Former Australian Idol winner Casey Donovan shows she still has shining star quality.
She quietly texts a friend while waiting for a previous interview to wrap up.
And when she speaks, she fills the studio with enthusiasm, warmth and charm; her green eyes like swimming pools, blonde afro bobbing , and honey-coloured skin made up as if for the final of Australian Idol itself.
She didn’t even want to enter the 2004 reality TV show that thrust her into the glare of national attention and launched her career.
“I was a 16-year-old teenager studying music at the Australian at the Australian Institute of Music and enjoying life, happy being around my muso friends and happy studying seven subjects of just pure music.
“My stepdad sat me down one day, and he loves to give a good lecturer and he said ‘Casey I really think that by going on this show you’ll see it’s not just me and your mother that fully support you and think that there’s something there.’
“And being a teenager I think I just giggled and told him to get lost and walked down to my room.
“And he come (sic) up to me and said to me ‘there’s not that many shows around’ at that point in time in ’04, you see all ‘ this is your opportunity because I don’t know if there’ll be any more of these shows.’ Boy he was wrong!
“But he gave me that ultimatum where I either do this or he takes me out of school, and to take me away from my friends and doing my music, I was quite upset and angry and didn’t understand why he was making me do this, and in the end I thanked him massively for changing my life and making me become the person that I am today, for giving me that strength to bite down on my tongue and just get out there and do it. And I think everyone in life have those people around them that push you just that little bit further.
“Boy did I have fun while I was in it though and he knew I would.”
Casey Donovan has a mesmerising, shatteringly powerful voice.
She pushes her chair back a good metre from the mic when she sings and still turns her head away when she hits the peaks.
As I try to stop the levels from blasting, I’m glad she has.
She comes from a musical family.
The Donovans is a well-known Indigenous country music band made up of her father and uncles.
And she’s clearly enjoyed having a reason to pass through her country on her way to the NAIDOC week celebrations at the Southern Cross University where she is the guest of honour.
“My family coming from the North Coast of NSW; Nambucca, Kempsey Bowraville; the Gumbaynggirr and Dhanggati people, it’s good to be up here and see that the Donovans have made their footprint along the way
“And everywhere I go it’s like “ahh you’re Mervin’s daughter!” and it’s great to see their accomplishments and proudly call myself a Donovan.”
It’s hard to imagine how any 16-year-old copes with the kind of pressure that winning a major reality TV show can bring, let alone a starlet who’s not the size 10 the editors of glossy magazines normally put on their front covers.
“Always being the bigger kid, I always had more of the guys as mates, and always played sports and my doing music and being the front person, you do get slapped with a lot of expectations of what you’re supposed to be and who you’re supposed to be, which took me a very long time to come to terms with.
“I look back now at Idol, and I would have been maybe a size 16, and I look back and go ‘If that’s big, what am I now?'” she says laughing.
“I’ve taken a massive turn in my life in the last four years and I’ve brought out a song called Big, Beautiful and Sexyand a show called Big, Beautiful and Sexy just empowering women, men, people of all shapes and sizes, gay, straight, Liberal, Labor it doesn’t matter.
“You can be who you want to be and whatever and you can achieve anything.”
It’s a safe bet Casey Donovan will achieve a great deal more yet.