"A woman sent me a placenta once. She said we were meant to be together" … Jamie Durie.
Landscape designer, engaged, 43
Most men, I think, wander through life looking for a woman who matches up to the qualities of their mother. My mum, Joy, has always been a resourceful woman, someone who is warm, generous and optimistic. I think I get my optimism from her.
Mum was born in Sri Lanka and spent the first few years of her life there before doing her schooling in Sydney. After she met my father, he got a job with Hamersley Iron in the Pilbara [north-west WA]. So Mum had the incredibly tough job of raising me and my brother Chris in a very remote outback town called Tom Price. But Mum was stoic – she made new friends, and made the best of things. I remember her growing roses in the red dirt – the first garden I ever worked on.
When my parents split, Mum took my brother and me – I was about 10 – to the Gold Coast, where we lived with her parents. I have very vivid memories of this time, particularly of my grandmother, Daphne, who, like my mum, was very creative and a great cook. She actually had her own cooking show on Channel Nine. But they were tough years. I really got a taste of Mum's ingenuity and resourcefulness after my parents split.
I think my parents' separation sped up my childhood and I probably missed out on a lot of those precious teenage years. I was a pretty rebellious kid, actually. I was very inquisitive and couldn't wait to grow up and experience the world.
Both my grandparents and my mother gave everything they could to let me grow up slowly and experience as much childhood as I could. But in a way, I had to become the father of the family. I remember I kept getting told to rise to the occasion and look after Mum, too. Maybe I can trace some of the drive I have today back to that.
I had a lot of girlfriends when I was young. I think men search for acceptance from women. And I think, as men, we travel through life looking for some form of our mother's love, because it's the purest form that was introduced to us as males.
My girlfriends were often older than me. That makes you grow up fast. So does parenthood. I was just 23 when I became a father to Taylor, who's now 18 [and lives in the US, along with her mother, Michelle Gennock]. In a way, we've grown up together. She is an amazing girl and we're in touch a lot. She was born in Australia and then went back to the US when she was about three. But I've always travelled to ensure our relationship remained strong. We're very close.
I met Taylor's mother, Michelle, when I was in Manpower [a male strip show]. Michelle's a Californian girl, part Russian, part Italian, very fiery. She had her own Las Vegas restaurant when we met, and she worked on the show, travelled with me, and we had a lot of fun. We were together six years.
Manpower was a really interesting time. It was as if suddenly, in the late '80s and all through the '90s, there was some sort of revolution where women allowed themselves to let their hair down and openly celebrate the male body the way men have always celebrated the female body. But it wasn't like men heading off to a strip bar after work. I think for the women who went to these shows it was about camaraderie. So you'd see hens' nights, reunions, big groups planning outings together.
Manpower enabled me, as a 19-year-old, to travel the world. I went to over 40 countries. If someone came to you at that age and said, "Hey, here's all this money, how would you like to travel the world and meet some beautiful girls?" you'd do it.
Women can be as forward as men and when they fix on something they want, nothing gets in their way. Sometimes this can be unnerving. A woman sent me a placenta once, and clippings of her children's hair. She said the spirits had told her we were meant to be together. When that doesn't stop, when they appear on your doorstep, you call the cops. I've had to do that twice in my life.
My work in home- and landscape-design and renovation has shown me that women are almost always the design drivers in relationships. Generally speaking, they are more intuitive and they are nesters, so when they are feathering their nest they are very careful about how that is facilitated and engineered.
When I met Lisa [Christie, his fiancée], I was just ready. We met on a television show, Top Design - Lisa's an interior designer - but it wasn't until after the show we connected because, as the host, you're kept quite separate from contestants, and rightly so. But I watched her and, like many other men who watched her during those weeks, I was very drawn to her. She's very kind, warm, down-to-earth, self-deprecating and a lot of fun.
I started to fall in love with Lisa when I saw her with her [two] kids. She's just a great mother, and family is extremely important to her. And that's important to me.