Magda Szubanski is so much more than Sharon Strzeleki.
But don’t get her wrong. It’s a character she loves very much, and one that remains very close to her heart.
So close in fact, that after a period of weight loss, Magda feared she would no longer be able to feel the “vibrations” of Australia’s favourite netballer.
“It’s not that I’m saying that you have to be unattractive to be funny,” she told Mia Freedman on the No Filter podcast. “I’m not playing into that thing. There are lots of beautiful women who are hilarious. But my shtick was very much around a particular physical shape.”
Magda’s ‘shape’ is something she has reckoned with both publicly, through her campaigns with Jenny Craig, and privately throughout her life.
It all began with her dad.
“He had an iron will – my father,” she says. “From the age of 11, he said to me when I put on…clearly I was prepubescent and I put on a a tiny bit of weight. He said if you just lose half a stone you’ll be fine…”
It was how Magda endeavoured to lose that ‘half a stone’ that was a catalyst.
“Will power, starve yourself,” her father told her.
“But it just propelled me into this absolute craziness and it messed with my metabolism.”
Magda holds no malice toward her father. “I mean God Bless him,” she told Mia. “He was trying to do the right thing. He had all sorts of complex stuff going on…”
Magda’s relationship with her father, and his history as a Polish prisoner of war, and her her life-long relationship with her weight form two of the three main pillars of her auto-biography, Reckoning.
The third: her sexuality.
In Reckoning, Magda explores the metaphor of her weight as a ‘flesh armour’, used to protect herself while grappling with her own, and the public’s understanding of her sexuality.
In a 2012 interview with Channel 10’s The Project, Magda described her sexuality as “gay-gay-gay-gay-gay-gay-a little bit not gay-gay-gay-gay.”
You can watch Magda’s interview with The Project team here:
“It just expresses who I am,” Magda tells No Filter. “What my experience has been like and it was funny, not too serious about it.”
But after coming out, Magda found herself grappling once again with her weight and self-image. “I think I felt intensely vulnerable ,” she says. “The whole thing of coming out was a really interesting…what happened after it…there’s a myth that, like losing weight, everything’s going to be perfect.”
It’s not perfect. Nothing ever is. And even as one of Australia’s most loved, actors, writers and comedians, Magda – like all of us – is still ‘reckoning’ with life.
You can listen to Magda Szubasnki’s full interview with Mia Freedman for No Filter, here: