She became a household name in the ’90s with her starring role in the hit show Who Dares Wins, a season of Baywatch and a string of Bollywood film roles, but more recently Tania Zaetta has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
From false allegations of fraternising with soldiers during a morale-boosting visit to Afghanistan, to a shocking arrest on the Gold Coast, the star has had a rough time.
But rather than run away and hide, Tania, 42, believes it’s time to stand up for herself and set the record straight.
For the first time, TV’s most controversial star bares all and reveals the truth about the scandals and controversy that have recently confronted her.
Why did you decide to go on The Celebrity Apprentice?
I have TV shows on air around the world, but it kind of looks like I’m not doing much on-screen here in Australia so I thought I would do this show because it showcases different talents outside from what I’m known for.
To last in a career as cut-throat as the entertainment industry for a couple of decades, you must be a smart and savvy businessperson.
On the show you butted heads a lot with Charlotte Dawson...
Yes, I did. I felt really ganged up on for whatever reason. It was clear from day one, Charlotte was very much there to play the game for the cameras. I was there to be me. I am a very karmic person from my time in India and my upbringing. I believe you treat people how you want to be treated back.
Were you surprised how much it affected you?
I felt I had to work extra hard to prove myself. I did feel singled out but I’m not going to sit here and play victim. You just hope you learn from it and grow and become a better person not a bitter person.
What was the hardest part about being on the show?
Feeling on my own throughout the entire process. At first Marion [Grasby] and I bonded but then I realised she was there to play the game. Some of the people who have been on reality TV know you take your biggest competition to the boardroom.
The show implies that The Hoff didn’t remember you from your Baywatch days...
This sounds like where TV editing works its magic because when I was asked about working with The Hoff again, I said I worked with him a decade ago and I’m sure he wouldn’t remember working with me.
But he did remember me when he came in and even remembered where we had shot a couple of scenes.
You hit the headlines in 2008 when Australian defence briefing reports claimed you had sex with Australian soldiers at their base in Afghanistan during your morale-boosting visit. How did you handle that?
Afghanistan was the best three weeks of my life. Coming home, I was completely inspired. I was genuinely moved by all the work Australian soldiers do over there. But I was completely devastated, as any woman would be, to have Chinese whispers and rumours turn into worldwide reporting.
It was rock bottom for me. I felt humiliated although I’d done nothing wrong and none of it was true, so I took legal action. It was all settled amicably. But I remember calling my mum and saying: ‘I feel like I’m on the edge of a black hole and if I go into that black hole, I’m scared that I’m not going to come out for a very long time.’
But it didn’t end there. In 2011 it was discovered that a charity that you were a part of, Peace For The Children, was being investigated for unlawful fundraising. What happened?
When I was in Afghanistan, I couldn’t believe that kids would stand on landmines and lose their legs. I was approached by a charity organisation – that raised awareness and funds for innocent children of war around the world – to be their MC and the face of their charity.
The company assured me that everything was in order with all the relevant licences and paperwork. That was not my department at all. Then it was later pointed out there was an issue with one of the licences. So it really wasn’t a big deal, however put in a high-profile person and suddenly it becomes a massive story.
It was really the oversight of a business manager but I’ve had to bear the brunt of that.
Then, in March 2011, you were arrested and charged with causing a public nuisance and obstructing police outside a Gold Coast nightclub. What happened that night?I’d been to a business dinner on a Sunday evening and some of the people I was with went into a bar. I waited outside while
a friend went to get his car so we could go home.
A couple of policemen then approached me about waiting near an entrance, and before I knew it I was being arrested for being a public nuisance. I don’t know how a conversation with police ended up being reported by the media as me being drunk and rolling out of a nightclub.Anyway, the police officers did the right thing and didn’t proceed with any charges. Technically, there
was no harm done except again to the high-profile person... me!
How do you cope with all the negative press?
Sometimes I question if I did the right thing by coming home to Australia. I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I could around the world and I thought I was going to come home, start the next phase of my life and meet a lifelong partner and have children.
Sure, I wake up some days thinking what have I done to deserve some of this. I would hate to think it’s a case of tall poppy syndrome.
Are you dating anyone at the moment?
There are lots of somebodies out there but there is just not that somebody special. When I’m overseas, I love that if a man approaches me it’s because he doesn’t know much about my career background. Here, I’m cautious that possibly men are coming over to talk about my TV shows.
But I love it that the whole of Australia are massive fans of Who Dares Wins.
Do you see children in your future?
Can’t wait! I’ve never been one who has put their career first and not had a family, it’s just kind of worked out that way.
Sometimes men say: ‘You wouldn’t give up your career to go off and have babies?’ and I think most women are like: ‘Are you serious?’
But I will always work because that’s in my nature.By Karlie Jeffrey