This is Part Two of our Industry Insights interview with media legend Myf Warhurst. Read Part One here!
By Annette Wagner
Over the course of your career, you've interviewed many amazing heroes, interesting and inspirational people. What happens when you meet those childhood crushes: are you enamoured by your guest, or potentially challenged by meeting someone like Germaine Greer?! How do you manage your most anxious moments, when you always appear with confidence?
Rest assured, I’m often terrified. I wonder where other people get their confidence from sometimes. I must have a calm exterior, because mostly I’m frightened on the inside. I always think everyone is more confident than me, but don’t we all? My remedy though, is to just plough on through. Once it’s over I often wonder what I was so worried about.
Germaine gave me the best advice before I sat down on a panel with her (and excuse the swearing). I asked if she was comfortable sitting where she was. She looked me directly in the eyes and said “I don’t give a f*ck”. And she doesn’t. It might be the best advice ever.
Women in Australian media, especially mainstream television, appear to be still in very stereotyped roles, however, the ABC has been really good to you over the years. The ABC is far more progressive in allowing women to challenge conventional perceptions and has made substantial progress behind the scenes in employing more women and promoting them to senior positions, making greater diversity a requirement. Having worked in both public and private media, what's your observation of women in the Australian media?
Australia’s still stuck a little in terms of the types of women we see on TV, but it is changing. And yes, the ABC and SBS are better but commercial TV is pretty dire, to be honest. I realised it recently when I went to America and saw so much more diversity on the screen. We really do need to lift our game in all TV that is produced here. It’s still pretty white, male and middle class.
Your broad appeal and genuine nature is incredibly identifiable for the majority of women. (Definitely the majority of us!) What happens when worlds collide, in full media attention? Can I ask about that dress, you were styled in by someone else, to wear to the Logies in 2009? The "shock frock" which you went on to ceremoniously burn? How do you deal with negativity and rise above other's expectations that aren't in line with your own values? Is there a flame, and an extinguisher, always close by? (I'd like to add, it is an incredible list of women's names on the "shock frocks" list we've all forgotten about over the years, but for all my searching, I couldn't find an equally well maintained list of badly fitting or 1980's inspired collarless shirts & suits for men. AND who hasn't had a bad formal number anyway?!)
I’ve worn a million crappy outfits, and had some incredibly big hairstyles and garish makeup over the years (and had fun doing it too), so it’s really best not to care to be honest. When that Logies stuff happened, it surprised me. I was only on a little ABC TV show and not a commercial network so I thought no one would care about what I wore. I just got a bad year. I should have been raked over the coals for far worse outfits, but who knows how it all works? I still don’t and I still don’t really care. I think it’s important to be thought of for what you do rather than what you wear.
Lastly, what are your top 5 tips for other women starting or currently in a career in the Australia media industry?
- I’m terrible at advice because I can’t even give myself any half the time. I still haven’t worked out how this thing works? If there’s an instruction manual I’d love to see it.
- The media landscape is constantly changing so you need to be adaptable more than ever before. It’s terrifying, but if you’re in the media you probably know this already. There aren’t any jobs for life in this business anymore, sadly.
- If you’re going for a radio or TV role, be yourself, don’t try and be someone you’re not. People can see through that in a heartbeat and in the end, it’s what you’ve got that makes you different from someone else.
- You only learn from doing in this industry. Throw yourself in the deep end often. You’ll be surprised by what you can do.
- A lot of the media jobs are decided by other people and they involve things you can't control – like whether or not other people like you or think you’re right for the gig. You can however, try to develop a reasonably good sense of self, so if you do get sacked, or don’t get that dream job or get made fun of in the media, you know you’re going to be okay. Good friends and family help with that too.
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.