This is Part One of our Industry Insights interview with media legend Myf Warhurst. Stay tuned for Part Two next week, where she shares her top advice for women in media (and what it's like to interview Germaine Greer)!
By Annette Wagner
There are more women than men in Australia. Our female population has hit 12 million, but there are still 96,300 baby boys to be born from the fellas to meet the 12 million mark.
So, it is encouraging to know that our media isn't all white middle-aged males dominating cameras and microphones, and that the people on our screens and radios accurately represent the population.
Hang on. Do they?
While it is necessary to discuss parity for the future, I think it's equally important to focus on and support women that are making a difference now. Thankfully, Myf Warhurst has been making a difference in my media world for a longtime.
Myf is an endearing favourite of many musically-minded people and her increasingly broader creative industry hosting ability comes with intelligence and a welcoming selection of canapés, putting both big name interviewees and lucky audiences at ease.
After studying Music Education and Arts at Melbourne University, Myf started writing music reviews for Melbourne street paper InPress, then landed the job as editor. Since then, her rise as a well-known Australian doyen has been steady and continues to grow.
On air with Triple J, she started with her first radio bi-weekly segments for Merrick and Rosso's Drive program, then moved to hosting the Net 50 request program on Saturday nights, then hosting weekday Lunch shift and The Trashy Lunchtime Quiz, before finally hosting The Breakfast Show with Jay and the Doctor. She was coerced by Peter Helliar to join him as co-host on their Nova breakfast show which ran from 2007-2009 and then returned to ABC Local Radio hosting the summertime afternoon program.
Of course, it's not just her voice we have come to recognise, it’s that welcoming smile and her authenticity. Her television appearances include many, but captaining a team on Spicks and Specks from 2005 to 2011 certainly accelerated her recognition and popularity. It provided the leverage Myf needed to see her own six-part series realised, Myf Warhurst's Nice, and since then, if you follow her on Instagram, there isn't much we don't know about her, and her cats, Terry and Steve.
Far from any Cat Lady connotations however, she's currently on the airways hosting lunch with Myf on Double J, is also a regular presenter on The Project, is the go to hostess with the mostess at many speaker events, and continues to be a contributing writer for many publications. To be honest, it's a life I envy a little, backstage at Coachella and interviewing childhood crushes or current creative geniuses.
Having just returned from a well-deserved week off in France and the UK, getting back to work on Double J and between the next hot bed of creatively inspiring people attending some other enviable event, I asked Myf to answer some questions about her experience so far in media which she kindly obliged.
Be warned, inevitable music and pop culture puns throughout.
Clearly, your intrinsic love of music and pop culture have been your driving force, maintaining your career direction since you started working. Have you ever been distracted or challenged to continue on your own tour bus? Inspired to do something else, or perhaps even a little dissatisfied with your direction? If yes, what helped you get back on your bus?
I constantly think about doing other things. I want to write a book, become an architect, fulfil my dream of ice skating for Australia at the next winter Olympics, do another stage show (like the Spicks and Specks live show we toured around the country), go back to University. It’s just down to having the time and the vision. When you’ve got a full time gig people don’t realise that it’s much more than just the hours on air, it’s a full time gig, so it’s hard to indulge all the other dreams. But I will never stop having harebrained ideas about what I want to be when I grow up.
Not so long ago you took a gap year, or two, and based yourself in the UK. We actually spoke before you left and I recall you saying that you'd never had the chance to do it in your 20's, and it was the right time to take a break. How did you find re-establishing yourself in a different market, and/or focusing on your writing? Were there any lessons learnt?
I had such a magnificent time living in London. Career-wise it probably wasn’t the best thing to do, as it’s hard in my game (which is essentially a personality game) to establish yourself in an industry that has no idea who you are and don’t care about what you’ve done. To be honest, I think I left my run a bit late. I really wish I’d tried to do it when I was much younger, say in my 20s. It felt so right for me to be out of my comfort zone, it was really healthy and what I needed at the time. Fortunately I was able to get quite a bit of work from Australia while I was there so I could keep myself afloat. In my dreams I’ll do it again one day but it probably won’t happen. Not right now.
On reflection of your media industry experience to date, highs and lows, here and abroad, was there a time or realisation that it was going to be a different journey for you from those of your male colleagues? How do you find the culture for women, from when you began, to now, in both radio and television?
This is a tough one to answer. I’ve always been a strident feminist, even when I began, but it’s interesting to look back now and I realise that I’d never thought of myself in a minority. It’s funny, it’s only been the last few years that I began to recognise the lack of women in the media. It’s changing, fortunately, but it’s only been the last few years when TV shows have become conscious of not having all male panels (on panel shows in the UK, this was the norm and I found it quite odd). I also didn’t think as much about the male dominance in radio world either. As I get older, I notice it a lot more and I make every effort to make sure everything I do is diverse.
When finishing Spicks and Specks, you said, "I've been lucky enough to experience many great things. I've seen Frank Woodley's privates, been naked under a desk with Pete Murray, and met many of my childhood musical crushes. Life can't get much better than that, so this seems like the perfect time to wind things up." How did you know that it was time to seek out another challenge and end what had been a huge part of your career for 6 years? (Because being under a desk with Pete Murray did sound good!)
Yep, Pete and I have never been naked under a desk again, sadly. Finishing Spicks and Specks was a decision Alan, Adam and I made together, and I think it was the right thing at the time (although I haven’t been offered many other gigs since, and will probably never do a TV show as loved as that again). I think leaving under our own steam was good - in TV, you normally get sacked so we thought it might be a good thing to go out on a high. And we had done the show for a long time. It felt right to hang up the boots. I do miss the boys though, and working with them. It was one of those special right time, right place, right people shows. They only come once in a lifetime.
Annette Wagner is a designer, marketer, creative consultant, artist and writer. She is also on the board of the Creative Women’s Circle. Obsessively passionate about the arts and the creative process, she is determined to not talk art-speak and instead focus on supporting and sharing concepts and insights most creative types crave to know.