Tea with Mamamia: We talk to Stella Young


Welcome to our final episode in the Tea with Mamamia series, where our editor Jamila Rizvi has a cup (or four) of Dilmah tea while getting to know some of Australia’s best and brightest celebrities.

Today Jamila sits down with Stella Young. Stella is a comedian, disability advocate and Editor of ABC’s Ramp Up website, the online space for news, discussion and opinion about disability in Australia.

The two of them talk about what it means to be a ‘Professional Stroppy Person’, chasing boys as teenagers (even when stairs get in the way) and how humour, social media and advocacy work together.

As expected there are some very funny moments – you may even learn some new uses for the pressure cooker. So make yourself a cuppa, sit back and take 5 minutes to enjoy the conversation between these two lovely ladies.

P.S How bangin’ is Stella’s orange lipstick? LOVE.

Here’s a transcript of Jamila and Stella’s chat:

Jam: Stella, thanks for having tea.

Stella: Thank you for offering me tea. I love tea. Tea is excellent.

Jam: Now you’re a disability advocate, a phrase we hear thrown around, what does it actually mean?

Stella: Being a disability advocate, I suppose, just means being stroppy about stuff that is not fair, and raising and discussing issues that affect people with disabilities I guess.

Jam: Does getting stroppy work?

Stella: It does sometimes. It does. I’ve had a recent little win. I went to a pub near my house, and their disabled toilet was full of boxes of wine, so I couldn’t use it.

Jam: So it was basically just a storage cabinet?

Stella: Yeah they were just using it for storage, and that happens all the time. But on this particular night I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to tweet a photo of this’. And so I did, and it kind of went a bit crazy. I wrote the venue a couple of emails to say,  ‘Please don’t use your toilet as a wine cellar. It’s not good for people that need to use the toilet, or the people that wanna drink your wine.’

Jam: True. There’s two issues here!

Stella: So, I sent them a couple of emails. That didn’t really work, they just ignored my emails, but when I got to them on social media, that’s when they paid attention. So I ended up writing on their facebook wall and they cleaned their stuff out immediately.


Jam: Big win.

Stella: Yeah!

Jam: Do you think social media has changed advocacy works? It makes it more accessable, all of a sudden, and it means that ordinary people like you and me – well you’re not ordinary, you’re an advocate – but ordinary people like you and me can suddenly get heard by someone who otherwise wouldn’t pay any attention to us.

Stella: Yeah absolutely. In the ‘olden days’ – pre-social media – you know, you’d go to a pub where they were using their disabled toilet for storage, and all you’d really be able to do is complain to them, or you could lodge a Disability Discrimation Complaint, which takes months. The outcomes are often in (my experience) not very good. And so it just means that you can name and shame people who are doing the wrong thing. I mean I didn’t notice when I was really little, I didn’t notice that things were not that equal. I grew up in a town call Stawell in the Grampians, they have the Stawell Gift there which is a running race, and I just one so many times that they kicked me out of the town. But a lot of the shops in the main street were inaccesable. And so I went around a did a little access audit.

Jam: Teenage you was different to teenage me!

Stella: I was still chasing boys and all of that sort of stuff.

Jam: Oh good!

Stella: If I had to chase them up steps, that was the problem, so I needed to remove those steps.

Jam: Okay fair enough, fair enough.

Stella: It was all really about the chasing boys.

Jam: It was about tackling the ordinary teenage challenges.

Stella: Exactly, exactly. But when I moved out of home, that was when I realised how hard the world is to navigate, and how much discrimination and dodgy attitudes are out there. So yeah, I guess that’s when I started being a proper kind of stroppy person.

Jam: You should put that on a business card: Professional stroppy person.

Stella: Stella Young, professional stroppy person.

Jam: We were talking just before about doing television and things like that. You also do comedy, stand-up comedy.

Stella: Yes, sitting down.

Jam: Sitting down stand-up comedy. I can not actually think of anything more terrifying.


Stella: Look, it is pretty terrifying. About ten minutes before I go on stage I go, ‘You could be home, in your slippers, watching Grey’s Anatomy, but no.’

Jam: Why am I here?

Stella: I’m here about to die on stage. It’s ridiculous. But then of course it all goes really well. A lot of my comedy is based on the stupid things non-disabled people say, which is great, which is really fun, because it enables me to kind of take those experiences, and instead of just rolling my eyes and getting cross about ignorance I can kind of make fun of it. Not that I wanna shame people about it.

Jam: Humour is a way of getting the point across without hurting people.

Stella: Yeah.

Jam: When you’re not advocating or journalisting or making people laugh – what are you doing? When you’re not working?

Stella: Knitting.

Jam: Knitting?

Stella: Yeah.

Jam: Any good?

Stella: I am pretty good actually! I learnt to knit when I was little. It’s just become something that I’ve gotten totally obsessed with.

Jam: Do you wear what you make?

Stella: Yeah I do. I’ve only kind of just started to wear what I make, but yeah I wore a little cardigan that I made on the weekend.

Jam: Its Melbourne, its cold, you want to wear wool!

Stella: Yeah, it’s fun. And I actually dyed the yarn for that cardigan as well, so it started off white and now its really bright orange. I dyed it in a slow cooker.

Jam: Do you cook in the slow cooker?

Stella: Nup.

Jam: That’s good.

Stella: I’m useless at cooking, but I can dye yarn in cooking instruments.

Jam: Okay, well, given we’re about of time, I’m going to make you a deal. If you come over and teach me how to knit, I’ll teach you to cook.

Stella: Okay that sounds great!

Jam: Thanks so much for having tea with me Stella.

Stella: Thanks for having me.

Tea with Mamamia series is brought to you by Dilmah.