With their broad smiles and brunette waves, media luminaries Lisa Wilkinson (left) and Mia Freedman could be sisters. “We sort of are,” says Freedman, who first met Wilkinson as a starry-eyed 19-year-old in 1991. “She was the editor of Cleo and it was always my dream to work for her,” she remembers. “When I walked into Lisa’s office for a work-experience interview, I couldn’t believe I was breathing the same air as her.”
It was the start of a steadfast mentorship that saw Freedman rise up the ranks of the magazine under Wilkinson’s nurturing wing, becoming an editor herself (at Cosmopolitan magazine) by the age of 24. In those early years, Mia’s enthusiasm and smarts ruffled a few feathers, recalls Wilkinson. “I had to calm everybody down and say, ‘You’ve got to trust me – Mia’s like a puppy: every so often she’s going to wee on the carpet, but we all love puppies!’”
Gradually, the pair transitioned from boss and employee to close friends. “I think that speaks to Lisa’s open-mindedness,” says Freedman. They even welcomed babies within four days of each other (Wilkinson’s third and Freedman’s first). In a poetic twist, Wilkinson’s daughter Billi is now mentored by Freedman at her Mamamia Women’s Network, a media empire built on female empowerment.
“Everyone has friends who are just there for the good times, or friends who are weirdly just there for the bad times, but people who are there for all of them – the miscarriages, the births, the marriages, and all the ups and downs – that’s the fabric of female friendship, and that’s what Lisa and I have woven over nearly 20 years,” says Freedman. “I learnt a long time ago that your romantic partner can’t give you everything, and to expect them to give you everything – particularly if they’re male – is going to leave you disappointed. And so the incredible intimacy I have with my female friends is what completes me as a person.”
Wilkinson, now a host of The Project, echoes that sentiment. “Mia was a huge champion when I left the Today show in 2017,” she says. “Mamamia ran some of the funniest stories at a time when I really needed laughter in my life. It’s so important for women to support other women. Because, if we don’t, the boys’ club will continue to prosper.”
Read the full story in the April issue of marie claire, out now.