel or we can’t go for that job or for that man, be­cause of what­ever it is that makes us feel ru­ined,” she says. “I want women to re­alise that’s what ac­tu­ally makes us great: show it off and be proud of it. You’re not too fat, you’re not un­derqual­i­fied. If you’ve got the vi­sion, you’ve got the path.”

Hall now plans to build on her char­ity work — she’s do­nated $170,000 and raised a fur­ther $200,000 with the help of her com­mu­nity of fol­low­ers for Rafiki Mwema, a Kenyan or­gan­i­sa­tion that sup­ports child sur­vivors of sex­ual abuse. She’s also got 20,000 words of a fic­tion book for teenage girls up her sleeve. And in the rest of her spare time, she’s ig­nor­ing her crit­ics and fo­cus­ing on the con­nec­tions she makes with women around the coun­try.

“When peo­ple come up to me, I want them to feel like they’re a part of some­thing, be­cause they are. I sub­mit­ted my writ­ing to ev­ery­one and no one lis­tened to me un­til all th­ese women said: ‘We care.’ I owe ev­ery­thing to them.”

Like a Queen by Con­stance Hall (likeaque­en­shop.com, $29) is out now.

Pic­ture: Daniel Nadel

In de­mand: Con­stance Hall’s wed­ding. Pictures: Face­book/Con­stance Hall

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