celebrity

Why we view Roxy Jacenko so differently to Zoe Foster Blake.

Zoe Foster Blake and Roxy Jacenko are two of Australia’s most famous and successful women.

Two 37-year-old self-made mums with wildly impressive resumes. And social media followings. And wardrobes.

Foster Blake lives in a leafy inner suburb of Melbourne with her equally impressive comedian husband, Hamish Blake, while Jacenko and her family reside in a two-storey penthouse along Sydney’s glamorous Bondi beach.

On paper, they have near identical lifestyles – albeit in different states.

On one hand, we have a beauty writer turned author, skincare entrepreneur, app creator, and social media extraordinaire. On the other? A mogul at the helm of a PR company, a talent agency, and a children’s accessories label, along with a smattering of endorsement deals.

These are women at the top of their game, emulating that elusive ideal of working hard in the office, before coming home to their gorgeous multi-million dollar homes and children and husbands in the evening.

But they didn’t get where they are today through luck. Or voodoo. Or reading their horoscopes. Or clapping twice and doing a twirl before they get dressed in the morning.

Roxy Jacenko. Image: Instagram.

In a world where only two per cent of female-owned companies crack a million dollars in revenue, you don't become Zoe Foster Blake or Roxy Jacenko by chance. You must embody all the qualities it takes to get there: you must be clever, charismatic, determined, intelligent, innovative, uncompromising, unrelenting.

Somehow, both women have managed to be all these things and more.

We've seen just a glimpse of the long path to success Zoe Foster Blake and Roxy Jacenko paved for themselves. While we gaze at their pretty lives through the cracked screens of our iPhones, what we don't consider are the long years that passed before we even recognised their faces or knew their names. The years they worked harder than the others. The years they set about building an empire.

Today, they're both reaping the rewards of those years.

Celine heels, a Parisian leather jacket, and Gucci sneakers have been the sprinkles on Foster Blake's Instagram profile in the last two months; while Jacenko prefers sweets of the Hermes bag, Balmain blazer and Audemars Piguet watch variety.

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Foster Blake's children are often donned (and snapped) in Bonds wondersuits, while you never see Jacenko's six-year-old daughter without her signature bows.

Their combined social media presence is like a buffet of brands, brands, brands. All tagged, all (probably) commodified, all clicked on by a combined total of 800,000 loyal fans, oo-ing and aah-ing at Australia's most talked-about female celebrities, desperate to satiate what has become an insatiable appetite for anything purchasable in either woman's orbit.

Image: Instagram.

Both Foster Blake and Jacenko generate profit in a remarkably similar way. So why is it, then, that we view them so differently?

According to Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne's School of Social and Political Sciences, the answer to that question has many branches.

The first, Dr Rosewarne tells me, comes down to "sexually transmitted ethics". That is, our society has been conditioned to see Foster Blake and Jacenko as extensions of their husbands' values and beliefs, so we unconsciously drag any perceptions we have of Hamish Blake and Oliver Curtis into the frame.

"We have a very long history of loving Zoe’s partner," Dr Rosewarne, who specialises in public relations, pop culture, and feminist politics says.

"Generally speaking, if you look at his career, it’s been safe. He hasn't been offensive, you’re not going to hate him for any reason. Then you look at Roxy's partner, who's gone to jail, and [it feeds] a perception that her lifestyle has been propped up by criminal activity."

In short, if we feel cautious of a woman's male partner, we're likely to let that impinge how we feel about her, through no fault or involvement of her own. This has been rather damaging (not to mention unfair) for Jacenko, who didn't even know her husband when he engaged in insider trading in 2007.

Listen: Mia Freedman sits down with Roxy Jacenko to discuss her husband's prison sentence. (Post continues...)

But because we've been shaped to see a woman's partner as a guiding influence on who she is, sexually transmitted ethics have seeped into our perception of everyone in the public eye, Dr Rosewarne says.

Think of how you felt about Katie Holmes when she was married to Tom Cruise, compared to how you feel about her now she's dating Jamie Foxx.

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Depressing, right?

The wider network a celebrity operates within has an impact on perception, Dr Rosewarne adds, and when it comes to Foster Blake and Jacenko that couldn't be more relevant.

While Jacenko is often papped with those belonging to Sydney's upper echelons, like close friend Francesca Packer-Barham, Foster Blake is seen socialising with personalities we're familiar with. The loveable larrikins from commercial radio. Glamorous and funny magazine editors. The comedians from the telly. People we know and love for being relatable, and, importantly, self-made.

"Zoe is connected to a more favourable network," Dr Rosewarne told Mamamia. "It's the same principle that can be applied to Donald Trump’s entourage, think of the way we hate the people associated with him. We hate them because of virtue of who they’re connected to, even when we don't really know anything about those people."

In Australia, we don't have much time for those who got a 'leg up' at birth. We'll take the group of underdogs any day, thanks. And that goes a long way in explaining why Jacenko being photographed in $1000 stilettos climbing into her friend's private jet is perceived as 'narcissistic' when Foster Blake attending a beauty launch in $1000 sneakers is simply a marker of hard work.

Listen: How Zoe Foster Blake became Zoe Foster Blake. (Post continues...)

Foster Blake has expertly walked that delicate line between being transparent without being showy - something we demand in Australia. So it's not ridiculous to think that, in an American culture where pride and wealth are badges of honour, Jacenko would bask in a very different public perception.

And then you consider the different way we see both women working.

A witty selfie with a tinted lip balm is, to a society hellbent on policing how women balance their time between work and family, much more palatable than a selfie of you checking your emails three hours after giving birth. (Yes, Jacenko did exactly that in 2014.)

In a country that tends to cut down poppies as soon as they grow a little too high - particularly those of the 'successful woman' variety - it's near impossible to achieve what Foster Blake has.

"Aside from Rebecca Gibney and Claudia Karvan, there aren’t many examples of women in the Australian media who have experienced consistent love," Dr Rosewarne says.

"It's far more common to be the Nicole Kidman, who audiences are hot and cold on."

And so while one woman is sunkissed and holding her darling toddler's hand on the cover of Elle, the other is papped wiping pig's blood from the walls of her office after yet another vandal attack.

It's befuddling.

Because ultimately, here we have two 37-year-old women who - as separate entities from their husbands - are successful and inspirational. Women who have written books, garnered followings, created products, and built empires. Women who have worked hard and are enjoying what that hard work has produced.

Women who, once you peer through the biases that have shaped our perceptions of each, are actually alike. Remarkably so.

For more from Michelle Andrews, follow her on Facebook.

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