I met Australian icon Ita Buttrose at a public relations conference two years ago. Ita gave the closing address, ‘Does media change society or society change the media?’ During her insightful presentation, I actually felt like I was falling in love. So it is when you meet an icon.
Cleo and I were born in the same year. I am one of a generation of women for whom Ita was made relevant again by the ABC mini-series Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo. As a young woman I would escape into magazines – I wanted to work for them, I wanted to write for them, I wanted to be in the pages of them. My first regular reads were Girl and Dolly and I moved onto Cleo and Cosmopolitan as a teenager. I remember Mia Freedman – now the publisher of Mamamia – from Cleo and Cosmo, but I only knew Ita as the editor of the Australian Women’s Weekly.
Paper Giants opened my eyes to the incredible influence and impact Ita had on my life. Everything from how I perceived my sexuality to my choices in life has been informed by Cleo and debated in its pages. But it also made me realise that Ita was both an editor and a single mother.
I was one of a handful of delegates who milled around after Ita’s address hoping for a few words and perhaps a photo. During my brief conversation with Ita – with me panting like an excited dog and her spectacularly warm and gracious – I blurted out, “I’ve always wanted to write for a magazine full-time!”
“Well, you know what to do,” Ita said. “You just keep on going, you know how it works.”
And so I do. My career has been a study in delayed gratification. First article published in 1996. Married the same year. My son is born. Separated in 1997. Started a journalism degree in 1998. Divorced. Raised son, studied and worked. Graduated in 2005. Son is now eight. Worked full-time as a journalist. Moved into PR and marketing. Met a new man. Son is now 15. Got engaged. Moved to Melbourne. Separated. Turned 40. Son is now 17 and has finished school.
Is it time to chase that dream of being a magazine writer yet? Well yes, actually, it is. I don’t want to work in print anymore, so I’ve started my own digital magazine. The one you’re reading right now. I’m the editor. I did it Ita.