Princess Diana once said, “A mother’s arms are more comforting than anyone else’s.” She was spot on; our mothers are our best friends, our biggest supporters and a safe haven in the most tumultuous of times. So ahead of Mother’s Day, we asked 10 Australian celebrities to brag about their mothers. Thank you, mum.
Natalia Bassingwaighte & Betty Bassingwaighte
As a kid, I was quite the show-off. I wanted all the attention and was always putting on a performance. I did everything from Brownies to physical culture, gymnastics and ballroom dancing. My mum, Betty, was my biggest supporter. She was always there for me – and my three sisters. She never missed a dance class or a swimming competition and was backstage at every show. Over the years, she sewed thousands of sequins on my costumes.
My mum sacrificed a lot for us. She had four girls under the age of seven and my dad was away a lot, so Mum was the one getting us ready for school and running the house – as well as working as a nurse. My parents split up when I was 23 and my mum took the high road. There are no ill-feelings [in the family]. We’re all very close, and I’m forever grateful to my mum for that.
My favourite memory from childhood is of my mum coming into our room very early in the morning and singing “Good morning!” with the biggest grin … It makes me smile thinking about it.
Ada Nicodemou & Jenny Nicodemou
My mum Jenny was always the head of our household. She worked seven days a week but took me and my brother everywhere. I grew up in a delicatessen, counting back change to customers before I went to school. I get my work ethic from my mum. She’s taught me resilience, strength and how to stick up for myself. As a Greek migrant, she’s had to be a tough woman.
My mum didn’t want me to get into acting. She wanted me to go to university and be a lawyer. Her opinion changed when I started working on Heartbreak High and she saw me earning money in a stable job [laughs]. After more than 25 years in the industry, my mum’s proudest moment was when I won Dancing with the Stars [in 2005]. She literally jumped over the barricade from the audience and grabbed the microphone from [host] Daryl Somers on live TV to tell all of Australia how proud she was of me – and to thank the Greek community for voting for me. I would totally do the same thing to my son Johnas now.
Yvonne Strahovski & Bożena Strzechowski
My mum Bożena is the original feminist. She’s from Poland, where there’s an old-school mentality that women belong in the kitchen. Mum never bought into that. She did her own thing and worked as a lab technician. My parents emigrated from Poland to Australia before I was born, when Bożena was 26. She left her home country to move to the other side of the world for a better life … I admire her bravery. I think a lot of my adventurous spirit comes from my mum.
As well as her sense of adventure, I inherited my mum’s sensitive soul. She loves The Handmaid’s Tale, but finds it hard to watch. She gets quite moved – we have that in common.
It’s a cliché, but my mum taught me that everything always works out. She used to say, “Even through the hard times, everything will find its place. You’ve got to keep going.” I try to have that positive attitude every day.
Miranda Tapsell & Barbara Tapsell
My mum Barbara is unapologetic. She has the courage to stand up for herself without fear of being disliked for not being “friendly enough”. She’s staunch because she’s had to be – as a darkskinned Aboriginal woman. Mum knows who she is and what she believes in. That’s been grounding for me. It taught me who I was and where I stood in my community and has made me feel indestructible.
My family has always had trouble saying, “I love you” or “I’m proud of you,” so it’s been really beautiful watching my mum become more vulnerable in recent years. I remember when she came to the Cannes Film Festival for The Sapphires premiere in 2012. My mum doesn’t cry unless it’s a funeral, but she was beside herself with tears watching the film. It was her way of telling me she’s proud of me. Now she’ll say, “You were wonderful, my daughter.”
Olivia Newton-John & Irene Newton-John
My beautiful mother Irene Newton-John was strong, fierce and independent – the perfect female role model, with a deep sense of social justice. Mum taught me about eating healthily and the importance of treading lightly on our planet. She was an activist before it was even “a thing”, and was constantly campaigning for the environment in one way or another. I guess I have inherited that gene, as I have always been instinctively passionate about our planet, nature and animals. Mum always told me, “If you can help someone, do it.”
She was, and remains, the inspiration behind almost everything I do. It was with her teachings in mind that [in 2005] my close friend Gregg Cave and I created Gaia Retreat & Spa [in New South Wales’ Byron Bay hinterland], and then – together with our team – developed our new natural and organic skincare range, Retreatment Botanics.
