Crack open the Tia Maria and put on some footy franks! One of Australia’s most popular entertainers, Magda Szubanski, declared her support for gay marriage this week; and then on the Valentine’s Day edition of the Network 10 talk show The Project she came out. Two private members bills on same-sex marriage were put before the Australian parliament in the last week, and Szubanski threw her support behind them with flawless timing. “How do you communicate to someone what it feels like to be on the receiving end of prejudice?” she asked when questioned about why same-sex marriage was an important issue. It was not about coming out, per se, but about using her position to change hearts and minds. And as one of the show’s presenters, Dave Hughes, pointed out, “you’re one of the most popular people in this country”.
Szubanski was a co-creator of the most popular sketch show in Australian history, Fast Forward. One of her characters, Sharon Strzelecki, was carried over to the hit show Kath & Kim, two characters who also also started out on Fast Forward. Szubanski played the farmer’s wife, Esme Hoggett, in Babe, and in the sequel Babe: Pig in the City, and a recurring character, Furlow, in the US sci-fi show Farscape. She voiced the character Miss Viola in Happy Feet, and played the maid Mrs Lonsdale in The Golden Compass. From 2004 to 2006 she was the mascot, Julie The Jetstar Girl, to the Quantas subsidiary Jetstar.
Szubanski handled the question of coming out on network television masterfully. It wasn’t a case of not being open, she said, because she has always been open privately. “There’s a difference between living your life openly and living your life absolutely publically. 20 million people knowing your business is stressful.” She came out at a time when that meant something to more than just her self. It was a political move as well as a personal one. Bravo!