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Kerri-Anne's secrets of longevity
10 February 2014
2014 has a number of new projects in train for Kerri-Anne Kennerley (pictured above).
Affectionately known in the industry as KAK, she will make appearances on Network 10’s news program The Project, as well as pitching story ideas and reporting for Channel 7’s Sunday Night program. Her most recent stories have included one on stopping the hunting of rhinos in Africa and another on her brother’s search for a cure for his Parkinson’s related disease.
Kerri-Anne is also working with Trafalgar and New Idea magazine, taking readers on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to explore the highlights of New York City for 8 days departing June 6, 2014. (New York over the years pictured below.)
Kerri-Anne's intimate knowledge of the destination and her enthusiasm and ability to laugh with and at herself, which have long endeared her to audiences and gained her loyal fans, will give the trip special edge.
For an industry stalwart whose career in TV spans almost 50 years, the accolades are many and varied.
Kerri-Anne Kennerley’s career in broadcast media is one of such breadth and longevity that it seemed sensible to ask her to provide a timeline of her seminal moments.
Simply put, Kerri-Anne, now 60, was about 13 when she began ringing Channel 9 in Brisbane to ask for a job on the afternoon program for children.
At school in Brisbane where she grew up, she was doing skits and mimes. She’d come home to watch television and quickly decided, what she was doing at school would work on the small screen. Five years later, having finished school, she was still fronting the program and ready for a move.
The 10 network was her next venue and a three-hour Saturday show - live between 9am and 12pm.
From there she travelled Australia singing, eventually ending up in New York where she remained for a number of years.
In 1980, Kerri-Anne returned to Australia to begin at Good Morning Australia in 1981 with Gordon Elliot, then Tim Webster, Mike Gibson, and Terry Willesee. She remained in the hot seat for 11 years. As well as covering The Emmys, The Oscars, etc, Kerri-Anne pioneered with her co-hosts, breakfast TV. She brought breaking news stories, like the Falklands War and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, into Australian lounge rooms first.
A stint then followed working for John Singleton in radio as the station CEO, as well as presenting the breakfast show. Channel 10 then got her back to do Monday to Friday, a one-hour afternoon program before Kerri-Anne moved on to host Midday for three years. In 2001 Mornings with Kerri-Anne for Channel 9 began, finishing up in 2011.
Google Kerri-Anne and more than 66,000 entries pop up. It may not match the 13.5 million entries of someone like Lisa Wilkinson but the important point to remember is that Kerri-Anne was a pioneer and she’s lasted. That’s no mean feat in an industry known for being as capricious as its audiences, and for being particularly harsh on women, especially when it comes to perceptions around ‘use-by’ dates.
“Mum wonders where my interest in entertainment came from. There were no role models in my family for such a career. I enjoyed the work and thought it was a bit of fun to do and that’s how I got into it. I’ve always had a fantastic time doing it,” Kerri-Anne says, rather matter-of-factly describing a career buckling under the weight of experiences and celebrity connections.
Across 30 years she’s met, chatted, laughed and enthusiastically engaged and interacted with the likes of Richard Branson, Donald Trump, the Olsen twins, Harrison Ford, Tiger Woods, Hugh Jackman, Liza Minnelli and John Travolta, and she has the vision to prove it.
She relishes the unpredictability of live TV and the fact that you just have to “keep on keeping on, moving forward, trying new projects and looking for opportunities” if your career is to grow and flourish.
“That’s the best part, the unpredictable moments,” Kerri-Anne says with a short laugh of recognition that says as much about the world of live TV as it does of her life.
“Recognising those moments and drawing them out,” she says, “is what makes TV engaging.”
Her interview with John Stamos from Full House in 2007 is one such example, and she marks it down as an exhilarating moment.
“You can’t get better. He was off the air. People still talk to me about the incident,” she says of her interview with the Hollywood star behaving badly, who confessed two years later in 2009 to being drunk when he appeared on Kerri-Anne’s show.
“It’s what you hope for, unpredictability. The executives didn’t like it [the predicament with Stamos] so much. They were trying to get him off. I was trying to keep him on because it provided great live TV.
“TV is like wallpaper, always there. No one wants wallpaper TV, you won’t last. The trick is to make it engaging and that’s always going to be risky. However, when something happens, you play it out as long as you possibly can, it’s what people want,” the veteran presenter candidly admits.
Thinking back to when she first began in the industry and the ways in which we can consume media now is mind boggling.
“In those early Good Morning Australia days, no one was using breakfast TV or taking it all that seriously in Australia,” says Kerri-Anne, going on to explain that, “it was basically just a baby sitter while you got ready for work.”
The change came once TV was able to educate and raise awareness amongst audiences around the fantastic currency it held by dint of time differences, programming and having those all-important pictures of world shattering events available for audiences to see. Radio just couldn’t compete but it took time to gain people’s trust and coax them over to the TV.
In such a long and diverse career have there been moments of regret or failure?
“If experience,” quips Kerri-Anne “is a euphemism for failure, then I’m very, very experienced.
“One thing about life and TV, I know, if you are not prepared for change you are in for a world of agony. I don’t sit around doing woe is me very well, and in this business what’s important is persistence not caring how many rejections you get.”
Following her breast cancer diagnosis in 2012 and her choices around treatment and recovery, Kerri-Anne’s been left with another strong impression of who she is.
“People are very quick to judge, to tell you how you should or should not behave. I was advised to have a mastectomy, which I refused to do. My surgeon is into breast conservation and recommended another course and that suited me. At the time this treatment was to start I was in the finals of Dancing with the Stars and I really wanted to finish the program. Having consulted with my medical team we decided to delay my treatment for a month or so until the show was finished.
“The upshot: I was told by many I was irresponsible, sending out the wrong message as a role model.
“I thought, hold on. This is my body, my life, my cancer, and I will do what I want with it, and not someone else’s idea of what’s right or what example I should be setting,” finishes the Queen of Live TV.