An Open (Fan) Letter to Julia Zemiro

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a fan letter to someone I admire. This was something I had done a couple of times as a kid. I knew the days of posting it to a GPO box with an envelope and stamp were probably long gone, but I figured that a bit of online sleuthing would reveal an email address to which I could direct my heartfelt missive.

Things have changed a bit in the last couple of decades, it would seem. No such address was forthcoming. I even reached out to Twitter, to see if someone — anyone — could give the child in me a point at which to direct my admiration. No love. I mulled on this for a little while, and had all but given it up as a bad job.

Then, I realised: this is the Internet. I can write anything I want.

So, here it is, for Julia Zemiro and for all of you: a fan letter.

Dear Julia,

It feels strange to be writing a letter to someone that I don’t know, but I’ve thought about this a lot and I would really like to receive a letter that says something like what I’m about ot say to you, even if it was from someone I had never met. So I hope you can forgive me.

Last night, I listened to the Wilosophy podcast that you had recorded with Wil Anderson, quite some time ago. I’m shockingly behind on my podcasts, I know; I’ve very recently made some major changes in my life that have finally afforded me the opportunity to catch up on all the things I wish I had been doing for years, interesting podcasts being one of them. Listening to you on my sojourn home, on a cold Sydney bus in the middle of the night, brought to mind a memory that I had buried far in the back beneath a pile of bric-a-brac thoughts, and I was struck by its significance in my current circumstances.

My parents were massive Rockwiz fans, so I spent many formative years living in a house where you were a weekly guest. You were always funny, forthright, beautiful, and smart. I was — at that impressionable age — struck by the fact that you had red lips and dark clothes and firey passion and, most importantly, brown hair like mine. That seems like an odd thing to notice, I know, but I grew up in a world where all of the women in every media I consumed were beige and blithe and blonde. Seeing someone who was so much more like the grown up I figured I would come to be had a big effect on me, even more than I realised at the time.

The memory that came to mind last night was years old. Do you recall appearing on the skit show Thank God You’re Here? It was an improv show, on Channel 10 I think, with the premise that guest stars (such as yourself) would be thrust through a door into an unfamiliar room, to play out an unknown scene from some kind of bizarre circumstance invented by the writers and supported by a regular cast. I recall so clearly the night that you appeared. Not so much the scene or the visuals (they had shoved you into some kind of ridiculous Victorian dress, with a parasol, maybe?) but I remember exactly what happened.

You absolutely threw yourself into the scene, with loud comedy and over-the-top theatrics that had me in hysterics. As desperately as the other actors tried to pull you back on course, to wrestle the scene back from your iron grip, you cast them aside and forged forward with this beautiful creation of your own, keeping your world exactly as you wanted it in that moment. You refused to be spoken over, and you refused to be constrained. It was brilliant.

It wasn’t until I was sitting on that bus listening to you last night that I realised exactly why I’d held onto this scrap of a memory for so long. I’ve watched thousands of hours of television, as I’m sure most people my age have. The reason that this moment struck me so much is that it was the first time in all of those hours that I had seen a woman — a loud, brave, funny woman who I admired so much — refuse point blank to be silenced or redirected by a man. It was the first time that I had seen a woman in the drivers’ seat, stopping for no one, on a journey of her own. I’m not sure that it would have occurred to me that it could be done, had I not seen you do it so brilliantly.

So, I’m writing to say thank you. Thank you for teaching me that so-important lesson all those years ago. I suspect that you may not have realised or intended the ripple effect that a single television skit buried in the archives of your amazing body of work has had… thus, my reason for writing. If you ever have a moment where you wonder whether it’s all worth it, or whether your work has had an impact, I flatter myself to hope that you may remember the firey brunette girl from a living room in Central Queensland, who learned something new and important about the world because of you.

Always your friend,

Sheree Strange

If you want to read more of anything I write, you can jump on over here. I accept all mail, fan or otherwise.