Model turned author Alison Brahe-Daddo and actor husband Cameron Daddo talk about the highs and lows of 30 years of matrimony, and why they turned to a marriage counsellor to save theirs.
Alison, how would you describe your three decades of marriage?
The marriage has gone through so many evolvements. We went from being incredibly young and naive when we met to evolving into a couple who relocated to America and built a new life in LA. That then led to us seeing a marriage counsellor [due to Cameron’s infidelity] and doing therapy together. I’d say that’s where our marriage evolved the most. We had to understand why we were so attracted to each other, what were our downfalls, and ways we could work to stay together.
We returned to Sydney in 2016 and are in a new phase of the marriage now. Our three children have grown up, so our responsibility for parenting is a lot less. For us it’s working out what we can do as a couple again. We started our podcast [Separate Bathrooms] in 2019, and we both want to learn Italian.
Did seeing a counsellor help?
It is so important to find the right therapist for you. The one we found was our second choice, as the first one was a terrible experience. Find someone you are both comfortable with; you can’t feel the therapist is siding with one person. You need to feel supported and in a loving environment and both be on board with the process of change.
You can’t push shit uphill, especially if your partner isn’t into it and you’re at a crossroads in the relationship. We both wanted the relationship to work, so that was a good starting point.
Is your book, Queen Menopause, inspired by your own journey?
I hit the perimenopause stage at 45 and wondered what was happening to me. No one had shared their experiences or feelings about it – and I have a Mum around, and older sisters. I had some tough symptoms. I wasn’t well with adrenal fatigue and that caused all sorts of hormonal issues.
If I’d had someone to talk me through it and tell me it’s all right because you get to the end, I’d have been better prepared. I spoke to various women about their menopause journey for the book. There is a post-menopausal best that is like a second lease on life: things start to happen in an emotional and mental way, more than a physical way.
What made you want to write about menopause?
I had written articles for publications in the UK and always loved writing. I had my heart set on children’s books, but it was the words “menopausal mother of three” in my Instagram profile that caught the attention of my publisher, who approached me a month later to ask if I wanted to do this book. I nearly fell of my chair and couldn’t believe the stars had aligned.
You started modelling at 16, appearing on the covers of Dolly, Cosmopolitan and Cleo. What would you tell your younger self if you could step back in time?
I’m a believer of, “It is what it is.” I think I was too young to get into modelling. I dropped out in year 11 and wish I’d finished school and had more time to find out about myself before the modelling world swept me off my feet. It became a place of deep insecurity for me – and I was already that sort of girl – but it really came to a head when I stopped modelling. I was like, “Will anyone take me seriously after spending 10 years looking pretty?”
Your time in LA was focused on raising your family. At what point did you realise you wanted to study again?
I was so happy to be the stay-at-home mum and raise kids while Cameron worked. His work was so random, you didn’t know when or how long he’d be away. Once my third child got to a certain age, I went back into the workforce.
My dreams of becoming a teacher also came true. I got an early childhood teaching degree from UCLA. It was agonising to say goodbye to all of that when we returned to Australia, but I’m glad we came back to experience our country pre-pandemic. We got out of the US before the Trump years, too.
Cam and I really grew up as individuals in America: the 25 years I spent there is half of my life! We’d only been married eight months when we moved there and I had my 23rd birthday in Los Angeles. I’ve been on a life journey from the 20s to my 40s.
Did you feel much pressure to maintain your body shape after you stopped modelling?
I am aware of the privilege of being a model. I’m aware there were girls who wished they had a body like mine when they were 16, which makes me cringe. Meanwhile, I was wishing I had a body like Elle Macpherson’s. As a 52-year-old who is a size 14 with a muffin top and cellulite from neck to knee, I feel more pressure back in Australia than I did in America. Nobody in the US could compare me to my younger self. But here, I still get that all the time. That is where it is tricky for me. People must look at me and think, “Holy crap, what happened to you?” I’m gentler on myself nowadays and remind myself it’s okay to be as I am. But it’s definitely an issue.
“I’m aware there were girls who wished they had a body like mine when they were 16, which makes me cringe. Meanwhile, I was wishing I had a body like Elle Macpherson’s.”
Cameron, what prompted your decision to join Dancing with the Stars, and what was Alison’s reaction?
I felt I hadn’t been challenged much over the two years of the pandemic, so DWTS seemed a natural progression to getting myself out there again. I like to surf and maintain fitness, but ballroom dancing is a whole new thing. I am grateful for the experience. Alison has always been supportive of what I’ve wanted to do. I’d actually like us to take up ballroom dancing as a couple.
How do you reflect on your marriage and its longevity?
With all relationships, the first few years are easy. But once you get past the superficial and into the nitty-gritty, you get deeper into understanding why you’re together. For us it’s been a deep soul-growth experience. A marriage is like a dance: you have to allow your partner space, and it takes two. We’ve grown as individuals and yet remain committed to one another.
The pandemic has made us realise how fragile we are as humans and given us perspective. The fact someone like Alison is willing to walk alongside me through life is not lost on me. The privilege of having Alison beside me in spite of all my faults and idiosyncrasies is not one I take for granted.
Queen Menopause by Alison Brahe-Daddo (Allen & Unwin) is out in May. Dancing with the Stars premieres tonight on Channel 7 and 7plus.
Styling by Nadene Duncan. Photography by Damian Bennett. Make-up Mikele Simone using Mecca Cosmetics. Hair Joel Phillips for Kevin Murphy.
To read more from Sunday Life magazine, click here.
Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.