Reality TV

“I’m a better person!” Chrissie Swan reveals the lessons that changed her life

The Masked Singer Australia star chats to TV WEEK.
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With a busy media career and three young children at home, Chrissie Swan rarely has time to herself. Like most parents, it’s something she’s longed for, but in the frenzy of racing out the door, spare minutes have been hard to come by.

Don’t get her wrong – she’s not here to complain. In fact, she’s often fuelled by work. But in recent years, a glimpse of stillness gave her a new perspective on what she wants.

Amid the global pandemic, when the world was forced into lockdown, the Melbourne-born TV and radio presenter was desperate to do something.

She began to walk: to the shops, school or the local coffee shop. It was a necessity at the time, but morphed into something more. Walking became an outlet for stress, anxiety and burdens of everyday life. She finally had time – and with it, a freedom to find herself.

Chrissie with her The Masked Singer colleagues (from far left) Osher Günsberg, Abbie Chatfield, Mel B and Dave Hughes.

(Image: Supplied)

“It changed my brain,” Chrissie, 49, tells TV WEEK. “Now, I walk everywhere – to the therapist, the orthodontist. If I don’t walk, I feel like a caged animal. I’ll lose my mind.”

Walking has allowed Chrissie the peace of mind to figure out what she wants or doesn’t. In return, she “copes a lot better” with life’s entanglements.

“I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore. It’s not for everyone, but I need time – quiet, alone time,” she says, adding that it can be draining to care for other people’s needs as well as her own.

“You get cranky if you don’t have time to work things out. I’m a nicer person.” (Laughs)

“I think my work ethic impresses my kids and sets a precedent.”

(Image: Supplied)

As she has throughout her 20-year career, Chrissie has inadvertently inspired others to be their authentic selves. As a contestant on Big Brother in 2003, she won a legion of fans for her real and witty repartee. Women often approach her seeking advice or support.

Chrissie says those encounters have “never been less than beautiful and life-affirming”.

The Masked Singer panellist never takes her audience for granted, but admits coming to terms with being a known figure has been a steep learning curve, particularly in the age of social media.

Celebrated one moment and criticised the next, Chrissie has been tabloid fodder. And while it hasn’t been easy to ignore, she acknowledges her boundaries and will do anything to protect them.

Chrissie has used her love of walking to fundraise.

(Image: Supplied)

“Around 10 years ago, when online stuff was really taking off and it became an issue, I had a realisation of ‘I can’t control that’,” she says.

“Of course, there are times you get annoyed and outraged by the lack of truth (in reporting,) but no raging against the machine is going to fix it. I’ve long let go of changing people’s perceptions.”

“The real world is a beautiful place, but online is a country I don’t want to go to. I don’t have a lot of the social media

platforms like Twitter and I don’t read things online.”

Chrissie and snapping a sneaky selfie on the set of The Masked Singer.

(Image: Supplied)

The same goes for her stance on family. Chrissie is fiercely protective of her three children – Kit, Peggy and Leo – who she shares with ex-partner Chris Saville, and values their right to live away from the spotlight.

“My kids appreciate my work ethic,” she says.

“I think it impresses them and sets a good precedent that you have to work hard and love what you do. But I always tell my kids that celebrity means nothing. I want them to enjoy their time (as kids.)”

“I’d rather they be mad at me for this decision later on than the alternative. If I had a choice between peddling my kids or

never working in media again, I’d take the latter.”

She does, however, turn to her daughter Peggy for help when it comes to The Masked Singer. With a new season of performers ready, the game is on to figure out which celebrity is behind the mask. Chrissie, who says she’s watched every season with her children, returns to the show alongside fellow panellists Abbie Chatfield, Dave Hughes and Mel B.

“In my first season, my daughter said, ‘Don’t make a fool of yourself – make real guesses’, because we were such lounge-chair experts. So I had her voice in my head. (Laughs) I’d stay up late trying

to figure out the clues. But I feel less pressure this time around.”

Jack Charles, the executive producer of Chrissie’s radio show.

(Image: Supplied)

In her first season, Chrissie proved her worth by guessing some stars straight away thanks to her family viewing.

“We’re (the panel) kept very separate so we don’t see anyone backstage, but I knew Emma Watkins was The Zombie by the way she walked,” Chrissie says.

“She’s a trained ballet dancer and, as the mother of three kids, I’m well versed in The Wiggles!”

She hints that luck falls her way again this season. But for all the fun she’s having – “It’s a bonkers show!” – Chrissie’s friendships with former Spice Girl Mel and Abbie have been highlights.

“I know Mel is an icon, but to me, she’s just a hardworking mother like I am. I get her,” Chrissie says of her camaraderie with the British pop singer.

“She has this roll-up-your-sleeves mentality and is so good at what she does. Mel doesn’t see herself as an icon, but she helped change the world.”

Despite their age difference, Chrissie can see parts of herself in 28-year-old Abbie. The FBoy Island host and podcaster has become a cultural figure for young women since her appearance on The Bachelor Australia in 2019.

“I feel protective of her, because she is where I was 20 years ago, finding her feet,” Chrissie says. “She’s one of the most important voices in Australia and with that comes pressure and scrutiny. I hope that doesn’t get too much for her.”

Chrissie’s glance in her own rear-view mirror isn’t too dissimilar, having made her mark on reality TV before turning to radio and other ventures.

But one moment could have changed her entire course. As an advertising copywriter, Chrissie had no ambitions to pursue a media career, signing up for Big Brother simply “to make my friends laugh.”

“Then I was offered a radio gig in regional Queensland, but knocked it back,” she says.

“I kept thinking, ‘That’s what other people do – not me’.

But curiosity kicked in and I eventually said yes. I was 30 at the time and was given this opportunity to have a whole new career.”

Chrissie packed her bags and headed north to learn the ropes. Twenty years on, it’s still a thrill every time the microphones go live at the desk.

Only now, it’s for her very own radio show, The Chrissie Swan Show, which airs nationally on weekdays on Nova.

“I don’t often take stock of it,” she says. “I just work, walk, parent and sleep. But to put it on paper, every job or opportunity has slowly elevated me to this independent position. I feel authentic and in charge of my own decisions. I might be in the best position I’ve ever been.”

Watch The Masked Singer premiere on Monday, 7.30pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play.

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