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Tanya Hennessy: Dreaming of a pink Christmas

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Christmas is usually a time for gifts, personal reflection, eating and drinking as much as you like, and seeing loved ones and friends.

But, for Tanya Hennessy, it’s all that… and much more.

It is a chance for the multi-talented comedian, podcaster, playwright, author and social media sensation – to name a few strings to her bow – to return home to Lake Macquarie and recharge the batteries after another hectic 12 months.

Tanya Hennessy has enjoyed a massively successful 12 months.

“I come back every single Christmas,” she said.

“It’s the thing I look forward to the most, travelling up the freeway from Sydney to Newcastle.

“I’ve done it so many times now, however I love all the Christmas lights in the region… we just do it better, don’t you reckon?

“My family lives near the lake and the water, so it’s great to just chill out and reset for the next year.

“I have this weird thing, at Belmont foreshore, where I like to put my feet in the ocean.

“They call it ‘grounding’.

“It’s very hippy and you ask the ocean to give you new ideas and stuff to move forward.”

Tanya Hennessy at Belmont foreshore. Photo: Kait Walker

If that’s the case, it must be an extremely busy breadth of water.

You see, the vivacious Hennessy is never short of inspiration.

It’s been that way since her early days in the Hunter.

“I used to perform at singing eisteddfods and everything like that in Cessnock and Newcastle,” she said.

“In fact, I was disqualified once, when I was like 10, for being too inappropriate, which holds up now.

“Then I finished schooling at The Hunter School of the Performing Arts before heading to Bathurst uni and picking up a gig on radio.

“From there, I sort of accidentally became weirdly viral.

“I ended up with a traditional media and internet career.

“It’s really weird but excellent.

“I always wanted to do something like it [performing] when I was younger.

“However, how can you think about what career you’re going to have when things aren’t even invented?

“I’m so thankful.

“I meet young kids who are on the internet now and I’m like ‘good luck, it’s hard’.

“It’s never ending, social media doesn’t have a beginning or an end.

“It is just like a beast that is always hungry… you never know what’s coming.

“But, it’s also exciting because it takes the onus away from, one person or a boardroom, deciding your future.

“The audience does it.

Tanya Hennessy kicks back at The Opera House.

“If you’re an interesting person and you say something interesting, you get opportunities.

“It doesn’t become one person’s decision, it becomes that of the audience, as to who we see on television.

“I tried to be traditionally media famous for years and it just didn’t work because I didn’t fit into the mould.

“And, back in the day, there was no one who really looked like me or had the same personality.

“I attended NIDA (The National Institute of Dramatic Art) and they said: ‘Where do you think Tanya could go?’

“Everyone in the course, including the lecturer, admitted they couldn’t see a space for me in the industry.

“So, I was like ‘watch me’.

“Then I did my first Getaway-style show, called Luxury Escapes, in Disneyland with Cameron Daddo.

“I was like ‘holy crap’.

“I’m doing the thing that no one thought I could do and on my own terms… that’s really powerful.

“I guess the message is never give up on your dreams.

“We’ve just got so much talent in this city and it’s so underrated.

“I wish more people would live here, so we could build an industry in Newcastle.”

Tanya remains one of the busiest people on Earth.

And, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

The 38-year-old recently launched her third makeup collaboration with MPCosmetics and Priceline Pharmacy.

The Breakfast at Hennessy’s limited-edition collection is free-spirited yet classic, just like its movie muse Holly Golightly.

It features quirky and vibrant brunch-themed makeup and bath and body must-haves at price points perfect for Christmas stockings.

Also, it follows in the footsteps of Tanya’s previous collabs, the sellout The Carb Collection in 2019 and The Carb Collection Again in 2021.

The Breakfast at Hennessy’s limited-edition collection.

On the brunch menu:

  • Bottomless Blush palette in fierce and super blendable shades Muffin Top and I Could Eat, for $19
  • Get Bready! eyeshadow palette in brunette and neutral shades Unsupportive Bra, Cake for Dinner, Lower Back Pain and Brown, for $19
  • Long Black & Sexy tubing mascara – the best-selling, intensely black formula, for $19
  • Wham Bam Thank You Jam lip tint gloss – a mini jam jar brimming with strawberry scented shea butter, avocado oil and jojoba, for $12
  • French Toast lip tint balm that’s vanilla flavoured, super soft and super smooth, for $12
  • I Don’t Want No Scrubs lip scrub for exfoliating and plumping your pout, for $15
  • The Perfect Blend cosmetic brush set housed in a stylish reusable coffee cup, for $49
  • All You Can Eat Breakfast Buffet cosmetic bag filled with bath fizzers, Go Hard on the Syrup maple sugar scented bubble bath and Always Waffling On waffle bath sponge, for $49

“It’s no secret that my two true loves are breakfast buffets and makeup,” she said.

“When Priceline approached me to create my third line with MPCosmetics, it made sense to combine both of them.

“This collection is a little bit classy, a lot of fun, accessible for everyone and like me – sexy.

“Honestly, it was the ‘funnest’ thing to do (taking on the persona of Audrey Hepburn’s character).

“So, it’s makeup with a sense of humour, which isn’t something we always see in the cosmetics industry.

