I am a singing shows addict. I watch them all – The Voice, X Factor and I watched Australian Idol from the first season. I remember Emelia Rusciano from Season 2 in 2004. She will be horrified to know that I have not heard anything of what she has done since, as she confesses herself to be so ‘damn needy and desperate for validation’. And it turns out she has done quite a lot since then, in her thirty-seven years, and she shares all of this and her life before that in a very frank and open manner. She describes the book as ‘wondrous tales of ridiculous behaviour fuelled by a bottomless pit of anxiety’, with ‘no filters. No judgement’.
There is a real dichotomy to her – the ‘Stage Em and Real-life Em’. Her costumes give her courage and confidence, covering up the insecurities. She started dancing classes at two, and then progressed to the Miss Sheila Fancypants School of Dance where the Nazi like teacher appealed to Em. She dressed up looking like ‘Punky Brewster, filtered with Madonna, in the body of a sports nerd’. By twelve she had immersed herself in athletics and in this, as in everything she was an over-achiever, but didn’t recognise her own talent. Then after an injury she turned to cycling. It was there she met Scott.
In her own words –
‘After starting out life with such promise, genuine ability and high hopes, by seventeen I’d managed to bomb my Year 12 exams, not get into university and ruin my athletics career. My poor parents; instead of an educated Olympian they ended up with a broken-down teen working at the local pizza joint for $6.30 an hour ‘under the table’’.
She became a mother for the first time at twenty-one. It was when her daughter Marchella was two that she went on Australian Idol. With limited performing experience she came ninth, out of thousands who auditioned. It is typical of her that she sees herself as being rejected, rather than doing so well. It obviously gave her some standing as she was subsequently offered work on radio, as part of ‘a new wave of on-air talent: someone who had a bit of a profile (AKA a reality-TV reject) but no broadcasting experience’. This was a difficult time for her as she was pushed into portraying a certain personality that she wasn’t – playing dumb, with no knowledge of sport because that was for the blokes, despite her experience in the area. She was to be the ‘suburban mum’.
During this time she became pregnant again, and worked up until the birth – there were suggestions she give birth live on radio – and then returned to work six weeks afterwards. It is not surprising that she suffered from post-natal-depression. She talks candidly about this time, that is brave, and has helped and can continue to help those who go through this as well.
After radio she started a blog, and despite ‘a touch of dyslexia’ enjoyed writing and was picked up by Mia Freedman of Mamamia. Then she went on to writing and performing her own shows – a mix of stand-up and singing.
She is incredibly candid and witty about the ups and downs of her partnership/marriage with Scott, parenting her two girls, and the rollercoaster of her career/s, her relationships with her parents and her friends. She shows us that enormous grief gave her a strength and purpose she didn’t know she possessed. Whether you know this woman from Idol, her time on radio, from Mamamia or her shows, or not at all, this is a great memoir. I sometimes wonder about people writing about their life experiences at a young age, but she has packed so much into hers, and it is one that many people will be able to relate to and learn from that it absolutely deserves to be on the shelves.