When Tanya Hennessy joined Canberra radio station FM 104.7 in early 2016, she sounded funny and personable in interviews, but also tentative.
She and her then co-host Ryan Jon had the unenviable task of stepping into the shoes of the former, long-time breakfast hosts Scotty and Nige, aka Scott Masters and Nigel Johnson, who had been on the airwaves for decades.
Hennessy and Jon had nothing to do with Scotty and Nige leaving, but replacing them could not have been easy, as they were also subjected to online bullying from some upset listeners.
Five years later and a bona fide star far beyond the Gungahlin paddocks of Canberra FM, Hennessy says it was "really hard" stepping into the Scotty and Nige breach.
"But it galvanised me," she says.
And that's her thing now - what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Since leaving Canberra in late 2017, Hennessy has blitzed the entertainment world.
She's a successful stand-up comedian (selling out 27 venues), the author of two bestselling books (Am I Doing This Right? and Help Self), has worked with brands such as Disney and Kelloggs, has more than one million followers on social media, is an ambassador for Priceline Pharmacy, and has appeared on I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
Now, Hennessy has ventured into the world of junior fiction.
Her first book - Drum Roll Please, It's Stevie Louise - was published this month, introducing younger readers to a feisty but also quite shy protagonist. Hennessy hopes tweens will see themselves in Stevie Louis, an 11-year-old girl who finally realises being herself is something to be proud of.
"I was inspired to write Stevie Louise because I wanted to give something relatable and real to my younger audience," Tanya says.
"I wanted to offer something different: a fiercely female lead that wasn't about having a crush on someone. It's about finding yourself, finding confidence. I've learnt a lot about drive, tenacity and resilience in my life. I wish I had this book growing up - I needed it."
Originally from Newcastle, Hennessy probably reached her lowest point in Canberra. She had moved to the national capital alone, leaving her boyfriend in Queensland, her family were five hours away. She felt alone and had never had to try to make friends before.
She and Ryan Jon were then subjected to online trolling, including threats of violence against Hennessy because people didn't like her on-air persona.
Hennessy said at the time it all took a "massive toll on my life, my mental health and my confidence" and triggered her anxiety and depression. She made an incredibly emotional video detailing, essentially, her breakdown. But she survived and thrived and eventually became an ambassador for RU OK?, the suicide prevention charity.
Now 35 and living in Sydney, Hennessy says her time in Canberra, while challenging, was important. It's where she started to make on-point, online content and began to become the entertainer she knew she could be.
"Yes! 1000 per cent," she says. "The radio work made me more creative and made my videos better, and that's why I am where I am. I owe Canberra a lot."
And Canberra also likes to claim Hennessy, even though she was in the national capital for only about 20 months.
"I still get people saying, 'We're so proud of you'. And when I did my comedy tour, we sold out in Canberra. And I felt like it was my favourite audience," she says, adding no comedian can make a true, resonating Canberra joke without having lived there themselves, like she did.
"Canberra has had a sh---y run because of where parliament is. People say, 'Look at Canberra and the politicians'. And I'm like, 'They run their own race, Canberra is quite nice'."
And nothing has tested Hennessy's resilience in more recent times than her struggle to have a child, with partner Tom Poole, who used to work in Treasury in Canberra.
"I am trying to fall pregnant - it's been two years of trying and it's exhausting and frustrating," she says.
"So many people share this journey - and I want people to know it's okay to talk about it. It's so common. You're not alone."
Mother's Day - on Sunday - must be incredibly poignant. Hennessy says she doesn't dwell on herself, but thinks of her friend who lost her mother at 17. She is optimistic about the future.
"I can't wait for my first Mother's Day. My mum is amazing and I can't wait to give my child the gifts she gave me. The mum in Stevie is a glimpse into how I will think I will parent," she says.
The foray into junior fiction was born from, of all things, being dropped into the South African jungle for a stint on the reality TV show, I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here. While probably not on the radar of the intelligentsia, I'm a Celebrity was a firm family favourite show and Hennessy soon found theshow had broadened her audience, with suddenly kids interested in her.