“It is also kind of wild, considering I don’t know how to apply makeup.

“But, I think I have a problem because I can’t stop… I always need to be doing something.”

Which leads us to another major – and timely – project, her children’s book Pink Santa (Allen & Unwin).

Illustrated by Ben Whitehouse, the warm-hearted tale is a celebration of embracing change and being yourself.

So, where did the idea originate?

“I used to work as a dresser in the theatre,” Tanya told the Newcastle Weekly.

“In fact, I worked on Mary Poppins, the Disney musical.

“I had to dress people and I would also stuff up the laundry.

“So, I would have all the whites and then I’d accidentally put in Mary Poppins’ red sock, which would eventually turn pink.

“I was like ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we could apply that to Santa?’

“How would he get a pink suit?

“I decided Rudolph (the Red Nosed Reindeer) would wash it and make the mistake.

“Santa then has to make a decision: Do I continue in a non-traditional way or do I just go no, I’m not doing Christmas this year?

Now, more than ever, we need people being creative… I think Australia is yearning for more local content.

Tanya Hennessy

“It’s pretty relevant.

“People’s Christmases look different, everyone’s gifts are different and Santa is different to each individual.

“I guess this book is kind of like that.

“It’s all about gender equality; no one owns the colour pink, boys can wear it, girls can wear it, even dads.

“There’s a certain joy in it.

“However, pink’s also my favourite colour.”

Tanya explained that her book had been the “weirdest blessing” as well.

“I ended up meeting with DreamWorks about Pink Santa,” she said.

“I flew to LA in April, just before the writer’s strike, which – in hindsight – was the worst possible time.

“But, they love it and, with any luck, they might turn it into an animated film, like Shrek or Shark Tale.

“They do animation better than anyone else… and they specifically asked for me and my idea.

“I was pretty chuffed; I’m like ‘I’m just this kid from Newcastle’.

“It’s something I never expected.

“So, you just need to be really persistent… when life knocks you down, you have to get back up.

“If there’s one thing I could teach anyone, to work in this industry, it’s to have resilience.

“You can have as much talent in the world, getting back up after a knockdown in the hardest thing.

“Just believe in yourself, no matter how tough it gets.

“I’m still waiting to see whether or not Pink Santa will be picked up by DreamWorks, but it would be literally wild if it did.

“At the moment, my dad (Kevin) is with me on my book tour.

“We’ll be visiting the Big Ws at Green Hills (Maitland) on Thursday 7 December (11am) and Charlestown on Saturday 9 December (11am).

“We thought it’d be fun for people to get a free Pink Santa photo with him (yes, he has the suit), something a bit different.”

Tanya Hennessy with her dad Kevin and nephew Ryder. Photo: Kait Walker

That’s not the only festive treat for Tanya.

She also filmed Jones Family Christmas for Stan, which premiered on 23 November, starring alongside Heather Mitchell, Ella Scott Lynch, Geneveive Morris, Jimmy Rees and Marg Downey.

“That was the funnest experience,” she said.

“To work with Heather (Mitchell), one of our best actors, and sit opposite her in a scene, I’m like ‘how am I here?’

“I’m not really sure, but I’m so happy to be there.

“Plus, the catering on a movie set, let me tell you… good times.”

As if that wasn’t enough on her packed schedule, Tanya decided to pen a television show, too.

“Ok, this year has just been feral,” she said with a laugh.

“It [show] was picked up by Endemol Shine Australia, so it’s in development as they say.

“We’ve written the first two episodes, which is a good start.

“Television’s such a difficult industry.

“Now, more than ever, we need people being creative… I think Australia is yearning for more local content.

“The other reason I love this show is that it’s set in regional Australia.

“It’s not in the city or the ‘sticks’.

“It is regional, which I know extremely well.

“Honestly, it’s something we never see on a TV screen – and it drives me crazy.

“It’s set in Bathurst, so if it gets picked up, we’ll film it there as well, so it will be a good little economic boost for the town.

“My first kids’ book, Drum Roll Please Its Stevie Louise, was based in Newcastle, so I better share the love.

“Maybe my next project can be in Wollongong or the Gold Coast.”

You could be excused for thinking Tanya will enjoy a well-earned break in 2024.

However, she has other plans, naturally.

“One of my dreams is to move to LA, so we’re trying to get visas together at the moment,” she said.

“Oh, that’s right, I’m getting married next year in Byron as well.

“How much can I stress myself out?

“Hopefully, we’ll get my TV show up and I’ll be filming it.

“It’s one of those weird things in this industry.

Tanya Hennessy is full of festive cheer at “home”. Photo: Kait Walker

“You never know what you’re going to get dealt, but also you never know what’s going to fire you up.

“Plus, I don’t know what inspiration the lake is going to give me when I dip my foot into it.

“I’ll be writing another kids’ book, maybe another few, because I’ve been commissioned to do it, which is so cool.

“I just never saw myself as a children’s author.

“Now, it’s kind of my bread and butter.

“I don’t believe in limitations though.

“I think a lot of people want to be like ‘no, you can just do one thing’ but that’s not for me.

“I just don’t believe that.

“I think you can do everything and anything.”

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