A dazzling smile can mask a lot of sadness, but a pretty face and fame can't buy you peace – it's an all too familiar tale from the fickle world of pop culture recently brought to life by Megan Gale's role in I Love You Too. Describing the parallels between her role playing an Italian model and her real-life experience, Gale told Adelaide Now:
"The [scene] that sticks out the most for me is the hotel room scene. She is in this gorgeous hotel room suite with beautiful bunches of flowers and gifts that have been sent to her but despite all of that, she is really sad and she's isolated and she's lonely because she's on the other side of the world and she doesn't know anyone."
It's a scene I'm sure the late Adriana Xenides, the former hostess of Wheel of Fortune, and by virtue of her 18-year run on the show an Aussie pop culture icon, could relate to, such was her palpable sense of isolation and sadness, conveyed for public consumption via gossip magazines and tabloid current affairs shows.
In 2001, she said: "I was voted one of TV's most loved icons but I had never felt so alone. One day I opened a magazine, and saw my face smiling back at me. I was shocked by the sorrow in my eyes and realised that I had been faking my smile for far too long. I tried to think back to where it had all gone wrong. When did I lose my enthusiasm? When did my famous smile become a chore? I felt anxious and alone."
Most recently the "former TV beauty" told Woman's Day that she had had five heart attacks, crediting her best friend, her dog Red, with rescuing her after a collapse. In a 2007 segment on Today Tonight, she bared her bloated belly for all to see the affects of her gastro-intestinal disorder. Her appearance was a comfort to other sufferers who talked of the debilitating, terrifying affects of the condition.
"Adriana had a heart of gold and she couldn't do enough for people,'' her one-time co-host John Burgess said. ''She always put other people ahead of herself. We've lost a good person.''
Her private life was marred by driving offenses, a breakdown, relationship trials, financial issues, depression and the intestinal disorder that ultimately caused her death, according to reports. Since leaving Wheel of Fortune in 1996, Xenides had struggled to find her feet, appearing variously on Big Brother, Beauty and the Beast and Burgo's Catch Phrase.
"People knew her as a model and a game show hostess, but she was well educated, came from a great family and spoke five languages,'' her former publicist and friend Michael Shephard told The Sydney Morning Herald. ''She had such an amazing insight into life and the world, and a great passion for animals. She didn't get to show that side of herself because of the nature of the beast.''
Let's hope her death is not in vain – and that other TV personalities (or, indeed, anyone with a public profile) whose coping mechanisms are fragile might find the extra personal support they need to cope with life in the limelight. While "Baby" John Burgess, her 12-year hosting companion, visited her hospital bed, it's a shame that such a bright lady should have felt so terribly alone.
Depression and isolation lead to lonely hearts, so it's wonderful to hear the Queensland Government has committed $8.5 million over four years to reducing stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. The first International Youth Mental Health Conference is to be held in Melbourne on July 29 and 30 – sign up here.
Girl With a Satchel