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EXCLUSIVE: Aussie TV legend Amanda Keller reveals the one, unforgettable day that changed everything for her

During an era of change, Amanda reflects on her significant role in the public eye.

By Tamara Cullen
With more than 30 years in the entertainment business, Amanda Keller probably thought she had seen it all.
But earlier this year, her perspective on what she does for a living, who it affects and the impact it has on her own life, was changed in an instant.
It was in March, when the TV presenter was hosting the final weeks of Dancing With The Stars.
Comedian Celia Pacquola was about to step onto the dance floor for her performance when their live broadcast was interrupted by a nationwide address from the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
He was declaring the stages of lockdown due to COVID-19 and what it would mean for the country.
"We set off on this journey with Dancing With The Stars and the world literally changed in the midst of it," Amanda, 58, recalls to TV WEEK.
"Those final weeks encapsulated everything. We went from having an audience to none, Christian Wilkins [DWTS contestant and model] had to dance on a rooftop, and we were told to practise social distancing.
"Then, just as Celia was about to perform the quickstep, we crossed live to the prime minister, who told us we shouldn't leave our homes unless necessary. It was terrifying to watch."
In that moment, the realisation of what the world was facing hit home.
But just as quickly, the broadcast resumed and an understandably stunned Amanda, having just heard the announcement with the rest of Australia, was to carry on with the show as normal.
"It was a strange time; it was like during the war [World War II]," she reflects.
"Then, of course, we crossed back to Celia, who said afterwards that she'd never felt it was more important to do a jive. We had to find some joy to give Australians.
"I'm so proud of how we managed it, though; we kept going. We couldn't have a wrap party, so Grant [co-host Grant Denyer], a few producers and I shared a bottle of wine and pizza Shapes."

Public pressures

It's a day she won't likely forget and, it would seem, she doesn't want to. Amanda's career on radio and TV has brought joy to people five days a week.
But now, she feels a sense of duty to connect with and understand her audience more than ever before.
"I do feel a bit of pressure to get it right," she explains.
"It's very interesting being on the radio during this time, because it's a fine line to tread every day. You have to start with asking, 'What's the mood of the city today?' You can't turn your back to the tough stuff, but we need to be uplifted.
"We [Amanda and her WSFM co-host Brendon "Jonesy" Jones] reflect what people are seeing or saying, but I'm aware now that people are very triggered. It's like stroking a cat backwards – you have to very careful. It's easy to misspeak."
Amanda has made a big impression on Aussie screens - her Dancing with the Stars hosting gig alongside Grant Denyer is one of many. (Network Ten)
The same, of course, can be said of her own life. As a public figure, Amanda shares a lot of herself with an audience. But that doesn't always suit her husband Harley, whom she married in 1989, and their two sons, Liam, 19, and Jack, 17.
"I do struggle with it [privacy] sometimes," she admits.
"When the boys were little, I could talk about the funny things they did. It's harder now that they're older – I have to remain aware they have their own lives. Often I'll ask them [permission] before retelling a story on radio, and generally they say no."
With her boys now fully fledged teenagers, Amanda has learnt a big lesson in the importance of boundaries and protection for her family.
"There was one incident involving Jack's messy school bag and I asked to post a picture on Instagram, but he said no. However, I then spoke about it on radio and felt simply awful.
"I said to him, 'Your home should be your safe place and I'm sorry'. I really taught myself a lesson that day. On the other hand, when I was writing my book [Natural Born Keller], I decided to speak to the kids before I publicly revealed that they were born via IVF.
"I hadn't told them before. Turns out, it wasn't a big deal to them. [Laughs]
"But at times, it's incredibly hard, because on radio, nothing is rehearsed. We make snap decisions and you have to live and die by your mouth. But I'd rather regret not saying anything than regret saying something."
Amanda has juggled motherhood with her career. She's pictured here with her son, 19-year-old Liam. (Instagram)

Room to shine

While it can be a balancing act, Amanda's every woman persona is the key to her success. Her honest opinions and wit have become a trademark, and reflective of many women.
"It's a huge compliment when people feel they can relate to me," she says.
"A lot of what I talk about are what people – and women particularly – are going through."
Most of her charm happens on the couch in the TV WEEK Logie Award-winning lifestyle show The Living Room.
This season, a revamped set aims to invigorate both the cast and viewers.
So far, it's worked for Amanda and her co-hosts Dr Chris Brown, Barry Du Bois and Miguel Maestre, who are known for their on-screen chemistry and lasting friendship.
The format has also changed, aiming to bring hope and happiness to some remarkable people.
"This season, we're in an actual house instead of a studio, so we have areas that are realistic," Amanda explains.
Amanda is excited for the revamped season of The Living Room. (Network Ten)
"As a show, we're going into other people's lives now, and explore a variety of issues too. The Living Room is one of few shows that can switch gears well."
Production on The Living Room began earlier this year, while COVID-19 restrictions were still in place. While the crew had obtained permission to film, it didn't stop voluble Spaniard Miguel causing trouble.
"When Barry and Miguel were filming, the neighbours called the police, because it sounded like they were having a party in the house – but it was just Miguel's voice!"
Amanda recalls with a laugh.
"Miguel had to assure the police we were adhering to the rules."
TLR has not only given Amanda a steady vehicle in TV, but kept her firmly in viewers hearts, with two Gold Logie nominations.
In 2019, she was a favourite to win, but lost to controversial host of Hard Quiz Tom Gleeson.
When the awards return in 2021 after being postponed this year, Amanda could be within reach of the coveted statuette – that's if she wants it.
"I don't know if I have the strength, but we'll see how we go," she says with a laugh.
"Does that mean Tom has won it for two years? Outrageous! [Laughs]. Jonesy and I won the radio award last year, so we'll hang onto that."
WATCH: See Amanda Keller on the TV WEEK Logies red carpet. Story continues...
For now, Amanda is happily juggling her various projects. While many of us have lived slower, simpler lives in isolation at home, Amanda isn't quite ready for the quiet life.
"I wouldn't know what to do with myself," she confesses.
"A lot of people say, 'Isn't it great when we slow down and stop?' But for some of us, work helps us thrive. I like being busy – not stressed – and that's how I am now. My family know I'm here for them, but the minute I'm doing it to my detriment, I'll stop.
"There will come a time when I do slow down and enjoy that life. But right now, I don't really want to."

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