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Briony Benjamin

Briony Benjamin (image by Anne-Carolien Köhler of Chasing Studio)
Briony Benjamin (image by Anne-Carolien Köhler of Chasing Studio)

I think we can all say that lately, while we try to live our day to day lives as normal as can be, life has been tough – COVID has certainly sent the world into a tizzy. One book that we could all take a page from is ‘Life Is Tough But So Are You’, written by Briony Benjamin. Aside from being the author of this book and a Gold Coast local, she has a long resume of achievements particularly in the viral video space at Mamamia. Add to this, Briony is a Stage 4 Lymphoma survivor. We found out a bit more about Briony ahead of her official book launch (Tuesday 3rd August 2021), and what exactly she loves about the Gold Coast.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
My family moved to the Coast when I was one and has been based on the Coast for the past 34 years. I’ve loved growing up in the hinterland of the Gold Coast, it’s a magical place to be a kid. Our family ran a local vet hospital in Mudgeeraba so I worked there growing up. It was always a lot of fun and we would collect a lot of orphan animals in the process. A child’s dream.

Life Is Tough, But So Are You book (image by Anne-Carolien Köhler of Chasing Studio)
Life Is Tough, But So Are You book (image by Anne-Carolien Köhler of Chasing Studio)

Tell us a bit about yourself.
After going to school on the Gold Coast, I ventured overseas for my ‘gap year.’ I worked and lived in a place called Giggleswick, England and worked at the Giggleswick School, it was the most fantastic year (it was basically Hogwarts). Then I came back and completed a Commerce Degree, decided I didn’t want to be an accountant and so enrolled instead in a Film Degree. After the three year degree, I moved to the big smoke to embark on a career in that industry and haven’t looked back. I loved creating short-form video that has an important message at it’s core and has the power to connect with people all over the world. That became my number one passion.

What do you love the most about being a Viral Video Producer?
There is nothing like the thrill of watching a video go viral. It’s seriously fun creating something that goes out into the world and touches millions of people. Whether it gives them a laugh, makes them feel something, helps them to feel less alone, or gets an important message through in an engaging and entertaining way. I just love it.

Can you tell us why you decided to turn the camera on yourself to document your life changing experience?
When I was first diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma I didn’t know what was going to happen to me, I certainly hoped I’d survive and come out the other side, but I suppose you just don’t know. Encouraged by some friends, I started filming the journey. It was a nice distraction from what I was going through and in a way meant I could still ‘work.’ It was also quite therapeutic to get my thoughts down on video as I went and it helped me navigate the whole wild time.

Briony Benjamin (image by Anne-Carolien Köhler of Chasing Studio)
Briony Benjamin (image by Anne-Carolien Köhler of Chasing Studio)

So ahead of the launch of your first ever book, can you explain how it went from an idea to a published book?
I created a video out of my experience called ‘Life Is Tough But So Are You.’ When it went out into the world, it went viral and touched so many people. I had some amazing comments from people who said it had moved them and touched them in so many ways. One lady said she’d reached out to her mother who she hadn’t spoken to in years because it made her see how futile and petty their fight had been and this is the one life she gets. Other cancer patients reached out and said how it had given them such a lift and reminded them to just keep going. One of the people that saw this video was my publisher at Murdoch Books. They reached out and were interested to turn the heart and soul of the video into a helpful guidebook for anyone navigating a tough time.

If you could give anyone one bit of advice, what would it be?
It’s so hard to boil it down into one piece of advice, but if I had to, I would say that this is your one precious crack at this life. We spend so much time consumed in trivial, unimportant things like what we look like and what people think of us and none of it really matters. You need to live a life of which you are proud. So don’t wait, start now. Be bold with your life, enjoy each day, surround yourself with excellent energy; the people who love you and lift you up and find something to do with your life that really matters.

Briony Benjamin (image supplied)
Briony Benjamin (image supplied)

How can someone grab a copy of ‘Life Is Tough But So Are You’?
You can find my book at all good booksellers if you have a favourite local bookstore try to support them, as they are doing it tough right now in COVID.

