Pop Talk: Formative girl crushes and Saturday Disney dreams

Pop Talk: Formative girl crushes and Saturday Disney dreams 

"What did I want to do when I was young? I wanted to be Sofie Formica!"  
- Rebecca Sparrow, Speakers Ink International Women's Day event

When I walked into yesterday's Speakers Ink event at All Hallows, Brisbane, and sat down next to Sofie Formica, one of my childhood girl crushes, I had to restrain myself from staring (thankfully, radio host Robin Bailey, captivating herself, was on stage). As my sister will attest, I watched Saturday Disney, which celebrated 20 years on air last year, religiously as a pre-teen before trotting off to ballet class. Sofie Formica was one of the original hosts along with Jeniene Mapp and James Sherry – they got up to kooky things during takes between Gummi Bears, Duck Tales (woohoo) and TaleSpin.

But unlike Bec Sparrow, who wanted to be a kids' TV host like Sofie and Jeniene, and may have auditioned for the same show, it was my single goal in life to win one of the weekly Saturday Disney prize packs. Full of toys, books, videos (no DVDs back then!) and the kind of food mum didn't stock in the cupboard, they were the golden egg. So I spent hours laboriously compiling a scrapbook to dazzle the Saturday Disney team, enlisting my sister's colouring-in skills to help me in my endeavour. 

The project complete, a letter to the team and several (traced) pictures of Disney characters within, I gave it to my mum to ensure it wound up in the safe hands of the S'Disney crew, who then filmed at Channel Seven's Mount Cootha studios (home to my other must-watch morning TV show, Agro's Cartoon Connection).

It didn't occur to me then, however, that my first foray into publishing might be a conflict of interest: a bit unfair, perhaps, to give the prize to the daughter of someone who worked at the station. Or that Sofie, Jeniene and James might not be directly responsible for opening all the mail and selecting the winner. 

Still, disheartened, as you are when you are 10 and quite sure that your efforts are the most excellent, I did get a consolation prize: a box of Twisties and a t-shirt (lame)... and a visit to the studio (hurrah)! So yesterday wasn't exactly the first time I got to meet Sofie Formica, but it's been a good 20 years since I did. She still looks the same. Me? Not so much (thank you, set of braces).

Sofie wouldn't have been much older than 18 when she got the Saturday Disney gig, and she went on to TV work with Wombat, Home and Away (playing boyfriend-stealer Imogen Miller), did some time at university, and went to L.A., too. Now also a mum, she hosts The Great South East (the show's first female host in its 13-year history) and co-directs a mentoring company called Media Potential.

I was a bit star struck by all the women who presented at yesterday's event, which was kick-started by Robin with a talk about resilience, which a lady needs to survive any career, but perhaps even more so in the often unforgiving and teeny-tiny Australian media world.

Newspaper features writer and columnist Frances Whiting told the girls about her journey from a career in teaching to penning words, sharing some hilarious reader letters, including one that told her, "I hate your hair, I hate what you wear and I hate anyone who doesn't hate you". Nice! She also spoke about her natural affinity for features writing, given her penchant for flourishes, and working on a piece about Sophie Delezio, who sent her son a hat and a note to make sure he wears it.

I wish I'd taped Rebecca Sparrow's talk for you, really I do. Her stint on the stage was GOLDEN. If there were a Logie award for Best Female Performance Act in a School Hall, she would win it; hilarious, self-deprecating, smart, real... The audience of students and teachers applauded with wolf whistles before she even spoke a word – such is her resonance in the World of Teen Girls.

She started by telling the girls she had been so crap at Maths in school that she almost flunked "Maths in Society", and that she wasn't particularly great at English either (you could smell the relief in the air!). Then she told us about her failed endeavours to get into kids' TV. It was only later that she realised she was pretty good at writing, and so worked on a travel magazine before penning The Girl Most Likely and its prequel The Year Nick McGowan came to stay.

But most importantly, Bec shared her tips for survival, not just in media, but in life. Like the fact that your talents and interests might not equate to a job or career path but instead a life-long hobby. Little wonder her most recent book, Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I'd known in high school), has been her best seller to date. I wish I'd had that book when I was a teen (it could have supplemented all those glossy magazines!). Sparrow is like the Dr Seuss of girl world, telling it like it is in her wonderful way.

One of the other lessons Bec is keen to impress on her young audiences and readers is about the importance of friends: girls you can trust and lean on when the going gets tough (i.e. Your Tribe). After the event, I had some one-on-one chat time with a few of the gorgeous girls (some who have their own blogs), and then joined Bec and Robin and author Kate Hunter (hilarious lady!) for a coffee and a chinwag.

These little catch-ups are wonderful for me, not being in the thick of the media scene in neither Sydney nor Brisbane, though blessed I am to operate via internet connection (not always reliable, so I've found in the past few weeks, thank you Telstra!). Advice is shared and so too words of encouragement, but also career conundrums and personal problems. Mentoring is so important. So too connecting with others who share your passions or simply GET WHAT IT IS YOU DO and WHY YOU DO IT. What a blessing to find like-minded ladies in these Round the Twist-like turns of events.

And to see how childhood Saturday Disney dreams – manifested into blogs or books or movies-in-the-making – can come true in a way that's just right for you.

Girl With a Satchel


Anonymous said...

Hi Erica :) I went to the Speakers Inc thing yesterday and just wanted to tell you I thought your were great! It's been playing on my mind for a while as to whether I'd like to go into journalism and after yesterday, I think I maybe might :) Thankyou for speaking :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Erica, I was also at the Women's Day event yesterday at All Hallows. I took a group of girls from the high school where I work. We enthused about your presentation on the way back to school. Thanks for your message. Loved the "flag waving" and the realism you shared. Well done! I hope we can have you visit our school in the near future!

Natalie Pedler said...

I was at the Speakers Ink event too (school staff member) and I thought you were wonderfully witty and wise. You were very eloquent and, like the other 4 speakers,very humble but entertaining. It was a terrific event. One of the best I've been to (and I've been to a lot of them, beleive me!)

Anonymous said...

I also went to the Speakers Ink International Women's day in All Hallows and I loved it, your talk was very inspirational. I am very interested in fashion, glossy magazines ect. and sometimes find myself drifting away from reality. Your speech brought me back down to earth and made me very interested in blogging! 'Girl with a satchel' has now officially been added to the 'Top Hits' on my computer and I'm hoping to start my own blog soon if I get any spare time.

Thank you so much for your wise words and inspirational talk.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I also went to the Women with a Voice event and I just want to say thank you. Your speech was great. :]

Anonymous said...

I(a student)also went to the Women with a voice,Internation Women's day event and it was soo cool!!you and all the other speakers were all so inspirational and very entertaining.Thank-you for giving u your time to speak to us.

frangipani princess said...

This post and these comments make me wish I'd been there!
Sounds like it was an amazing event with some brilliant speakers.


Kaitlyn. said...

Erica you were so inspiring. I'm really considering journalism after Thursday because I know I am the biggest fail to come near mathematics. I do excel in English better so I am considering it but I'd like to get into advertising too. All the speeches were great and gave our school a lot of determination towards our goals. Thanks heaps !! Nice site too by the way. Will have to make one together one day if you think I'd be any good haha. xx

Kaitlyn. said...

Erica you were the best you gave me determination to be that arty person that will help someone like you because I want to be a graphic designer and work in advertising. I really liked your speech. I'm intrigued on what you mean by girl crushes too but that's just me hahaha. You were great!!