Tanya Hennessy is both a "bumbling mess" and a force to be reckoned with, and it is this duality that has struck a chord with her many fans.
Not only is she hilarious, intelligent, insightful, talented, inspiring, empathetic and honest, she is also real. She's one of us. We can relate to her, warts and all.
Hennessy started her career in radio, her effervescent personality and astute observations proving popular on HIT104.7 Canberra and 2DayFM Sydney Weekends. Her YouTube channel, where she posts regular comedy vlogs, has more than 130,000 subscribers. She finds particular delight in parodying beauty bloggers.
She appeared on Network 10's I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! earlier this year, is a regular on television, has written two books and is involved in a number of podcasts, her latest called I Can't Stop.
Last year she did a stand-up comedy show with Christian Hull called the Low Expectations Tour.
The Hunter School of the Performing Arts graduate from Lake Macquarie - whose parents still live in Belmont - agrees that the umbrella term "content creator" fits her well.
"Yes, I have my finger in many pies. If there's a pie, chances are you'll find my finger in it," she says, laughing.
Hennessy is about to release her second book - Help Self: Learn From My Mistakes So You Can Make Different Ones - and nobody is more surprised at that than Hennessy herself. She expresses her incredulity with a loud half squeal, half squawk.
It's the first but not the last odd exclamation to arise during our conversation.
Hennessy's first book, Am I Doing This Right?, was released in 2018. Don't be fooled by the titles of either of her books. They are not your average self-help bible.
"I don't think I have any wisdom to share but I feel like I have made enough mistakes in my life to be qualified. It's been trial and error," she says.
"You know how they talk about new and old souls? I'm a new soul. I've never been here before so I am just f- - - ing up left, right and centre. Bumbling around, running into things, destroying my life and then putting it back together again.
"I feel like I've made so many mistakes that I have learned so much, if that makes sense. I try a lot more than maybe a normal person would."
Hennessy is self-deprecating and, like many comedians, self-aware. But it makes for a good laugh on stage if she is ever hard up for material, at the very least?
"Ha, that means I'm hard up then, because that's all I ever do," she says, laughing.
"My psychologist is in Newcastle and she's always like 'Why are you so aware?' and I'm like I think most artists are self-conscious, especially comedians. That's why we make social or political commentary."
Help Self will make you snort with laughter and make you think. Like Hennessy herself, there is a lot more to each chapter than meets the eye.
"When I was growing up there was no one who looked like me on television. There was no bumbling mess," she explains.
"The Sex and the City characters were so perfect and had all this fashion sense and money. I knew that was never going to be me, and I wondered when my experience would ever be shown or documented.
"In my creative times I've tried to figure out how can I rewrite a narrative in the media about being a so-called normal woman who doesn't have it together all the time. What she looks like and what it means."
Hennessy is that woman, and damn proud of it, too.
"I thought that I might have changed by now, being in the public eye and all that, but nope. Who you are is who you are. Although I have found that most people in the media are not being their true selves, which is sad."
Hennessy starred in season six of I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! alongside the likes of Miguel Maestre, Charlotte Crosby, Tom Williams, Perez Hilton and Rhonda Burchmore. She formed a strong and ongoing friendship with Crosby, who lives in England. They talk every week.
"You go through this insane shared experience and she taught me a lot about being myself and trying not to over-think things," Hennessy says.
"She's f - - - ing funny and fearlessly herself. I aspire to be more like her."
With cameras trained on the contestants day and night, and a series of challenges determining what they could eat and when, the experience was life-changing.
"I remember before I went in, everyone was like 'You'll be fine because you've got nothing to hide'," she says.
"Being in the jungle definitely changed my perspective - I mean, you don't have easy access to food or showers. It's pretty confronting and I realised how fortunate I was to have what I have.
"It gave me even more empathy for people and I have donated more to charity this year than I ever have before. That feeling of being without reminds you of how fortunate you are."
Inspired by her jungle experience, Hennessy jumped at the chance to be an ambassador for last month's #FinishWaterWaste 40-Litre Challenge. Australians were asked to spend a day living on 40 litres of water, as opposed to the 300-plus litres typically used. For every hashtag shared via social media and in-store purchase of Finish Quantum Ultimate Pro at Coles, Finish pledged to deliver 40 litres of water to Australians impacted by drought.
It was an eye-opener for Hennessy.
"In Newcastle we've never really had a severe water shortage - not compared to regional areas - and when you visit those areas it almost makes you feel like a jerk when you see how they live their lives without water," she says.
"Once you do the 40-litre challenge yourself and get a feel for what people go through, you start to use your water differently.
"The challenge is great because it not only gives water back to people who need it, but it also makes you accountable for the water you use. You realise you can't take water for granted."
Hennessy likes to talk about Newcastle. She says she would move back in a heartbeat if it wasn't for the work commute to Sydney.
"I wrote a lot of my second book while at my parents' place during the pandemic and I actually wrote a third book - that's due out next year - there too," she says.
"I find it an inspiring place to write.
"My friends and I talk on our podcast about how when you go home, you want your Mum to make Vegemite toast the way only she can make it.
"Life is really friggin' hard, being an adult sucks, and then there's glorification of busy.
"Sometimes it's really nice to escape into a podcast or a book or to your parents' house. That's why my content is very escapist. I want it to create a space where people can just feel safe, loved and happy, even if it's just for three minutes during one of my videos, because life can be so exhausting.
"People have hard lives. I don't, but people do."
Hennessy, who attended Eleebana Public School, says she'd love to raise children in the Lake Macquarie area or Newcastle. Usually a "stressed and anxious" person, she says she feels calmer and more at peace in her old stomping ground.
People have hard lives. I don't, but people do.Tanya Hennessy
"I always think how fortunate I was to grow up by the lake and by the beach and I want my kids to have the same experience that I had," she says.
"I had the best childhood. I think I've got Peter Pan syndrome because I loved my childhood so much I don't want to grow up."
She makes special mention of one of her high-school English teachers, Jan Boswell. Does anyone know of her? Hennessy is keen to track her down.
"I know she doesn't work at HSPA any more but I'd love to get hold of her. I wasn't a very good writer at school but she really took the time to help me understand how to write better," Hennessy says.
"I do so much writing these days and I want to thank her for being such a wonderful person who really helped me. Thanks, girlfriend."
Help Self is released on November 17. Talking about the countdown, Hennessy sounds excited but nervous.
"This book looks bubbly but is actually very deep," she says.
"I grew up while writing this book. I had a lot of clarity while writing it, and it was cathartic too.
"I think I also evolved while writing it, and not just as a writer. I think I found my voice as a creative and became more confident about sharing my lowest of lows and my highest of highs.
"There is such a duality in the book and that's essentially what it's about. The duality of self and trying to figure out who you are, especially when you're 30 something and don't have kids and you're a professional.
"It's complex. It covers everything.
"It's funny too, kind of like a parody of a beauty influencer book but it's got a lot depth and heart to it which I felt was really important.
"It's different to social media where you put something up and it kind of disappears after three days.
"This is considered, this is permanent.
"I just want people to read this book because it took so long to write it and it really means a lot to me. If they like it, even better."
As for the future, she'll continue her podcast and writing books. She left her job in radio before entering the jungle.
"I'm writing a TV show at the moment," Hennessy says.
"I'm just desperate to tell stories, no matter what platform it is.
"I've always got something to say."
- Help Self, by Tanya Hennessy, is out on November 17 through Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99
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