What are your Gold Coast favourites…
Café: If you’re looking for something in the hinterland, I love the Tea Topia Tea salon in a beautiful old Queenslander. And if I’m near the Coast, I adore Tarte in Burleigh – those pastries… wow!
Coffee spot: Millers Espresso in Mudgeeraba do a fantastic coffee!
Restaurant: The Wine Barrel in Mudgeeraba – this little restaurant punches well above it’s weight and I love going on the night they have a live harpist. Dreamy.

How do you choose to spend your weekends?
I love doing the Burleigh headland walk on a Saturday morning, I feel so grateful to whoever had the vision to set aside that land and create a National Park. It’s one of the most stunning parts of the Coast to me. I then love to go to Tarte, wandering up James St and browsing some of the beautiful little shops. Then coming back to Mudgeeraba, sitting in the garden and reading the paper, that is a Saturday morning well spent for me! I also love a wander through 19 Karen Gallery in Miami and The Borrowed Nursery for some more plants or pots to add to my collection. The Coast really has so much to offer and it’s been amazing to watch the transition having lived here all my life. We certainly didn’t have the amazing array of coffee shops and restaurants in the 90’s that we have now!

Bianca Dye

Bianca Dye (image supplied)
Bianca Dye (image supplied)

You may recognise Bianca’s voice before you recognise her, as she is the prominent female voice on HIT 90.9FM between the hours of 6-9am every weekday (alongside her co-hosts Dan & Ben). Her bright and bubbly personality radiates through your ears and you just know she is a Gold Coast sweetheart. We were delighted to ask her a few questions ahead of International Women’s Day to talk all things empowerment, career and of course, her local GC loves.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
On and off for most of my life – I have had three different incarnations of a radio show here too! Ha!

What do you love most about living here?
After living in Sydney’s CBD for 8 years, I just LOVE the laid-back lifestyle these days, which is exactly what the GC offers. Plus, how about the beaches?! And the fantastic foodie scene has definitely grown in the last 10 years and has become my favourite place in Australia!

Tell us about your career thus far.
It’s honestly hard to summarise in a few words. But I actually started as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator at the Paradise Centre here in Surfers Paradise. I then worked my way through radio for the last 26 years – first Sydney with the original Nova crew, then did some time in Wollongong and Brisbane. But now I’m back on the Coast doing my dream job with Dan and Ben at HIT 90.9FM!

What’s your proudest career moment?
That’s a tough one – I’m fortunate enough to have had a few in 27 years! One would have to be being the first daytime announcer to beat radio legend John Laws in the radio ratings in Sydney which was pretty cool! And I was lucky enough to be awarded the “Best Announcer In The Country” Award back-to-back. And I believe, I still hold the title as the only female to do that! Humble aren’t I?!

Is there a specific women’s empowerment moment that has inspired you in your life or career?
One of the best movements I’ve seen online is #keepinitreal. It seems simple but being authentic and honest with your followers and listeners has always been something I have promised; and people relate to you when you admit that life isn’t always great!

Hit Network Bianca, Dan & Ben (image supplied)
Hit Network Dan, Bianca & Ben (image supplied)

Where have you felt empowered or disempowered as a woman?
There’s a lot of stories I can’t share as it would publicly shame people… you’ll just have to wait until I write a book when I’m 90! But I guess feeling empowered is when you have a team of amazing people around you that support you and allow you to be yourself. When you do that for fellow co-workers too that empowers them and creates a great environment where you have each others’ backs.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day means something different for every woman depending on where they are in their life and in their own world. It shouldn’t depend on which country, household or relationship that woman is in as long as they are ‘free’, with the right to freedom of speech and the freedom to be who they are. This is the day to shout this from the rooftops and celebrate all women from all walks of life…

What is your International Women’s Day message?
I want to remind women that it’s okay to be unapologetically THEM! Whether that’s being a hot mess, loud, fabulous, smart, tired, exhausted, happy, single, divorced, studying or stay-at-home mums (or those who are NOT mothers), let’s just embrace who we are and stop trying to pretend to be something for other people… #BeYOU!

Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Cafe for breakfast: no name lane – it’s just downstairs from work and I love grabbing a super clean scrambled eggs with salmon and greens and the staff are always lovely!
Coffee spot: I use my own ‘Before You Speak’ Coffee Sachets at the station – that keeps me fired all day. But on weekends I love a takeaway iced long black at either Brunch N Co in Broady or BSKT cafe in Nobbys.
Restaurant for dinner: Romano’s in Nobby Beach- they have the most drool-worthy marinara with garlic & chilli. Plus dare I say, best pizza ever?
Bar or pub for a drink: Bar is definitely Rick Shores for a cheeky Margi! And as for a Pub, would have to be Rainbow Bay Surf Club for a dirty Schnitty.

How does your weekend usually look?
It always depends on whether I am playing step-mum for the weekend. If it’s a family weekend, we usually bike ride along the beach front, have a picnic and snuggle with a Disney movie on or a barbecue on our balcony. If I have the weekend to myself, it’s usually yoga first thing both Saturday & Sunday. Following that I love heading to any of the local markets with a takeaway coffee. Sometimes I might go for a hike, catch up with mates or go for a beach walk with a girlfriend. I do also love going to the movies with mum. But when we are feeling adventurous we take our Combi to Brunswick Heads for the night!

Kyle Hunter

He’s a world-renowned travel photographer and videographer who has created a career out of making epic content all over the globe. Not to mention Kyle Hunter is a Gold Coast local too.

We sat down for chat with Kyle about how life looks for him at the moment and his plan for travel throughout Australia once we get the all clear.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I have been a Gold Coast local for 23 years now, it’s where my family moved to when we immigrated from Scotland when I was five.

What do you love most about living here?
I love everything about living on the Goldy, in my opinion it’s the best place in the world to live. The beaches are incredible, the cafe and restaurant scene is so good, the weather is great all year round, you really can’t beat it here.

You’re a world-renowned travel photographer/videographer, how did that come about for you?
Back in 2015 my partner Hayley and I packed up our life and booked a one way flight to Europe where we spent two years travelling around in an old Ford Transit campervan! At first I wasn’t that interested in photography or videography but as we travelled more, I started to fall in love with capturing moments of our travel. Fast forward five years and I now do this as my full-time job and I couldn’t be happier!

How has the current state of the world, affected your work?
Our work has taken a pretty big hit since Covid-19, all of our travel related jobs have obviously been put on hold which is disappointing but very necessary, we still have been getting some work here at home which is good, but hopefully soon we can get back into the swing of things and start going back to normal. I think as the domestic borders start to open we will be working alot more with Aussie tourism boards which we are very excited about!

Where are you most looking forward to visiting once you’re allowed?
I would love to head back to America, we did a trip there last September and I honestly loved it so much. We would love to travel the Pacific North West to places like Northern California, Washington State and Oregon, some of the national parks there are incredible.

What have been some of your favourite campaigns to work on recently?
We recently did a campaign with Tourism Queensland which was a vlog of our guide to the Gold Coast which was such a fun job, getting to showcase our little slice of paradise here on the Goldy was a dream! We also did a two week shoot through Vietnam with Jetstar in February which was incredible, we got to visit some amazing spots and of course, eat the best street food in the world! Another awesome campaign was last year with Tourism Japan, we got to climb Mount Fuji which was pretty gruelling but so sick! The views from up there are nuts, we travelled to the North island of Hokkaido as-well which was beautiful.

You travel and work with your partner Hayley, what do you love most about that?
I think the best part about working full-time with Hayls is the experiences we get to share together. We have done some pretty incredible things over the past five years and having her by my side during those times is something I really cherish.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to shoot but haven’t had the chance yet?
Patagonia! I have always wanted to go but the opportunity hasn’t yet come about. Before Covid we had planned to possibly travel to South America but unfortunately now I can’t see that happening until 2021, fingers crossed!

What’s the plan for the rest of 2020 for you?
Who knows! Haha. Hopefully a lot of domestic travel, we have a few things lined up at the moment, so hopefully the borders will start to open up and we can get out there. A trip to the Northern Territory would be nice, I would love to see Tasmania also. We just have to wait it out at this stage but once we get the all clear we will be hitting the road which we are super excited about!

