Iconic Aussie talent Melissa Tkautz is one of Australia’s original golden girls. At just 16, Melissa’s career skyrocketed after she was cast as a leading character in the soapie juggernaut E-Street. Playing the beloved character of Nikki Spencer launched the young star into the homes and hearts of millions. By the age of 17, Australia’s latest ‘it’ girl had appeared in over 160 television and print commercials, including coveted campaigns for Qantas and Cadbury. It was also during her soap television days that Melissa made headlines after releasing the ‘era defining’ music track Read My Lips, which saw her receive an AMA and ARIA award after it became the highest selling single of 1991. Coupled with rumoured trysts with Hollywood heartthrob Simon Baker and the late INXS frontman Michael Hutchence, Melissa spent her youth navigating the intriguing world of celebrity.
Since her sudden thrust into stardom Melissa has enjoyed a colossal three decades in an industry she loves. She juggles her multi-pronged career by refusing to be defined by any single category; having enjoyed vast success as an actress, singer, model, brand ambassador, presenter and a luxury candle business owner – a range cheekily named Mel-T.
Most recently, Melissa has added the title ‘Reality Television Star’ to her list of credentials, with the glamorous performer starring alongside seven other Sydney-residing women in Foxtel’s highly anticipated The Real Housewives of Sydney (RHOS). For those not well-versed on the fanciful world of reality television, the show comes as Australia’s second instalment – Melbourne beat us to the punch – of the hugely successful American franchise. RHOS focuses on the personal, professional, outright extravagant and sometimes scandalous lives of Sydney’s inner social elite. Already a firm fan of the international series Melissa was quick to join the cast, although admits she had her moments of doubt. Her initial hesitation was primarily due to concerns over any potential affects the demanding role could have on her family and friends. As Glitz and glamour aside, Melissa is now simply known as ‘mum’ at her Northern Beaches home, which she shares with her husband and two young children Ayla, 7 and Cuba, 3.
With her new-found reality television fame, surprise return to the music charts, silver screen debut in Australian horror film Boar, and luxurious candle range, Melissa’s star quality is anything but waning. Sydney Observer recently chatted with the oh-so-fabulous entertainment icon about all things RHOS and how she achieved career longevity in a notoriously tough industry.
Congratulations on joining The Real Housewives of Sydney! How did you feel when you first found out you had been cast?
Melissa Tkautz: I was happy. I was shocked. I was crying at one point. It is a lot to take on because it is a very different show and you are putting yourself out there. You are essentially opening up yourself for public ridicule, for anything everything. You do have to take a second think about it because it can affect the people around you. It can affect your family and friends, not necessarily in a bad way but because it is such an out there show. So I didn’t take the decision lightly.
Were you hesitant about how you could be portrayed?
MT: Of course, 100 per cent! That is ultimately in the networks hands, that is what you sign over. They can edit the footage anyway they want. But at the end of the day, I know what kind of person I am and I had confidence in the fact that whatever was going to be out there was going to be me. You have to be confident in yourself to be able to put yourself completely out there. It is pretty full on!
How do you think you’ve come across so far?
MT: I think I’ve come across as who I am. I’ve been accused in the show of being a people pleaser which I am, but so what? What is wrong with that? I enjoy making people happy in life and I stand by that. I don’t see anything wrong with that, in my opinion that’s a good quality! I’m not a confrontational person. I do stand up for myself but I don’t create arguments that aren’t there for the sake of it. The producers knew this when they cast me. I am who I am. I like to think I’m a good person with good morals. I was never going to go on the show and carry on. Having said that, next season you might see a different me!
How did this compare to your previous work?
MT: It is nothing like anything I have ever done before! You couldn’t compare this to absolutely anything. I had never done any reality television before and the closest thing would have been presenting, but even that is different. This was really in your face and full on. That being said, I actually really enjoyed it. Surprisingly, there was only once or twice where I came home as I was like ‘Oh my god! Why have I done this?’. But it is what it is. You have some seriously fiery characters on the show so it wasn’t a complete shock.
Why do you think the Real Housewives franchise has become such a guilty pleasure for viewers?
MT: It gives people the chance to sit down, watch us all being so crazy and so over the top that they finish the episode feeling like ‘wow everything that I’ve got going on in my life right now seems quite normal!’. That’s why I tune in. I like to see other women, how they behave, how they react and how they are. I also love to watch it for the shoes, the clothes and the glamour. I tune in for all of those things, because it is not complicated television. It is easy to watch and it is a topic of conversation.
The show is incredibly drama-filled, how much of what we see is real?
MT: In terms of our behaviour and the events that occur, it is completely authentic and real. Is it a normal situation to be in? No. In reality, there is no way you would sit down with seven fiery women to get only 30 seconds worth of footage. If you have one or two people who don’t get along and then all of a sudden you put them in a room for up to eight hours with alcohol, then you are going to get conflict.
The entertainment industry has a reputation for being incredibly tough. What do you attribute your career longevity to?
MT: To make it in this business you have to have an incredibly thick skin and you can’t ever give up. I have never given up. I have come across a lot of closed doors throughout my career but I have this mentality of ‘I won’t be beaten’. This is what I want to be doing, I’m passionate about it and I’m just going to keep going for it. And that’s what I have always done!
The Real Housewives of Sydney, Sundays at 8.30pm on Foxtel’s