“I was born in Penrith in the west of Sydney. I lived there for 12 years and had a very horrible childhood with a violent father. The violence was so horrific, the only thing Mum and two of her three daughters could do was to put Bass Strait between us and him. We told everyone we were going to Queensland, but really went to Tasmania.
It’s the sort of violence you see in movies, with knife attacks on my older sister and shooting out our windows. He was a horrible man.
When Mum was pregnant with me, my dad kicked her in the stomach, which led to me being born 2 months prematurely.
In a different environment, I thrived. Tasmania afforded us an amazing country life, and I was fortunate to have that second chance at being a kid. I loved school and got great marks. Tasmania changed everything for me, and I consider myself a Tassie girl at heart.
I got into the Law School at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, and wanted to change the world. I wanted to change the family law systems so kids like me got listened to. In the 80s, it was all about equal rights between parents. The legal system didn’t listen to me, and didn’t care that I was scared when they forced me to spend time with my dad.
There was so much advocacy for father’s rights, which is great for good fathers, but not when the father is abusive. It wasn’t until I studied family law, that I realised I’d be a really bad Family Lawyer because I couldn’t separate my emotions from the cases – I knew I needed something more emotionless!
I fell into Superannuation and it was Corporate Law – way easier than Family law! I was with Colonial Mutual then, working in their call centre and learnt all about super.
It took them seven months to find a superannuation lawyer in my department and I realized how niche the specialisation was, and that it’d tick all my boxes, so I made that my career.
I moved into Seddon in 1999 with my then-partner Todd. I’d never heard of Seddon then, but for the same price as a flat in Richmond, we got a whole house in Seddon.
As I grew up in the west in Sydney, I had no issues with the East/West divide. I loved the house, loved that we were a minute’s walk from everywhere, and so close to the city, and I was hooked. We were two minutes from Seddon Deadly Sins, and would hang out there every weekend.
I found the community lacking in pretension, and I loved it. I got married to Todd and then broke up with him a few years later, and moved in with my now-wife Kelly, moving to South Kingsville. That was when I realized that I never wanted to move out of the inner west.
In 2008, we moved to Yarraville. We’d go to dinner at Café Fidama (oh I miss that place), get plastered and stumble home. It was perfect! In 2010, we built a house in Newport, and it was at that point we conceived the idea of Iridis Cosmetics. It was tough as the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) had just hit and it was a very tumultuous time with both my wife and I working in financial services.
I was in an amazing role as a General Counsel of Legal and Compliance for a big super conglomerate, but I saw weird things happening in the market, as a precursor to the GFC. Investments were going down, and I was giving them very specific legal advice around how to manage the volatile market when it came to peoples’ retirement incomes. However, the Board wouldn’t accept my advice, and asked me to change board papers regularly. I felt ethically compromised, got on my high horse and quit the job, without a job to go to.
I thought, as a superannuation lawyer, I am one of only 400 in the country. I’m going to be fine, no worries, lawyers are never out of work.
Two weeks later, after I’d had a bit of time off, the GFC hit. I was out of work for six months, as there was an employment freeze in financial services. That was the worst of times, but the idea for Iridis Cosmetics was formed because I was finally quiet and I had time to conceive of a business concept and that became Iridis – teaching women how to do their own makeup using a makeup brand I created.
Makeup has always been a big part of my life. When I was eight, I pretended I had a beauty business. Mum is now retired, but she was a florist then, and I was around her all the time, watching her be a business woman – it was only natural that I’d create a pretend business doing what I loved – makeup! Makeup has always been with me, even in uni, where I’d teach my friends how to do their 1990s makeup look and I worked at The Body Shop.
As a lawyer, I would makeover other lawyers. It was so cool. Once, when I worked at Slater & Gordon Lawyers, there was a lawyer who had come back from maternity leave. She said to me ‘I feel like a frump, and I don’t know what I’m doing for clothes, hair and makeup.’ She said she wanted to make Partner that year, but didn’t think she felt sufficiently groomed to compete for the role.
I remember taking her makeup shopping at David Jones. Then, in the toilets at work, I showed her how to use it, and helped her select a new suit. And of course, she made Partner that year.
I still remember that moment , and how I felt. She wasn’t feeling confident until I gave her the makeover and it shifted something huge in me – that was 1999 and I will never forget that feeling of changing how she felt about herself to the point where she presented so powerfully, she got promoted.