Any advice for someone looking to become a travel photographer?
Just have patience and be persistent. I have been using a camera for five years now and I’m still learning new things every time I go out and shoot. On the travel side of things, you need to have an open mind, know that sometimes things might not go the way that you had originally planned and that’s okay! Some of the best experiences of our travels have happened when things didn’t go to plan, it’s all part of the adventure 🙂

Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Bar for drinks: Scottish Prince, Burleigh Pavilion or Palmy Surf Club
Café for breakfast: Highline, Commune Espresso, Good Day Coffee
Restaurant for dinner: The Collective, Light Years, Francies Pizza
How does your weekend usually look: Weekend is normally spent with lots of eating out, catching up with mates, heading down the beach and maybe a sneaky frothy!

Cleo Massey

She’s the Gold Coast gal who began her acting career on much-loved series H20 Just Add Water and from there, Cleo Massey’s career has absolutely skyrocketed.

Not only has she starred in a web series created by her Mum (talented fam), she’s also recently written her very first comedy feature and produces a blog to spread her good vibes far and wide.

We sat down for a chat with Cleo about growing up in the film and television industry and hosting her very own event in the coming weeks. 

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I moved up from Tasmania just after my fourth birthday! I’ve lived here ever since.

What do you love most about our beautiful beachside city?
The beaches and the relaxed vibe the whole city gives off. 

Tell us how your acting career began…
I was always into drama inside and outside of school. When I was 11, I auditioned for a show, H20 Just Add Water. I got the role, and filmed it for four years! After such an amazing experience on H20, I was sure I had to continue acting and was cast in a few different series, films and commercials. I secured some great representation in the U.S. and was sponsored for an acting visa. Over the past three years I’ve been back and forth between the Gold Coast and LA for pilot season, meetings and writing sessions. I recently filmed a comedy pilot, Cursed funded by Screen Queensland, which was so fun to film! The majority of the actors cast were comedians, which made the set a hilarious one to be on.

What have been some highlights of your acting career?
H20 Just Add Water was really special and still to this day, gives me so many opportunities moving forward in my career. Stage Mums was also definitely a career highlight.

You had a starring role in a web series created by your Mum (Stage Mums), what was it like working so closely with her?
It was so much fun! She created this series four years ago and worked so hard to get it off the ground. It was so interesting being a part of it and watching the process behind the scenes for so many years. Well, hard work does pay off! Stage Mums has just been picked up by Network 10 and will air on Channel 11 later this year! We want to show people in the TV and film industry that if you believe and persist, you can make incredible things happen. We’re so excited for Australia to see Stage Mums!

Your blog is a very inspirational space, why did you start it and why is it important?
I started my blog, Pass Around the Smile, four years ago to help myself get through some hardships I was facing within the Film and TV industries. After a few blog posts, I realised I was helping other people, and that felt so good. Four years later I’m still creating feel good blogs and I have just sold out my first Pass Around the Smile event! My goal is to inspire and encourage people to realise their full power and potential. I write and talk about all things positive, I love teaching people about the law of attraction, self-love and meditation. I want to spread positivity as far and wide as I can! Having a positive outlook on life is so important and I want people to realise they can change their life by changing their mindset.

Tell us about the comedy feature you’ve written recently…
I discovered my love for screenwriting while in the States waiting around for auditions. I decided I would create my own dream role and the story just fell into place around that. It’s been finished for a while now, but it’s constantly changing after having incredible people in the industry read it. It’s so important, whatever industry you’re in to utilise your contacts and accept constructive criticism. I’ve learnt so much that way.

What’s on for the rest of 2018?
My first Pass Around the Smile event is next week! I’m so excited, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I can’t wait for people to feel inspired, relaxed and confident in themselves. The event is being held in a beautiful candle factory and I have so many amazing creatives helping me make it the most perfect night.

Tell us your favourites on the Coast:
Beach: Miami/Tallebudgera Creek
Restaurant: Oh no, this is so hard. Can I choose two? Gemelli and Lucky Bao!
Cafe: Hand Coffee in Broadbeach! The best coffee and the BEST jaffles ever!
How does your weekend usually look: Coffee with the fam, walk my doggy, dip in the ocean, bit of a read of whatever feel good book I’m on, and a night out with friends.

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