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What Sara-Marie’s life looks like now, almost 20 years after finding fame on Big Brother.

Sara-Marie Fedele has never understood why anyone would want to know where she is now.

It’s been nearly 20 years since the now-42-year-old bum danced her way into the hearts of Australians on the first ever season of Big Brother. The year was 2001 and Sara-Marie was just 21 years old when she entered the Gold Coast Big Brother mansion. She came out an instant celebrity.

Anyone who watched that first Big Brother season – one of the first Australian reality shows to hit our screens – will remember just how loveable she was, and still is. Her cute pyjamas, bunny ears, infectious personality and, of course, the bum dance endeared her to everyone, but in particular, Aussie women.

In the words of Mamamia co-founder Mia Freedman, who nearly lost her editor’s job when she put Sara-Marie on the cover of Cosmopolitan Australia almost two decades ago, Sara-Marie was a pioneer of the body positive movement in Australia. Back then, we didn’t have social media and Instagram didn’t exist, but when Sara-Marie was eventually eliminated from the Big Brother house (she came third), thousands of women turned up to the live eviction wearing bunny ears and shaking their bums.

Prior to 2020, you couldn’t really find out that much about what Sara-Marie has been up to over the last 20 years since she shot to fame as one of the country’s original reality TV stars. She’s walked an unexpectedly fine line between public and private life, a choice made less deliberately and more out of not being bothered by it all.

This is one of the reasons people are fascinated by Sara-Marie – because in the age of influencers and reality TV stars, it’s strange to not be able to pick up your phone and find out what your favourite TV personality is up to.

When Sara-Marie sat down to speak with Mia on the No Filter podcast, it was the first interview she’d said yes to in a long time. So, let’s take a look at where Sara-Marie is now.

WATCH: How Sara-Marie’s life changed after Big Brother. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia

Sara-Marie’s life before Big Brother.

Before applying for Big Brother, Sara-Marie worked as a receptionist and then a manager at a strip club. Prior to that, she’d worked at a pharmacy.

“I never knew what I wanted to do. I went to the strip club for a Christmas party and ended up helping out the manager… they offered me a job at the front desk,” she said.

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Then, after arriving home in the early hours of the morning from work, she saw an ad on TV about applications for a show called Big Brother. She rang a number, filled out some forms and sent in a video about herself. When she got the call from a producer saying she’d been cast in the show, her only question was, “will there be tampons and pads there?”.

Sara-Marie’s life in the year after Big Brother finished.

During her season of Big Brother, Sara-Marie was up for eviction every single week until she left the house in third place. After spending weeks just being herself in the house, she was in no way prepared to re-enter the outside world as a celebrity.

She said, “I went from being in a house for three months with people you became friends with, to being on a stage and having people ask you questions about yourself, people copying you. It was a lot to take in. Being 21, I didn’t know who I was. I was just being me. So to come out of the house and see women dressed like me – I still don’t understand why I was liked. I was just being me and being comfortable.”

“I remember we had suitcases with a Big Brother sticker on them, and I remember packing mine and thinking, ‘I wonder if people will notice the Big Brother sticker on my suitcase?’. That’s how much I had no idea [how famous I was].”

Despite being known and loved for her self-confidence, Sara-Marie said it was a struggle learning “a new kind of confidence” following her appearance on the show. In her life before Big Brother, she said she’s always been a confident person in her own circle, but that didn’t prepare her for the level of scrutiny that comes with overnight fame. Especially when you haven’t been able to process why you’re even famous in the first place.

sara marie big brother
Sara-Marie back in 2001 on Big Brother, and on Studio 10 in 2018. Image: Twitter.
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"The next day after I came out of the house, I went to the shops with my mum... hundreds of people were lined up down the streets. I couldn't do anything and it was really hard for me to grasp. Then, sometimes I felt like a performing seal... I'd stand on stage and slap my arse."

"I felt like I became a character at times. I remember staying in a hotel one morning, I was really tired and drained, and a lady asked if I was Sara-Marie. She said, 'you don't look very vibrant'. I thought, it's five o'clock in the f*cking morning, c'mon! There were also times I was very alone. I'd wonder, how do all these people love me yet I'm sitting in this hotel room by myself. It was a weird feeling."

In the months following Big Brother, Sara-Marie moved to Sydney and capitalised on her fame with the help of talent agent Harry Miller. His advice to a young Sara-Marie? "Just because you have fame, you won't always have fortune."

In the space of three months, she released a pyjama line with underwear company Holeproof, wrote a top-selling book called The Sara-Marie Guide to Life, and her Sara-Marie bum dance music video was in the top 10 on Video Hits.

"I didn't do nightclub appearances like other contestants did... I think out of anyone in Australia, I'm the only person who has been able to achieve that much, in three months. Now, I'm a proud mum to show my daughter that all of that [success] was because of being yourself," she said. (You can watch Sara-Marie's video clip on YouTube below.)