I was a lawyer for another 15 years after that, but makeup was always bubbling away under the surface. People were always asking me for makeup help. It was a thing I did on the side, for free. I did weddings, events, helped choose what products my friends should buy, and what suited them.
So when the GFC happened, it gave me the chance to get back to my first love and I realized that this work is why I exist on this planet. This is what I was always meant to do.
When Kelly came home that night, I said ‘I’ve decided what I’m going to do! I’m going to be a Makeup Artist (again).’ Turns out that what I was becoming was actually The Makeup Fairy Godmother.
The look on her face; she thought I had gone nuts! Kelly is an Investment Analyst, and she uses the left side of her brain, and is extremely logical. Starting a business was so outside of the realm of her logic! And I don’t think she thought I’d ever give up being a Lawyer to become a Makeup Artist!
Not long after, I did get a job as a lawyer, my last corporate job. It was the best job in the world, as I reported solely to the board, and ran an internal super fund. I could cram all of it to two days a week, and focus on Iridis for the rest of the week.
The job funded Iridis, and also gave me time to build the Iridis brand, and how I wanted the business to run.
Up until 2015, Iridis was my side hustle. It became so big the lawyer job became my side hustle. At that point, we had 15 Makeup Artists nationally, teaching women how to apply makeup. More importantly, as we developed the brand, we taught women how to view themselves in a much more positive way. Our key focus was to change how women would view themselves and then how that would change how they lived their life.
It’s transformative, watching how women feel about themselves, and how with the right makeup and the right way to think about themselves, can change how they view themselves. Guys can fluff about, pretending they’re confident, and portraying themselves as such; but a lot of women have an imposter thing going on. It’s pervasive , and it’s almost endemic. Women often think “I’m not pretty enough”, “I’m not experienced enough”, “I’m not smart enough” – all these ‘not enoughs’ and it’s a bullshit concept and a ridiculous construct that we live in. I am the woman to change that and change the world – one lipstick at a time.
It’s not about having plastic surgery, or to be prettier, or wearing a tonne of makeup. It’s about being more confident. Makeup helps us with the confidence – it’s about changing our internal dialogue around what’s possible because we feel differently when the outside is matching the fabulousness on the inside. With makeup, you can put on your war paint, because we are going into battle every fucking day.
You know that scene out of Braveheart, where Mel Gibson had makeup on, (that fetching blue and white number), and he was inciting the Scottish to get the English out of their country before they went into war. That’s how I want women to feel. If William Wallace had the confidence to go into battle and take back the country with his makeup on, imagine what my clients can do with the right coloured lipstick!
What sets Iridis apart from all the other makeup brands out there, is the Iridis Oath. It’s about the teaching, the confidence, the self-esteem, and finding your beauty. It’s about being the most amazing version of yourself. When we go into battle, we want to win the fucking war!
I cannot go back to being a Lawyer. I was sitting at a desk for 17 years, reading contracts and writing policies and board papers. Now I have an opportunity to empower women, and be the best version of myself while I do this work.
Everything I’ve learnt as a Lawyer, I’ve put it into my business as a Makeup Artist and brand owner. The crossover is extraordinary, just one example – being a lawyer involved listening to people, analyzing what people are really saying and problem solving. I do that in makeup every day! Besides, I get to work on celebrities like Sophie Monk, Christine Anu, and Eddie Perfect and on cool TV shows, that’s way more interesting than anything I ever did as a lawyer!
Kelly and I got married in November last year, almost a year to the date of marriage equality being passed. We had our beautiful baby boy Tristan, in January of this year, and life with juggling a baby and a business and Kel’s full time, full on, job is challenging! A whole new lot of organization and prioritization skills are underway now. We also got featured on the second season of Channel 9’s This Time Next Year, to share the story of Tristan’s creation into this world, and our love story that created that gorgeous soul. He lights up our lives, it’s extraordinary being mums. It’s changed our relationship in so many amazing ways. We’re also very tired.
I hang out a lot at The Backyard in Newport, and still frequent Seddon Deadly Sins. I’m always at my studio in Hyde St in Yarraville, and love seeing the Inner Westies mums for makeup. We have a really loyal following in Inner West Buy, Sell Swap group and Mums & Bubs Group, and so many of my customers are happy to refer me. It makes my heart sing when people do that, as they’ve experienced Iridis, and want to share that joy with other people.
My personal mantra, which really sums up Iridis and I – ‘When you look good, you feel good and do good. It’s that simple.“