It's the morning after a whirlwind flight and Melissa Tkautz is explaining to me that she believes in staying true to herself. Rewind the clock by 24 hours and she had just landed in Brisbane from Sydney for our cover shoot at the luxuriously decadent, Emporium Hotel.
Whisked away from her hometown, the powerhouse juggles family priorities, redecorating her home, recording studio dates and an in-flight movie list whilst between hair and makeup.
Three decades in and Tkautz's ambitions have not shifted and it's without question she has a firm handle on her hectic schedule.
"Let's face it, I am super busy but I am with [my kids] more than not. I always try to orchestrate meetings and interviews and auditions whenever I can when they're either at school, daycare or when they're asleep. It's not like I'm away for weeks at a time," she says passionately.
Today, Melissa Tkautz is a renowned household name. The Aussie talent is an entertainment icon who took her first steps in the industry at only 4 years of age. She then rose to fame as a teenager on the soapie juggernaut 'E-Street' playing Nikki Spencer. During her time on the show she progressed into music and landed an AMA and ARIA award for the era defining track, 'Read My Lips'. Now, she continues to be a pop sensation, leading actress, wife and mother-of-two with her latest role on the Real Housewives of Sydney claiming her to reality television.
Having enjoyed a lifelong career in showbiz, the starlet has no sense of slowing down anytime soon. "I'm going to record and hopefully do a film clip. I'm still auditioning ... and I have the film BOAR, coming out at the end of the year. So [music] clip, recording and then we'll start filming again for the Real Housewives of Sydney."
Until now, Tkautz preferred to share snippets of her life through interviews and social media. But recently the tables have turned and all eyes are on her as Australia is awaiting the unveiling.
"I love the Real Housewives so I thought if I'm going to do a reality TV show maybe I'll do the one that I've been watching for the last 10 years," she says.
Previously as an actor, Tkautz had only prepared for and played roles on film. As she embarks on her journey into 'reality' the thought of exposing herself was quite confronting. The well-trod road of fame didn't equip her for this career change as she reveals there were a few tears after she signed the contract.
"I did cry ... I've opened the curtains, I'm letting people into my real life. This isn't a stage, this is real and I think when I thought about it that way, I was freaking out. But then as soon as I started work [on the show] it put my mind at ease," she says.
"In 14 weeks there were only 2 incidents where I really thought, 'Oh my god why am I doing this show'. And all the other occasions where amazing."
The relief about Tkautz is that there is no need to tiptioe around things. Her confidence and familiarity with this sort of normal makes for an intriguing interview, particularly when we touch on style rules.
"Look, I'm not a big fan of horizontal stripes. Particularly on camera it's no good. ... And then my number one rule is if you put your breasts out, cover your legs. If you have your legs out, cover your breasts."
On the day of our photoshoot, the fashion devotee was adamant about proportions and how she looked in front of the camera. Whether she was sitting cross legged on the piano in the lush cocktail bar, posing by the rooftop pool or smiling at passersby in the lobby of the Emporium Hotel, she continued to move with confidence and grace.
The buzz and excitement on the Hotel's ground floor had staff and guests stopping to appreciate her glamour. Unphased, the successful star took it in stride. She has only ever been in the spotlight and being recognised is part of a typical day. But it's not all clothes, champagne and camera flashes.
Not one to hold back, Tkautz fearlessly tells me about the concerns she has surrounding the new public attention and the impact it could have on her family.
"I've told my mum to stay off social media when I'm on the show, and that's going to be hard. But I've told her to do that because my mum can't handle people saying nasty things about her girl - and I don't blame her." She says, "I've been doing this for such a long time now and I have developed a very thick skin."
Shaking it off quickly, she pauses and continues, "You've got to take the good with the bad and you've just got to stay true to yourself and know who you are as a person."
Kindly put, not every reality television show will propel you to the top. It has the potential to misguide or have you portrayed out of character.
"[The drama] is very real but ... there are people who get along with other people better and there were other people who didn't get along [with] the others at all."
She goes on to say, "With reality television you are forced to see each other - so there is conflict and there is continuous conflict. Even though the conversations are real - you are forced into situations that you might not have been in real life."
It crosses my mind that this is a career-defining moment for Tkautz. For a short moment her vulnerability is exposed and this strong woman persona steps out of the limelight. She starts to explain to me that she is nervous about having zero control over how she will be presented on the Real Housewives of Sydney.
"You don't know how they're going to edit you. You sign that over to them."
She takes a breath and says, "But I'll tell you one thing that I didn't do. I didn't do things out of my own character to get extra screen-time or to get a better story line. I just stayed very, very true to myself because that was my safest bet."
"Some of these women, this is how they are. This is how they behave in their day to day life, and that's fine. But I just had to be me. I just wanted to be me. And whatever comes of that, comes of that. At least I know I've stayed true to myself."
‘The Real Housewives of Sydney, Sundays at 8:30pm on Foxtel’s Arena’
Model: Melissa Tkautz
Photographer: Daniele Sangermani
Stylist: Stacey O’Keeffe
Hair and Makeup: Chelsea Brown
Assistants: Jessica Lunan and Grace Holgate
Location: Emporium Hotel Brisbane
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