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07 March 2011
\"If I don't give back to the community, I get edgy and bitter and start to bitch about stuff and that's really not the point. Instead, it's that out there are so many people with hardly anything and I can support them.\"
\"Hanging by the seat of my pants,\" is how Ruby Rose describes what she does for a living. But the off-the-cuff remark underplays the time and effort this 24-year-old media phenomenon has spent analysing life, work and what counts for her.
MTV VJ, DJ, fashion designer, TV show host with aspirations for the big screen and director of her own growing commercial empire, Ruby Rose (Langenheim) may look like the rock chick for disaffected youth, but that's where the similarities end.
Ruby has learned that in the celebrity driven world of the media surrounding us, and which has made her name, she is no longer just an individual but a commercially viable brand that requires controlled and managed marketing.
\"I'm my own small business,\" admits Ruby, her words tinged with surprise. \"About a year ago, I opened a company, Rubix Cube. I am the sole director and my accountant explained to me that I was now the CEO of myself. My first reaction was, but I'm me. I'm not a brand. I'm an individual. I'm not a number.
\" 'Yes, I know,' he said to me, 'but you are the company and you have to stop taking it personally, dude, because as the company (and the more we expand into clothing and shoes and film and all that stuff... and in this society with the go, go, go, and the fact that you can be hot one minute and cold the next), you need to think like a brand to be able to expand the brand in a way that is outside what you could possibly do as an individual.'
\"It's something I still struggle with.\"
Another struggle she has is with the inevitable question about her success: 'why her'?
\"I hate that question. I really don't know. I think it's more interesting to look at what I do and why it succeeds,\" explains Ruby. \"Because when I think about it from a business and industry point of view, it's about filling a gap in the market.
\"I didn't pre-exist. If there'd already been someone like me then the competition around getting the job as a TV presenter would have been harder in the first place. And if I'd been more of one thing or another in a way that already existed – and that style of person was really good at their job – would I exist now?\"
Not that any of this was pre-thought. In fact, Ruby admits she wasn't even conscious of TV presenting as a job let alone a career path. So, when the opportunity to audition to be a presenter for MTV came up, all she knew was herself and that she was different – and that 'point of difference' has taken her to where she is now.
\"I've not always been confident but I had a feeling deep down that if I really, really tried; if I put my heart and soul into something then I would probably get somewhere. Whatever it was, if I applied myself I would be able to do it.\"
Anecdotally, Ruby believes her market centres predominantly around minorities which, when added together, make a substantial audience:12-25 year old females; young people who are having difficulty accepting themselves; people who are being bullied, homosexuals.
Rose V Gillard
\"The audience connects and relates to me because I am that audience. My past has all those elements in it and I've been really verbal about them. They've watched me grow up – often with them. My audience views celebrities as polished and sort of born to do it, whereas they see me make mistakes, and make them in public.\"
Like the time she accidentally took on the newly appointed Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, via Twitter over Labor party policy on gay marriage.
\"She [Julia Gillard] was on Kyle and Jackie O show talking about how the community wasn't ready for gay marriage and that she didn't agree with it, or something along those lines. And I went on Twitter and said, dude, as far as I know I don't think the community has been asked. In fact I don't think the community has been asked in a very long time if they're ready. And that I thought would be the end of it.\"
When Ruby woke the next morning, however, and turned on the news to a Rose V Gillard headline, she initially thought: \"wouldn't that be really weird if it was me? And then my face popped up and her face and I thought, 'Oh My Gawd'. And I sat there with my phone looking at it and saying to myself any second now it will ring. I don't know who it will be but it's going to be my mum, my grandma, or my management.\"
Such incidences have played their part in making her accessible to her fans, as well as being acknowledged by Ruby as her best lessons.