Around the same time, Sara-Marie went and got a job working at Sportsgirl while still doing public appearances. She also appeared on season two of Dancing With The Stars. Then, a national newspaper published a full page paparazzi photo of her working in retail with a headline lamenting her supposed fall from stardom.

Of that moment, she said, "I didn't feel like I'd had a 'downfall', I'd just had an experience on a TV show and good things came out of it. It didn't bother me [working in retail], but I quit after that came out because I couldn't be bothered [with the attention]. It was disappointing."

"When I did Dancing With The Stars, I'd fly home the next day and go to work at a childcare centre. I was still doing things I loved, but people were so confused and asking, where is she now? All she does is this or that. These kinds of jobs pay people's bills so they can put food on the table. For some people, that is all they have. We're all still human, and I'm not the one to care, hope and wish to be known."

Among other things, Sara-Marie also worked on radio and on TV covering red carpets, and appeared in "some one night TV special".

Sara-Marie on being a body image role model.

Looking back on her time on Big Brother, Sara-Marie told Mia she doesn't feel like she was fat at all, watching that old footage. But because she wasn't what people might refer to as 'skinny' (in the noughties, heroin chic was still the ideal size for a woman to be), she was automatically held up as a role model for body positivity and loving yourself at any size.

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"It was confusing to be a role model," she said.

Even more confusing to her fans was when she accepted a job as the face of a weight loss company. But as Sara-Marie reminded Mia, she was a 21-year-old who loved getting paid.

"I got offered to lose weight with a weight loss company. I was 21 and thought, OK, you want to give me money to lose weight? Tell me what to eat. Then, I went to do an audition for a travel show and made a joke about wanting to have my boobs done because they were a bit saggy after losing weight. It was a joke, but they literally called someone in and they asked me what I wanted done. So I went and got a boob job."

"People were upset and wanted to know how I could lose all that weight. That wasn't me not loving myself. That was me being 21 and loving getting sh*t for free."

Sara-Marie on becoming a mum.

For the last five years, Sara-Marie has been working as a mum. She gave birth to her five-year-old daughter via an emergency C-section

"For me, being a mum is natural. It was meant to be. I've always wanted to have kids," she said.

Sara-Marie also told Mia about her experience of having a hysterectomy two years ago, after dealing with an irregular period her whole life.

"I've always had my period. I always had spotting, even when I was pregnant. Even when I was on Big Brother, having your period all the time sucked. I've had cysts, endometriosis and laparoscopy surgeries. I never talked about, I just dealt with my pain and off I went," she said.

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"I'd just turned 40 and had bad pains, so I went to the doctors and they suggested a hysterectomy – I knew at the time I wasn't having any more children. It went terribly wrong. They accidentally cut through my bladder so badly, I was in surgery for six hours. I'm recovered now, I'm blessed to be back to normal."

You can listen to Mia Freedman's full interview with Sara-Marie on No Filter below. Post continues after audio.

So, what's Sara-Marie doing now?

In 2020, Sara-Marie still doesn't get why anyone would want to be known for people knowing your name. Why? Because it's a lot of work "answering to others, explaining yourself and living up to a version of you."

She spends her time living in Perth, being a mum and studying to be a teacher's aid for children with special needs. No Instagram. No Facebook. If she wants to stalk someone, she does it on her sister's phone.

On whether she'd go back on reality TV, Sara-Marie said she'd love to do I'm A Celeb, but would miss her daughter too much.

She added, "I'd do [I'm A Celeb] because it'd be fun. Yes, I've been offered money to sell a story, but to me, being paid to prove where I am or how successful I am, it doesn't make sense in my heart and my mind."

"My parents always said to me, success is how happy you live your life, not how long you last on TV. When the right opportunity comes up, I say yes. But I don't do things to be known or liked."

She doesn't speak to anyone from her season of Big Brother – "back then, there was no Facebook to keep us in contact" – and she still gets recognised on the odd occasion.

"I don't get recognised all the time, but when I do, I don't expect it. People in their forties and fifties will still recognise me or ask if they know me from somewhere. I get overwhelmed that people know me, but then I remember it's all positive. I just don't understand it. I go home and do my home things... I don't understand how people love me."

Sara-Marie doesn't have a huge group of friends, but she still has the same friends she had before Big Brother. She still goes out with her three sisters, and on the occasion someone asks, she'll still give her bum a quick wobble.

"I haven't been in hibernation, I just didn't care to be known. I'm still the same person before, but a grown up version. I did what I did and then I was happy to go."

Feature Image: Twitter.

Do you remember watching Sara-Marie on Big Brother? What do you think about her refreshing approach on fame? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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