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‘The modern day gay icon’: Jennifer Coolidge delivers camp and delight to fans at Sydney’s Vivid festival | Vivid festival 2023

‘The modern day gay icon’: Jennifer Coolidge delivers camp and delight to fans at Sydney’s Vivid festival | Vivid festival 2023

When Garth Saville heard that Jennifer Coolidge was coming to Sydney: “I think all of our camp little juices sort of overflowed. It was very exciting.”

Saville, along with his fellow Coolidge drag queens and lookalikes in blond wigs and pink sparkles, were among the sold-out crowd of 9,000 at Sydney’s Aware Super Theatre stadium Saturday night.

Jordan Calvert flew in from Melbourne to hear “the modern day gay icon”.

Coolidge’s queer fanbase were strongly represented, as were the many Australians of all ages who became hooked on the show that fuelled the 61-year-old’s career renaissance.

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(L-R) Jennifer Coolidge lookalikes Garth Saville, Carolyn, Dan and Sandi. Photograph: Natasha May/The Guardian

Coolidge appeared in Sydney, alongside her longtime friend Mike White, the writer and director of The White Lotus, in conversation with Benjamin Law as part of Sydney’s Vivid festival.

And the evening did not disappoint her fans.

It was “everything you would expect it to be”, Calvert says.

Coolidge shared with the audience that the secret behind her enduring sex appeal was “pure denial”.

“I do think that there is one thing that can keep you forever young and keep you forever sexy. And that is pure denial,” she told the crowd.

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“Just ageing or any of that, if you just like, dismiss, you know? And that’s what it is. I think I have better denial than anyone on this planet. And it helps me function on every level.”

Coolidge was open about the fact that often she has struggled with her personal demons.

Mike White and Jennifer Coolidge at Sydney’s Vivid festival.
Mike White and Jennifer Coolidge at Sydney’s Vivid festival. Photograph: Anna Kucera/Destination NSW

But the covergirl of this year’s Time’s 100 Most Influential People issue, says she’s wielding her influence by being open about the tough times she’s faced, including the period of depression that led her to nearly declining the role of Tanya McQuoid in Lotus.

“I want everyone to know all my depressing stories. Because I think it will help people,” she said.

“I know there’s a bunch of positive people in the audience that don’t need any. But I do feel like, I am a good story for someone who had a very hard time. I had a very hard time functioning for many years, because I just didn’t think I had a shot in hell.”

Gingerbread creations of Tanya and Greg in The White Lotus.
Gingerbread creations of Tanya and Greg in The White Lotus. Photograph: Benjamin Law’s Instagram story

From that place of experience, Coolidge had sage advice for any artists trying to pull themselves out of a period of self-doubt.

“This is going to be something that I might regret saying, but I think one of the best things to cure self-doubt is just to go to really bad stuff.

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“I’m talking about plays you hear about that are terrible. Go to them.

“Shows on television that are terrible. Watch them.

“No, because, I’ll tell you how I got this idea. I was like, in college, and I just hated myself. And I was so full of self-doubt, and anyway, I went to this terrible production of Oliver.”

Coolidge treated the audience to her impression of the terrible rendition of the main theme. “I mean, everyone was bad in it – the whole show – I mean, I felt like the seas had parted. I felt like I had a chance in this world.”

Another audience member, Art, told Guardian Australia it was precisely Coolidge’s vulnerability and authenticity speaking about her life that resonates with her fanbase.

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Another Australian superfan, Kristy Diffey from Western Australia, expressed her appreciation for Coolidge and the show through her baking talents.

At the talk’s conclusion, White received Diffey’s gingerbread featuring one of the first season one’s most memorable moments: when hotel manager Armond – played by Australian actor Murray Bartlett – defecated into his most insufferable guest’s suitcase. Coolidge received a cookie version of her character.

Describing what she was seeing, Coolidge said: “It’s Tanya and a dolphin and me on a Vespa with my hideous lover. Oh my god, it’s Greg! Wow I’m going to eat his head off.”



Natasha May

Published: 2023-06-11 01:48:59

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