Chrissie Swan's journey from Big Brother star to The Project host

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She sprung to fame as the runner-up on season three of Big Brother Australia, but Chrissie Swan, 48, has turned that reality TV moment into a stellar career.

Now, she is taking over from the ever-popular Carrie Bickmore on the Channel Ten prime-time talk show The Project.

There has been a lot of talk about her weight loss in recent years, but that is one of the least interesting things about this outspoken personality.

A cheering and clapping Chrissie Swan celebrates as she exits the house as runner-up in the Australian Big Brother Series July 21, 2003 at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, Australia.
Chrissie Swan celebrates as she exits the Big Brother house as runner-up in 2003. Photo: Getty Images

'Nothing can prepare you'

As a copywriter, Chrissie thought she knew a little about being in the media before going into the Big Brother house in 2003.

She had no idea.

“Even though I was on the periphery of media and I wasn’t an idiot, I just had no idea of what the national reaction was,” she said.

“Nothing can really prepare you for the power of television, or the hysteria that comes with it, or the intimacy of it."

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But she was determined to make the most of her newfound fame, getting a gig on the radio.

“I knew nothing about radio," Chrissie said. "I remember Mike Perso was the go-to guy and I said, ‘Can I drink coffee in the studio? Can I bring my dog?’

“Seven years in radio, I learnt a lot about presenting. I worked hard, I didn’t just turn up."

From radio to your TV

Chrissie co-hosted several radio shows and was then invited to join the morning talk show, The Circle, in 2010.

Her everyday demeanour and down-to-earth personality made her a firm favourite; the audience could relate to her.

"I thought I might be bad, and people might have thought I should've stayed in radio," Chrissie told AAP.

"I think people look at me and think, ‘That’s what I’d be like if I was on there'. It feels like I’ve wandered in off the street, had a hairdo and whacked an outfit on and sat down on the couch.

"Half that time, that’s actually what I feel like!”

Chrissie Swan poses with her Silver Logie for Most Popular Light Entertainment Program in the awards room during the 2011 Logie Awards at Crown Palladium on May 1, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.
Chrissie Swan won the Most Popular New Female Talent Logie in 2011 for her work on The Circle. Photo: WireImage

Pure gold moment

It took the industry a while to catch up.

Many in the media world were stunned when Chrissie was nominated for the Gold Logie in 2011, alongside Asher Keddie, Karl Stefanovic and Rebecca Gibney, and won the Most Popular New Female Talent award.

“I agree it was odd; I had no control over it, Chrissie said in an interview with Stellar Magazine in 2020.

"But also, so what? Maybe I broke the Logies? Maybe that was the start of it. What’s the big deal?

"People vote for somebody and they get nominated. Eddie [McGuire] couldn’t understand it, but The Circle was really important to a lot of people. It was like a lifeline."

Motherhood barbs hurt

Being in the public eye meant constant scrutiny and, while comments about her weight didn't bother her (“I just don’t think it's relevant, the size of my ass!”), she took it to heart when people attacked her as a mother.

After appearing in Woman's Weekly in 2012 with Leo, then aged three, and baby Kit, she was criticised for allowing Leo to be overweight for his age.

"It’s my favourite magazine and it was the last thing I expected, that people would be cruel to a three-year-old and a one-year-old," she said.”

Chrissie Swan holds a book as she wears a floral dress to the launch of Joel Creasey's memoir 'THIRSTY: Confessions of a Fame Whore' on October 19, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.
Chrissie Swan at the launch of Joel Creasey's memoir THIRSTY: Confessions of a Fame Whore in 2017. Photo: Getty Images

'Begged photographers not to run story'

Then in 2014, she was vilified after being caught smoking while pregnant with her third child, daughter Peggy.

"I begged the photographers not to run the story because I know how bad it looks," she revealed at the time.

"Obviously I know it is wrong; I’m not an idiot. No smoker wants to smoke, especially when they are pregnant, but it is clearly an addiction and a very serious one."

Her management said it was a tough time for Chrissie and her family.

"This (smoking) is something Chrissie has kept hidden from those closest to her for a long time," they stated.

"It has been and continues to be a very real and difficult personal struggle for Chrissie to overcome. Chrissie is horrified and heartbroken she couldn’t find the strength to quit whilst pregnant.

"Addiction is serious and smoking is an incredibly difficult habit to kick."

And while most fans didn't necessarily agree with what Chrissie had done, many understood she had demons to overcome.

Fans stay loyal

Appearing on I'm A Celebrity the following year helped her reconnect with her fan base and proved she was just as popular as ever, narrowly missing out on winning to English cricketer Freddie Flintoff.

"She's just a wonderful lady; I was thinking, 'How is anyone going to beat her?'," Freddie admitted after he was crowned King of the Jungle.

"She's like Wonder Woman, she's into everything. I genuinely wanted her to win it."

Chrissie threw herself into her work, from presenting the Chrissie, Sam & Browny radio show on Nova 100, to co-hosting The Great Australian Spelling Bee and Long Lost Family.

A smiling Chissie Swan dressed in black shirt and pants with long curled hair attends the cast announcement for The Real Housewives of Melbourne season 5 on April 14, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Sam Tabone/WireImage)
Chrissie Swan attending the cast announcement for The Real Housewives of Melbourne in April, 2021. Photo: Getty Images

Lockdown and look great

The pandemic and multiple lockdowns in Melbourne has Chrissie, like many of us, rethinking her life.

During the 2020 lockdowns, she took up walking for mental wellbeing

"We couldn't go out to dinner, we couldn't go to a friend's house, they couldn't come to us, we couldn't go outside five kilometres," she told The Australian Women's Weekly.

"All we could do was walk, and so that's what I did."

She said she walked for two hours a day.

Then last year, she gave up drinking, saying that alcohol increased her anxiety about the pandemic and she wasn't sleeping properly.

"I really noticed a huge difference in my day-to-day positivity and ability to deal with the pandemic and the ongoing changes to literally every part of our lives if I'm clear-minded," Chrissie said.

"It's been fantastic, a fantastic choice."

Promo shots of a smiling Chrissie Swan from her latest shows include The Project and Would I Lie To You
Chrissie Swan's latest shows include The Project and Would I Lie To You. Photo: Instagram/@chrissieswan

She also revealed her relationship with her partner of 15 years, Chris Saville, has reached its end, but they are committed to co-parenting their three children.

"We still live together; we talk all the time, so it's not really that different," she said.

"We are both so family-oriented and we are 100 per cent committed to those kids."

Now with The Project and her other new show, Would I Lie To You, it seems the sky's the limit for Chrissie.

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