She Brisbane was lucky enough to spend an evening with Australian icon Kerri–Anne Kennerley. Kerri–Anne was in conversation with Brisbane’s own Frances Whiting at the beautiful Brisbane City Hall, lighting up the room as soon as she walked on stage. Reminiscing on the time she encouraged Federal Treasurer Peter Costello to do the Macarena, she instantly charmed the large audience by again doing the Macarena with our own Councillor Matthew Bourke. It was obvious to all that a star had arrived and it’s hard to believe that Kerri–Anne has been entertaining for 50 years, this former Sandgate girl has been a singer, dancer, actor, famed television presenter and reality TV star. Her achievements have been honoured by her induction into the Logies Hall of Fame and now she can add author to her list of milestones with the release of her book, A Bold Life.
Kerri–Anne described her idyllic upbringing in the seaside haven of Sandgate. “In the 50’s and 60’s, Sandgate was a fabulous working class suburb to live in. Fun for us was going down to Chandlers in our pyjamas and watching the television through the windows. My parents both worked hard, even managing to procure some land in Redcliffe to have their own farm.”
The youngest in her family, Kerri–Anne began performing by using her hairbrush as a microphone and singing along to her favourite records. At 12 she decided she’d like to be on Jim Iliffe’s show ‘Uncle Jim and the Channel Niners.’ She asked her Mum to call him, to which her Mum replied, “No, if you want it, you call yourself.” Kerri-Anne did ring and pestered him until he agreed to give her a chance, from that experience she learned, “If you want something you have to earn it. Just put yourself about and find the things that you love to do.”
On Love and Health
Kerri-Anne’s life has been filled with some wonderful highs and some devastating lows which she has always weathered with grace and dignity. In the book, she describes her ill-fated first marriage which was characterised by domestic violence. She was only 21 and living in New York at the time.
One of her friends at this time was John Kennerley who she’d never really thought of romantically, she was always setting him up with her friends. After finally leaving her destructive marriage to first husband Jimmy, Kerri-Anne began to rely more on her confidant and good friend, John. She could sense he was a good person inside and out and they gradually fell in love and have been together ever since for better and worse, including bouts of breast cancer, bowel cancer and John’s recent terrible accident where he became a quadriplegic after a freak fall. Kerri–Anne says there is a new normal in their lives now.
Her advice on love is “ to pick a person you really like, a good person and move forward in a positive way with the person you have decided to spend your life with. “
She also urged us all to have regular mammograms saying, “It’s a lot more comfortable having a mammogram than having surgery and chemo. You are never too busy for a mammogram. Life is busy but fighting cancer will leave you no time for anything else.”
After Kerri–Anne went public with her breast cancer story there was a huge increase in women getting mammograms and she has spent a lot of time doing charity work with the Look Good Feel Better program.
Frances asked Kerri-Anne who some of her favourite interviews have been with. “Jane Fonda is an incredible gutsy woman. I remember her saying: It’s better to be interested, than interesting and I’ve always followed that advice. George Harrison was another one, how many people can say they’ve interviewed one of The Beatles. Robin Williams was such a talent and Benazir Bhutto was the most modern, sensible and intelligent woman I’ve ever met.”
On Writing the Book
Kerri-Anne said that, “It was hard to write some of my book, A Bold Life. Firstly because I’m a very slow writer but luckily I can touch type so that made it easier. Secondly, I don’t like looking back, I’m very good at compartmentalising things and moving forward, my mantra has always been onwards and upwards. I once asked my friend Bryce Courtenay how he could write so prolifically and he replied, bum glue. Just sit in that chair and get it done. Sometimes my best ideas would come when I was in a different location or driving. Writing is a very lonely experience so a change of scene can often help.”
What’s Next for Kerri–Anne Kennerley ?
“My favourite shows to do now are my documentaries for the Channel Seven’s Sunday Night program. I have interviewed Andre Rieu in Maastricht in the Netherlands. I visited London and interviewed Martin Clunes about his role as Doc Martin and I went to Africa to do an important story on the conservation efforts for saving the last of the species of the northern white rhino.”
Kerri-Anne Kennerley is one of Australia’s most vibrant and enduring media personalities. Her new book is a riveting read. Honest and powerful this is Kerri–Anne’s story of her brilliant, poignant and most extraordinary life. Kerri–Anne’s final message in the book is to, “love whatever you do and love even more whomever it is you choose. Do what YOU have to do.” Wise words from a woman who has seen so much of life, the highs and the lows. I know that those in the audience took home many lessons to live and love by and were awed by such a talent whose career began right here in Brisbane.
Purchase Kerri-Anne Kennerley’s book, A Bold Life here
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).