Money & Career

Celebrities Write to Their Mentors

Six prominent Australian icons thank the mentors who shaped who they are today

Behind every individual there is someone who has helped shape their path. Here, six prominent Australians take the opportunity to say thank you to the person who encouraged them to fulfil their potential and become who they are today.

Ricki-Lee Coulter

Singer and Australia’s Got Talent host Ricki-Lee Coulter.

Dear John,

I didn’t have a dad growing up – and I didn’t know something was missing until you came into my life when I was eight. You came to Australia at 23, to play rugby with nothing but a backpack and a credit card. When we met, I’m sure I didn’t make it easy for you – I was protective of my mum. You were just a kid, you didn’t have to take me under your wing. But you did, instinctively, with such pride and with such ease – and slowly but surely you won my heart. As a child, you taught me how to use a knife and fork properly, you sat with me and did my homework and helped make sense of things that didn’t make sense. And I can safely say the reason I am the grammar police now is because of you!

You taught me manners and instilled in me so many of the core values that led to who I am today. You taught me the importance of honesty and sticking to your word. You taught me to be bold, to be adventurous, to have fun, to celebrate your wins and to put your head down and work even harder after losses. You challenged me in every single way – to be better, to think bigger, to go further. I remember the day you asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I said a famous singer. You said singing was “just a hobby” but you also told me one of the most important things, “You can do anything you put your mind to. As long as you apply yourself, you can do it.” And you always led by example. I remember you going to a job interview and you hired a suit and a red Ford Capri, when really we had a Ford Falcon that sounded like it was about to explode. I watched you work your way up the ranks and eventually become a partner. The dedication and sacrifice it took to achieve that was such a huge lesson for me, and something I’ve had to do a lot of in my career. For a young girl who was used to feeling abandoned and at times unloved, you gave me time, showed me love, patience and, most importantly, guidance.

I know that I can always count on you. I know you’re my dad – so you’re supposed to be all those things. But I also know very well that being a dad doesn’t mean you actually will be. The way I see it is, you are all those things … and the bonus on top of that is, you are my dad.

– Ricki-Lee

mia freedman

Mia Freedman

Founder and publisher of

Dear Poppy King,

I heard about you long before we met. You were 19 and so was I, both of us taking baby steps into di erent careers. You were way ahead of me. While my steps were small and tentative, working my way upwards in magazine journalism, you were striding into the walled-o cosmetics industry. In 1993, there were no independent beauty brands. It was all multinationals. Icons. Giants. And then you. No matter that nobody has done it before, you said, I know what women want right now: matte lipsticks in modern shades with contemporary names. A brand their mums and grandmas didn’t wear.

And it worked. Women in bathrooms at every bar and club across Australia bonded over our Poppy lipsticks. Your face became familiar, your story told by women impressed with your gumption, your guts, your ability to intuit what we never even knew we wanted. Your ascent was swift and you soared high. Thirty years later, it’s hard to convey how astonishing your achievements were. Not for another quarter-century would female entrepreneurs – let alone one in her 20s – capture the Zeitgeist. When I launched Mamamia 12 years ago, you were the only role model I had. The world of entrepreneurs and small business was all men – you were the only beacon. Decades later, we [met] and by this time I was an entrepreneur too. You told me, “Success just confirms what you already know about yourself. Failure is a far better teacher.” 

I think about that all the time, on every hard day – every time I fall into the trough of pain that entrepreneurs know so well. And it’s the ladder I use to climb out and back into the arena. Where I can reach my hand down to other women and pull them up, too.

– Mia

Today show co-host Georgie Gardner pens a letter to her grandmother.

Georgie Gardner

The Today show co-host pens a letter to her grandmother.

Dear Wallaby,

When you told me that the only things that really matter in life are truth and love, I was a confused 17 year old and didn’t really understand. You took me under your wing and showed me love at a time when I felt vulnerable, worthless and, frankly, unlovable. I remember feeling I wasn’t deserving and that I needed to repay you in some way for the time and energy you a orded me, not to mention the roof over my head. You assured me I didn’t owe you anything, and that was my introduction to unconditional love.

