Richard Wilkins: "I'm not a pin-up boy for marriage, but I've had the good fortune to meet amazing women."

Richard Wilkins: "I'm not a pin-up boy for marriage, but I've had the good fortune to meet amazing women." Photo: Steven Siewert

Richard Wilkins
Entertainment Editor, Nine Network, 59, single

 

I was the eldest of two children growing up in Auckland, New Zealand, in the 1950s. My dad, Tony, worked for BP and my mum, Romola, was head dietitian at Auckland Hospital.

Richard Wilkins with his mother, Romola, in 1991.

Richard Wilkins with his mother, Romola, in 1991. Photo: Courtesy of Richard Wilkins

I grew up thinking my life was the most normal anyone could possibly have. My mum was fiercely intelligent. She got a university degree back in the 1940s when it wasn't commonplace, and after my sister and I had left home she went back and taught biology at a secondary school in New Zealand.

I never saw my parents having a fight. They were the most loving couple and I always felt safe and secure. Mum died in 1999 and Dad a few years before that. We had some magic times.

My grandmother was the matriarch of the family, a really strong woman who would run the house and play mahjong and chess. My three aunties, Jo, Mary and Maisie, were all strong, confident, bright woman, while my sister, Pip, is no slouch in the brains department. She is a financial consultant and got another degree a few years ago.

Wilkins with his daughter, Bec, in 2010.

Wilkins with his daughter, Bec, in 2010. Photo: Snapper Media

I studied violin from the age of seven and went up to grade eight with Trinity College and the Royal School of Music. Mum re-taught herself the piano so she could accompany me. She was a real doer.

I went to boarding school when I was 12. At the time you take it for granted; now I realise the financial sacrifices my parents made. I was bullied a little as I was quite an arty type who was in the orchestra, choir and all the school plays. I grew up thinking I was going to be a lawyer. Then pop music came along and all I wanted to do was play in bands.

For my last year of high school, I was back living at home. After towing the line for all that time, I was ready to run amok! I was 16 and women were alien creatures. I was shy. I was suddenly in a day school where you got to talk to girls on a daily basis, which was scary. I didn't know how to relate to them.

I had sex on my 18th birthday and got a 16-year-old girl pregnant. We were married for 18 months. On the one hand my parents were mildly horrified, but on the other they were proud I had the fortitude to do the right thing. The odds of it all working out were reasonably bad. It's an initiation to adulthood I wasn't really prepared for.

Our son, Adam, was a beautiful surprise, but we were kids. Becoming a father to a Down syndrome child at 18 was challenging. But we had fantastic support - Adam spent several years living with a lady called Helen, a volunteer at a hostel for intellectually handicapped children. Still, to this day, Helen is my eyes and ears to Adam. She's incredible. In fact, he still calls her "Mum".

I've got five magnificent kids [by four women]: Adam, 41, Bec, 30, Nick, 28, Christian, 19, and Estella, 9. All the women in my life are really strong, self-assured and confident. Bec has just turned 30 and is a chartered accountant. She is a shining example of how hard work and perseverance pays off. She is the most beautiful, unassuming person - I'm so proud of her.

Little Estella is just beautiful. I see in her a lot of my mum. All my kids have their grandmother's hands - the genes are really strong there. Estella's mum [fashion designer Collette Dinnigan] has these beautiful, slender, seamstress hands and Estella has these large distinctive Wilkins hands. Collette is an awesome person and we have a beautiful daughter who is still so precious and naive. She's a feisty little thing but she's so beautiful.

The thing I'm most proud of is when the kids are all together. It's just incredible. Nick is so protective of everybody in that big-brother kind of way. Christian and I live together. We are two bachelors.

I love youthful energy and I love having creative, dynamic people around me. It keeps you young. I'm so enormously proud of my magnificent children, but I give the lion's share of the credit for them to their mums.

I'm not a pin-up boy for marriage [Wilkins has been married three times], but I've had the good fortune to meet some amazing women over the years. I don't regret a moment.

Separating is never a fun thing to do, and anyone who says you can come out of a relationship as bosom buddies is telling fibs. And if you say you wouldn't do a thing differently, you're kidding yourself. There are forks in the road where maybe you could have taken the other one, but you have to be happy and content where you are. I certainly am.

Although I do regret being a bit of a bastard to a couple of the women in my life, it was never my intention to hurt anybody. I think I've probably been a romantic fool a couple of times; I've put my heart before my head. When I fall, I fall hard and fast!

Sometimes people will refer to me as being unlucky in love. I think I'm just the opposite. I've been fortunate to meet and be in relationships with incredible people and I've certainly learnt from everybody I've met. All these wonderful people have enriched my life. I feel very lucky.