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You know her from her impressive 25-year stint at Channel 7, presenting top-rating programs such as Sunrise and Sunday Night with poise and the perfect balance of impartiality and compassion.
But Melissa Doyle's newest project, a podcast called Age Against The Machine, is a whole world away from breakfast TV.
F-bombs and turning 50
For starters, episode one of the Audible Original series kicks off with an F-bomb in the first two minutes.
"You've officially reached the age of giving no f****," Mel is heard saying amid the sound of buzzy background chatter and clinking glasses. "Congratulations and enjoy your hard-earned freedom," she laughs.
The audio is a snippet from Mel's birthday party last year when she turned the big 5-0, a milestone that ended up inspiring AATM. And, as she clarified during an exclusive chat with Yahoo Lifestyle, she wasn't technically using a bad word.
"It was one of my girlfriends who gave me a birthday card and that's what it said on the front," Mel explains.
"She read it out and I had that moment of going, 'Well, you can't say no, you can't use that word'."
'I'm in charge'
Profanity aside, it does set the tone for the rest of the seven-part podcast which sees Mel and her friend and co-host, Naima Brown, explore what it means to get older as a woman in Australia and abroad.
It also marks the beginning of a new chapter for Mel after stepping away from Channel 7 in late 2020. Now she's steering the ship.
"It's pretty empowering," she says. "I'm now in charge and that's a whole new thing for me.
"I've worked for a [TV] network for so long and suddenly, I'm doing this [podcast] with my gorgeous girlfriend Naima and we're doing it together."
While recording the podcast last year, Mel found herself in the spotlight in a way she'd never experienced before — and it was unsettling, at first.
"Suddenly I'm talking about myself... as a journalist, you never do that. You keep your opinions quiet, you go in unbiased, you sit on the fence a little bit because it's not about you.
"Well, now it is about me, to a degree which is a bit nerve-wracking... So I'm sort of like, 'Well, this is who I am. This is where I'm at, take it or leave it'. And there are so many other women thinking the same."
US-born Naima, who just started her 40s, tells Yahoo Lifestyle she was also a bit hesitant to share her story.
"I still feel vulnerable," she admits. "There have been times in the creation and the lead up to the launch of this series where I've thought, 'Why am I pointing a bright flashing red arrow at my age?'"
How Aussie women age
Naima explains that, at the end of the day, those moments of hesitation or vulnerability were eclipsed by their passion for the project.
Through AATM, Mel and Naima examine a range of topics related to women and ageing, such as menopause, plastic surgery, homelessness, dating and careers.
They speak with experts and Aussie women as well as those from places like Ghana, South Korea and Finland to really understand how to make the second half of their life a strong second act.
"It's by no means is this an exhaustive study of women and ageing all across the globe," Naima says. "But I can say that unfortunately, it was the Australian women that we spoke to who most felt the burn and the sting of what it means to grow older."
In contrast, it was women they spoke to overseas who appeared to fare better, not worse as they got older.
"These were not women who felt aged out of any portion of their lives. They weren't women who felt invisible to their governments to their communities, to their workplaces or to their media.
"And this is something that Australia and my home country, the US as well, really needs to do quite a lot better by our women."
Making the podcast was an unexpectedly personal and, at times, emotional experience for Mel.
"We've pretty much covered at all," she says. "But like I say, a lot of it felt really personal and got me thinking about my own life and conversations I may or may not have had. I got a bit teary throughout in a way that I probably hadn't necessarily expected."
One of those teary moments happened when Mel and Naima participated in a 'Women's Circle' in Byron Bay, in Northern NSW, which Mel had never done before.
It took place during a period of change and upheaval for Mel. She had recently left her job, her 20-year-old son was moving out of home and her parents were getting older and needed a bit more help. Her husband's mother was in hospital after a fall.
When it came time for Mel to share her story during the Women's Circle, she became overwhelmed and had to step outside for some fresh air.
"Change has always been exciting for me but it’s now a bit daunting," she explained once she returned indoors.
Both Mel and Naima's personal stories become part of the broader tapestry that is AATM, which Mel says is essential listening for everyone, regardless of gender.
"I just feel like it's such a big conversation that we've got to have amongst women, but also amongst men.
"You know, we've got to make sure that blokes are aware of what their female counterparts are going through and support them."
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