Tracey Spicer & Marcia Spicer
It’s been 20 years since my mum Marcia passed away after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was 52, the same age as I am now. Mum was a trailblazer. She wouldn’t have called herself a feminist, but she was the first female courier driver in Queensland. She also worked as a model, childcare teacher and real estate agent. She was a career woman and worked the same number of hours as my dad. They split the household duties 50/50, which was unusual for that era.
Mum also had a wicked sense of humour and did not suffer fools gladly. She always had a comeback and taught my sister and I to stand up for ourselves – in a humorous way. There’s a lot to be said for putting people in their place with a sassy comeback. My lasting memory of my mum is her looking impossibly glamorous at a party in the ’70s, dancing with a glass of wine in her hand. I don’t remember her terrible, premature death; I just remember her being absolutely vivacious – the life of the party.
Melanie C & Joan O’Neill
My mum was always different to my friend’s mums; she was glamorous, cool and a singer in a band. As a kid I’d go and watch her perform at pubs in Liverpool and remember feeling really proud. She’d worked hard and pursued music as a career even though her dad was dead against it. As well as gigging on weekends, she was working full-time during the week to raise her family and put food on the table. I got my strong work ethic from her, and we’ve never really had a crossword.
When I became a Spice Girl, in many ways I was living her dream as well as mine, and that made us even closer. Mum appeared in our Mama music video in 1997, and came up on stage with the band at Wembley Stadium last year. Even today in her 70s, she’s still up there performing and rocking out. As a group we’re very vocal about female empowerment, and what’s interesting is that all five of us have very strong mums – they’ve each had to overcome different things and have really shaped and moulded us. We have our mums to thank for the power of the Spice Girls.
Claudia Karvan & Gabrielle Karvan
One of my earliest memories of my mum is talcum-powdering her into her black Vivienne Westwood rubber punk suit. I can sort of understand why I became an actor, because she was very dramatic even though she had zero skills as a performer – she was once asked to be an extra and she fainted. Everything, particularly people’s behaviour, is all significant and curious to my mum. She’s quite analytical, sexy, fun, playful and extremely good company. You can never predict what she’s going to say or think about something; she’s totally irreverent. She’s quite brave with her opinions – she doesn’t mind being a bit subversive.
Now that I’m a mum, I can look back and see how she shaped the way I conceptualise that role; watching her, I learnt how crucial it is to retain a sense of yourself and not just fall into playing the role of the mother. Not only that, but she’s also shown me the importance of needing to keep a connection to nature, returning to the country and enjoying conversations with your children. I try to see the humour in everything, thanks to my mum.
Camilla Freeman-Topper & Pam Freeman
My mum was very present. She was an amazing listener, deeply nurturing and thoughtful. Kindness and love emanated from her. She was a very strong advocate for all women in her life and she never had a horrible thing to say about anyone. I remember sitting at the dining table every night and if there was anything to be said about anyone, it would always be kindness. There was never anything but good to come out of that.
Watching Mum battle ovarian cancer with enduring tenacity inspired me to fight for what’s right. She knew she was going to pass, but she was so strong till the very, very end; she just wouldn’t give up. Her strength in the face of adversity has left a really huge mark on me; it’s where I draw a lot of power from every day.
Mum would never leave another person behind, and that’s why we’re doing the Ovaries. Talk About Them campaign. It took both me and [my brother and business partner] Marc a long time to be able to talk about losing Mum and her illness. But now we want to raise awareness because there’s so little known about ovarian cancer. We’ve had thousands of people say to us, “I didn’t know anything about this.” We were always going to do it, but the memory of Mum really drives us to continually push the campaign forward.
Sonia Kruger & Margaret Kruger
My mother Margaret is a strong, independent woman who grew up with 16 siblings and little money. She sacrificed a lot to give me the opportunities she didn’t have. Mum went without so that I could go to dance class, and spent the majority of her evenings sewing sequins on my costumes. Mum is a very hard marker, which has been good for me because there are always times in our lives where somebody has to give it to you straight, and she can always be relied on for that.
I also need to thank her for the countless words of wisdom – even if most of them are inspirational quotes off the internet (sorry, Mum). One piece of advice she gave me when my daughter was born was “a cold baby will never sleep”, and she’s right. Without mum’s strength, straightforward character and parenting know-how, I’m not sure where I would be today.