In recent years, Marcia Hines has taken on something of a saintly aura for many Australian television viewers, thanks in no small part to her role as the only non-tossbag judge on Australian Idol.

Now, following on from her biography Diva (2001), comes a new book, Life: Things To Get You By, a tome of bite-sized inspirational stories and anecdotes from the woman herself.

“I had the Diva book a few years ago, and that was all good, but I wanted to write about how I got to where I am today as a person, and the people who have helped me on my way,” Hines told Sydney Star Observer.

“I’ve learned great things from great people, and I’ve learned what not to do from other people. As I say in the book, knowledge that’s not shared is wasted.”

It’s talk like this that makes Life seem like — dare we say it — a self-help book. But fear not, it’s a million miles away from useless guff like The Secret. Put it this way, Hines won’t have you expiring in a makeshift desert ‘spiritual sweat lodge’ like the one self-help author and Secret devotee James Arthur Ray inflicted upon his disciples the other week.

“I think it’s almost a self-help book, in the sense that, when you’re going through shit, you don’t realise how many other people are going through shit too. Then when you read a book like this, you realise other people have had a hard time too, and it helps,” Hines said.

Thrown by the diva’s liberal use of the word ‘shit’, this humble scribe is momentarily befuddled: ‘a hard time’? Surely this Queen of Pop-turned TV star has led a relatively charmed life? It’s easy to forget that, like many Australian performers, Marcia has experienced long periods of unemployment — after her run at the top of the charts in the late ’70s, she went 11 years without releasing a studio album. Mixed with personal tragedy (her brother’s suicide in 1981) and life-long health issues (severe asthma and diabetes), Hines has had her fair share of adversity.

Reflecting on her down times, conversation turned to the realities of life as a performer in the relatively tiny Australian entertainment industry. Does she think the Idol wannabes who stand in front of her each year dreaming of world fame are aware of what life is like for a performer in this country?

“No, they’re not. But there is a positive to it all — because the industry’s so small you have to continually reinvent, you have to continually work with new people, which I think is really cool.”

I asked Hines what advice she wishes she was given when she was in the Idols’ position — young, inexperienced and hungry for success. Strangely for someone who’s just written a (whisper it) self-help book, she couldn’t think of a thing.

“There’s nothing, really. Because honestly, would I have used it? I don’t think I would’ve. And anyway, so far so good, I’m doing OK. And I’m far from finished.”

info: Life: Things To Get You By is out now through Hay House.

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