\"What's been lucky is I've learned from my mistakes early. I didn't have anything to lose when I began and that was good, because I could go: Oh, ok, this is what happens if I say this on Twitter, or this is what happens if I do stuff in public... and I learnt really quickly what had the potential to wreck a brand and what didn't. So, by the time my brand became big enough to worry about I knew how to invest time into managing it and doing the right thing by it.\"
In fact, there has been a very conscious strategic decision to steer clear of tabloid gossip. In order that the focus stay on the work she does and her commercial brand rather than the media's fascination and singularly narrow portrayal of her as different to the majority of society, the decision has been to keep her private life as private as possible.
\"Buying a place in Melbourne and living there was the first step and a positive one because I have only been 'papped' [photographed by the paparazzi] there once and that was a huge surprise. I feel free in Melbourne, because it's where I grew up. It's my history, a history that includes life before fame. It is really important for me to be able to recharge my soul, to have the choice to go out and not worry.
\"In Sydney, I didn't know what was real sometimes... what was me and what wasn't. Twenty-four hours a day it felt like I was on display. I'd have to think I'm at dinner and I've had two wines, is someone watching me and will they note if I have a third? I got sick of over analysing everything.
\"What I learned was just avoid Bondi, and the six most expensive restaurants in Sydney because that is where all the other celebrities go. I just think it through and take what I know is the low-key choice.\"
Another piece of advice Ruby steers herself by now is never to do or be part of something that she wouldn't want her grandmother to see.
\"I want to send the right messages. So I began to make physical changes to my lifestyle not based on what the media dictated but based on what I wanted to do. I want to be out with friends and there be no repercussions and then the media can't drag you down.
\"You can't try and play two different people. Take drinking for example: why drink in one place and not in another or be worried to drink at one event because it's a social event and the media might comment. It was all too complicated and too weird. \"So I decided to stop.
\"One of my drivers is to think about the people I influence and for who I am a role model and it becomes really easy to do what I've chosen to do. I look at 16 and 17 year olds and they think I'm super cool and I look the way I do without the added rock chick stuff of drinking, smoking and taking drugs. I think that's a better model and a possible model.\"
Being on top of your game is something Ruby adheres to whether you're working in a business or it is the business itself. In this competitive world and in anything people choose to do the core for her is to look after body and mind.
\"So many things impact peoples lives, right up to mental illness but it's not about seeing it as a disadvantage. It's about remaining on top of it. I do this work with Headspace who deal with youth mental illness, depression, etc, and they have some really great strategies and ideas.\"
Recently, Ruby became the ambassador for the not-for-profit National Youth Mental Health Foundation, Headspace. Something, she says, that marks one of her proudest moments.
\"I've done things with NBCF with Sarah Murdoch and stuff in Africa, and they're things I need to do as a human. I've come to achieve so much and came from so little... supporting the community helps me refocus on what is important – which is to give back.
\"The second I start jumping in and helping with the community again, it makes me feel better and makes me want to work again.
\"I think about it and I wonder how did I go from being the kind of person who needed this sort of thing – the Headspace program – to being mature enough and financially stable enough to be its ambassador and plan a fundraising and awareness BBQ.\"
Things you may not have known about Ruby Rose
- Ruby Rose for Milk & Honey, Ruby's fashion range, began as a few T-shirts. But Ruby had ideas for shorts, dresses, jeans... and the rest is history.
- Ruby admits she is a control freak.
- Ruby grew up with her mum and a cat, and not a great deal of money... for four years she ate the same thing every night: mashed potato and pumpkin and bacon – if it was a good week.
- After finishing school, Ruby took a gap year to travel, and snowboarded in Canada.
- Ruby was enrolled to do the acting course at VCA.
- Ruby loves rock climbing and water and is a Piscean.
- Ruby's role models include Sarah Murdoch, Rove McManus, Madonna and her mum.
- \"I think about it and I wonder how did I go from being the kind of person who needed this sort of thing – the Headspace program – to being mature enough and financially stable enough to be its ambassador and plan a fundraising and awareness BBQ.\"