We’d sit for hours on your couch, drinking tea and talking. You listened, you observed, you never judged. You gave me your time and you gave me a voice. And as the months passed and our connection deepened, the words and tears owed as I made sense of my muddled childhood. It was confronting and confusing, but you demonstrated something that still rings true 30 years on: truth and love are all that
really matter. Thank you.

– Georgie x

Sunrise presenter Mark Beretta.

Mark Beretta

Sunrise presenter

Dear Mick and Karen,

This is the letter I should have written years ago. I’ve always wanted to tell you how much you did for me. You both had a huge impact at a time when there were di erent directions to take – some good and some not so good. I wasn’t perfect by a long way, but over time so much of what I saw in you helped me. I watched and listened more than you might think, and learnt that you can achieve what you aim for with work and perseverance, and have fun at the same time! You taught me how to be a good person, and you believed in me – the most important thing you can give a teenager. Your in uence showed me that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen. It’s a lesson I will pass on to my kids. We shared so many great summers on the water. There was hard work done but we also [had] lots of laughs. The generosity you showed me was incredible. You’ll never know the impact you had in shaping who I am today. I wanted to say thanks, and I look forward to being that person for someone else. Thanks.

– Mark


Ryan Fitzgerald

‘Fitzy’, co-host of Nova 96.9 breakfast-radio show.

Dear Dad,

This was a di cult letter to write. The reason being is that I’ve never told you my feelings before, and I should have, because you’re my mentor.

You come from a stereotypical Australian background. A simple existence surrounded by love, laughter and your addiction to the Port Noarlunga Footy Club. It wasn’t a picture-perfect life, you also witnessed poverty, violence and tragedy with the loss of your little brother. You’re a hardened man but also passionate about anything you put your mind to. You were my coach my whole junior footy career, from age eight to 15, and since then I’ve spoken about the blurred line I felt – at times I questioned our relationship.

You’ve heard me whingeing about your authoritarian parenting style, but unfortunately you’ve never heard me thank you for the important things: the morals and values that have shaped me – my work ethic, my drive, but most importantly, making an impact on people I meet in life. You taught me how to make an impression through a simple hello, a compliment or, best of all, making somebody laugh. “They’ll never forget, mate,” you said, and this is the lesson I am teaching my two boys, Hewie and Lenny. You don’t have to be the smartest, richest or most powerful person, but if you can show respect and leave a lasting impression, you will have success for the rest of your life. Fast forward to today, I’m 42 and I see a lot of similarities between us. Passion and competitiveness, but also that masculinity complex: not expressing the most important emotions and conveying them to the people you love. I guess that has been the biggest reason for me to write this, to tell you what you mean to me. Apart from being my father, you’ve been my biggest mentor. Thank you, sir. Love you mate and, Dad, let’s do this more often.

– Ryan

Myer ambassador and model Elyse Knowles.
Elyse wears Seed Heritage knit, and Abrand jeans, both at; her own jewellery.

Elyse Knowles

Myer ambassador and model.

Dear Tori,

Life has a habit of throwing us constant curve balls. Day after day, it can feel as though we’re living on a roller-coaster, forever going up and down like a yo-yo. You have been by my side through thick and thin. Through the good times and bad, you’ve been there with me. We first met years ago when I modelled for Vivien’s; you were the booker at the agency at the time. Our careers each took different directions, but it wasn’t long until our worlds collided again and I ended up employing you in 2003.

You and I have grown together in this crazy and unpredictable industry. The list of things we’ve learnt along the way is long! Every single experience we’ve gone through has been an invaluable part of where we are at today. You understand me, the way I think, and you have always encouraged me to be the real version of myself. You see my vision and help me get to where I want to be – always with support and never with any judgement or criticism.

When you have a special someone who loves you for who you are, who listens to you and directs you down the right path when your brain runs out of sense and clarity, you cherish those people like there’s no tomorrow.

You are such a positive light in my life, and I truly appreciate how rare people like you are. I just hope I have been able to give back to you in the same way you have always given to me.

Thank you for being such a beautiful friend.

– Elyse

Raise is a national youth-mentoring movement aiming to empower young people to become resilient, capable and connected. In the past decade, Raise has delivered youth-mentoring programs for 5424 young people, and trained 3949 volunteer mentors. To get involved, visit

This story originally appeared in the October issue of marie claire. 

Photography by Diego Lorenzo Jose. Styled by Ella Blinco-Jury. 

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