Confessions of a nerd: "I was on a kids' game show."

For the last fifteen years I have hidden a deep, dark, secret. But today, the truth shall be set free.

The year 2000 was an exciting year.

Mad Cow disease was trending hard, headscarfs were a big thing, peddle pushers were on the up, and we were all celebrating not being wiped out at the start of the new millennium. The year 2000 was also the year I made my television debut.

I was in grade 7 at Ascot State School, Brisbane. Reigning supreme over my diaper-wearing serfs in the younger grades, I was ready for high school, ready for puberty, ready for everything discussed in Dolly Doctor, and ready for the WORLD! Which is why, when the casting call was sounded for Channel Ten’s hottest game show, ‘Download,’ I knew my Everest had arrived.

Maggie Kelly game show
This is Scott McRae, host of ‘Download’ and cruel master of my fate. Cool shirt, mate.

As an 11-year-old child, I was kind of like a tiny Donald Trump.

I was pompous, convinced I was a child genius, and pretty much had pegged myself as a future candidate to lead our nation. I also had a very strange hairstyle going on. Baby Trump, as I shall now refer to my 11 year old self, was overly confident, arrogant, and a major teacher’s pet. But that was all about to change.

I sailed through the tryouts, just as I fully expected to, and before long, the day of filming arrived. I was up early to slick down my hair and choose an appropriated outfit, eventually deciding on a silky, pale blue, button up shirt, paired with plaid pants and a silver ribbon. Slipping on my tiny Trump glasses, I was dressed for success: studious yet modern, intelligent yet full of adventure, androgynous yet….well, no, just androgynous.


(Note: I actually looked like a Hanson brother)

Maggie Kelly game show.
I was so sure of that silky blue shirt. In hindsight, it makes me look like a speed dealer.

Driving up the Channel Ten studios in Mt Coot-tha, I had my first jiggle of nerves – I was going to be on the TELLY. Was I ready for my silver screen debut? Of course you are, Baby Trump, you were born for this. I reminded myself of my plans for world domination as I sat, partly starstruck, partly satisfied, next to Heather Foord in the make-up room, as the poor MUA attempted to powder my shiny little Trump face around my glasses – which I refused to remove. #diva

And then the show began. (Post continues after video)

I don’t remember much from here.

Legend has it that this is when some kind of vicious, evil, competitive monster took over. From the moment I trotted on stage, coughing from the smoke machine and the studio lights bouncing off my glasses, the tiny Trump beast was unleashed. An hour clocked over as I battled my way through several fools who dared compete against me, eventually meeting my destiny in a sudden-death round against a bowl-cut sporting American, Sam.

In the tragic final moments of my first – and last – time on TV, I went from being the clear winner to floundering in humiliation. Ten seconds was all it took. I lost. Sam won.


Defeated, I accepted my runner up prize, and kissed goodbye my dreams of world domination, for I had failed.

Maggie Kelly game show.
“Who was the star of American Pie?” Chris Klein. Mum, why did I know the answer to this? Seriously? I WAS 11.

I was shattered.

Until this point in time, I was entirely convinced of my superior intelligence – and now? I realised that there actually was someone smarter than me out there. And he was American. 

Everything started to go downhill from that moment: I missed out on the grade 7 school captainship (despite a valiant campaign involving some remarkable cardboard poster skills) went on to become a bit of a rebel *cough* and ended up in boarding school.

Sam Spencer, I blame you.

Pursed lips. Baby Trump is not happy.
Pursed lips. Baby Trump is not happy.

Looking back on the footage below, I can’t help but laugh at the quirky little mannerisms I had, that I still retain fifteen years later. Biting my lip when I concentrate, staring blankly with mouth agape when I’m thinking, pursing my lips when I am unhappy (you’ll see that one every time the competitor wins a question), and oh – that EPIC AS HELL side eye shade I was throwing? That’s become my signature move.

And so there you go. Although it probably comes as no surprise to anyone, I was an epic, epic nerd when I was a kid. And seemingly, a tiny tyrant, too. But it’s all part of the story, right? Maggie Kelly. The girl. The myth. The legend.

Final words from a former child star: If you ever go on the telly, don’t wear your glasses.


Have you ever been on a game show before? 

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