"When I got out of the jungle, I had all these kids come up to me and say, 'Oh, loved you on the show'. I was getting lots of DMs from parents because of their kids, like I'm talking 200 a day. It was like, 'Why am I getting so much attention from kids?'. With my other books, there were always kids in the lines for signings, yet my content is quite mature. So I thought, 'I have to give these guys something'," she says.
"I did write a picture book but I thought, 'There's not enough in this, I've got too much to say'. So I ended up falling into junior fiction. I actually wrote 20,000 words and had to scale it back to 15,000. I read all the Babysitter Club books and Paul Jennings and I read Little Women, Dork Diaries, a bunch of Anh Do, David Walliams and I thought, 'I think I've got a unique voice in this space'."
She refuses to watch back I'm a Celebrity -"it's so awkward, I just can't" - but on the show she was funny and silly and vulnerable and kind. That must have resonated with kids. She's not sure.
"Was it because I looked like a bear?" she deadpans.
"I genuinely don't know but I'm stoked for their interest. I feel like I'm a voice that can teach them about resilience, about being confident, about finding yourself, about the journey of becoming a human being because I feel so in touch with my own inner child."
Always a "fun auntie" to her friends' kids, Hennessy went above and beyond to research the book.
"One of my friends has a 10-year-old and that's smack bang in the middle of the audience I was writing for. So I invited myself to hang out with her, the same night her 10-year-old had a sleepover party, so I could listen to what they spoke about," she says.
"The movie they watched that night was Grease and that's why Grease is in Stevie Louise. And I had a bunch of Madonna and Kylie and I thought, 'What are these kids listening to?' and I changed it to Billie Eilish and TikTok. The biggest thing I found, was how to write for kids and not have them on phones. That was an interesting thing.
"So, yeah, I went full method. Because I'm not a mother and I don't talk to them in a maternal way, I just talked to them and started asking them questions and in a way they forgot I was there. It was actually the funniest thing.
"A lot of the girls weren't talking about crushes, the boys they liked, it was completely unromantic and that helped me to create Stevie. I wanted to write a book that's not about crushes, that's about the self, the individual, not having to get validation through somebody else because a lot of junior fiction is about that."
Stevie Louise is about friends, finishing the last year of primary school, the gold boots her pop gave her to instil confidence, her tie-dye wearing mum who serves Coco Pops and broccoli for breakfast "for balance", a sticky little brother, a dad who who loves a good dad joke or 13, putting on a show at an old people's home. Life at 11.
Hennessy says she put some of herself into Stevie, especially the way she could be confident around friends and family but also shy at school and in new situations. Who flourished in the right environment.
"When I was 14 I directed a show and put it on at a professional theatre company, we made significant money, which we weren't allowed to keep, and I was just a really driven child and I wanted to instil that in Stevie's journey. But she's cooler than me, way cooler than me, funnier than me. Like, I'm a new soul, Stevie's a bit more of an old soul."
And Hennessy's hoping for a book tour, so she can come back to Canberra. "I really want to go to Belconnen, only so I can go to my favourite frozen yoghurt place. When I was in Canberra, I just lived at Belconnen Westfield," she laughs.
She is also obsessed with the Jamala Wildlife Lodge at the zoo in Canberra, heading straight there for a stay as soon as Covid restrictions were lifted.
"They way they do the food, the way it's all set up is like it actually is in South Africa, they've nailed it." she said. "You actually feel like you are in another world in Jamala, like I'm not an ambassador for them, although, if they'd like me ..."
Hennessy has come a long way since Canberra radio.
"I think what I'm most proud of is that I've just continued going because this is a hard path. You feel pressure to keep creating and evolving and keep your audience interested and making stuff that is relevant to the zeitgeist," she says.
"I guess what I'm most proud of is I get up every single day and give it a crack. I'm proud of my work ethic and I'm really resilient, and that's definitely embedded in my kids' story.
"I think it is so important to have that rhetoric for kids - life is tough sometimes but if you get up again, that's what will define you.
"Resilience will define you."
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