FOR Magda Szubanski, the world-famous Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is more than just about the parade and parties.
The Melbourne-raised actress, comedian and TV personality believes it’s also an integral part of Australia’s gay identity.
“Having something as emblematic as Mardi Gras that is accepted and seen as a really important part of Sydney’s social calendar is a great thing for our confidence and esteem as a community.”
Szubanski recalled feeling humbled when she marched with Twenty10 last year, the NSW LGBTI youth advocacy and support group of which she is a patron. It was also her first march since she publicly came out on The Project in 2012
“I was very moved,” she said.
“For the kids from Twenty10 to feel part of a community was really important, because Mardi Gras is very much about the community as well as the party.
“Just to see so many people out there, you know, LGBTI people and straight people and everything in between supporting the parade was fantastic. It’s a great atmosphere.”
The Kath & Kim star will once again be involved in Mardi Gras this year, but this time from the sidelines as one of the hosts — alongside comedian Tom Ballard and The Feed journalist Patrick Abboud — of SBS’s parade highlights TV show.
“When they asked me I just said yes to the opportunity cause I just thought it was a great way to be involved with the whole thing,” Szubanski said.
“I mean, what a great gig, who wouldn’t want to do it?”
With her upcoming gig in mind, she said increasing lesbian visibility in Australia’s mainstream culture was needed. However, she acknowledged there was still a fear of a possible career downfall when a celebrity ponders coming out of the closet.
“I’m aware that there are not a lot (of famous out lesbians in Australia). There are a few: Penny Wong, Beccy Cole and Ruby Rose of course, but not an awful lot,” Szubanski said.
“It really surprises me for a progressive country there aren’t more out gay people (but) I’m sure as time goes by there will be more.
“It’s a very difficult thing for celebrities, but it’s your livelihood. It’s not just your livelihood actually, it’s a huge part of your life and your career and your work and what you love to do. It’s very scary, especially if you don’t know what else you could do.
“I mean, I couldn’t do anything else. I’m absolutely hopeless at everything.”
Nonetheless, since Szubanski grabbed headlines when she came out three years ago, her life has changed for the better.
“I was pretty out before to be honest, a lot of people knew. But to just be completely out is extremely empowering,” she said.
“There was some speculation whether it would hurt ‘brand Magda’ but since coming out I’ve had major endorsement deals so I would say it hasn’t.”
Szubanski added that she was grateful to be a positive role model thanks to her continued mainstream success.
“It’s really important we be present in all aspects of life and I think that a big part of my coming out was the timing of it,” she said.
“We’re all a lot accepting these days to understand that everyone really does have a different journey about it and you can’t rush people.
“If you rush people and it’s the wrong time, it doesn’t always have a good result. What we want is for people to be happy, healthy and thriving.”
SBS One will broadcast highlights from the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade the day after the parade on Sunday, March 8 from 8.30pm. It will also be streamed online at sbs.com.au/mardigras
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**This article was first published in the March edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.