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She is one of the country’s most powerful figures backed by a fervent army of social media followers that devour her online articles daily. Armed with their own personal opinions, they prepare to fight for their right to be heard. As commander of her corps, she puts herself on the line, leading the way through moral minefields and dodging bullets – in the form of comments and criticism. But in spite of her influence, Mia Freedman remains refreshingly average.
Her online empire started with Mamamia, a personal blog launched in 2007, which was initially just a compilation of Mia’s thoughts and opinions. The site has now expanded to employ ten full-time editorial staff, hand-picked by Mia for their ability to understand the mind-frame of the modern woman.
The topics and themes covered by the site are a result of team brainstorms. Mia explains, “If the Mamamia team organically get involved in a conversation about a topic, we know our readers will likely do the same.”
Obviously nothing is off-limits, with the site discussing everything from ‘moon cups’ to ‘federal budgets’, however Mia admits there are certain sentiments that Mamamia won’t publish. “There’s nothing that’s taboo, however, there are certain points-of-view, such as anti-vaccination, homophobia and racism, that we won’t give a platform to.”
Her articles are thoughtful and often take divisive positioning, leaving Mia open to the harsh rebuttals and personal attacks from her readers, something which Mia chooses to embrace. “I’ve got pretty thick skin after working online for seven years, but it does get hard when you feel you are being misinterpreted or misunderstood.”
This thick skin has been put to use throughout her career when, while working for Channel Nine, she famously voiced her opinion on Cadel Evans, resulting in a backlash from sporting fans around the country. Although this industry low was what drove Mia to develop Mamamia, the incident was bound to have a lasting impression on her.
“I get very nervous about print interviews, as there’s no tone or context and I’m much more mindful about what could potentially be an explosion. It’s hard because you want to be yourself and you want to be authentic, but you have to be careful. Half a sentence can start a fire that can get out of control.”
This cautiousness was recently thrown out the window during a photo-shoot for the cover of new magazine Renegade Collective, with Mia transformed into a smouldering glamazon. Donning a see-through lace blouse with sky high heels and dark eye make-up, Mia could’ve passed for a fashion designer or socialite, but true to form, she is quick to explain the reality of the situation. “I said to the editor, as long as there’s no retouching, do what you want and it couldn’t have been further out of my comfort zone! It’s all smoke and mirrors though. I was in a push-up bra and fat sucking undies, standing in shoes that were too big, with bulldog clips down my back. It’s important for people to know what a photo-shoot is really like, so they can appreciate the fantasy of the final image.”
Her decision to appear in a long-lead print magazine especially after referring to them as ‘dated’ and ‘out of touch’, was gutsy – a quality Mia saw replicated in the content of Renegade Collective. “I really like what Lisa (editor, Renegade Collective) did. She has the most amazing chutzpah. At a time when everyone’s moving away from print, here is an independent self-funded that’s launching. It is so fresh, representing women for what they do as opposed to how they look.”
Oftentimes it seems as though Mia is the scapegoat for the differing opinions of the Australian public, with people using Mamamia as a forum to vent on topics. Which may explain why, when Mia made the decision to step back from her role as editor of the site in March, she chose to hire a woman with a political background, as opposed to journalistic. “More than anything else the Mamamia business is like politics. It’s a 24-hour news cycle and you’re always engaged in debates, people are always challenging you “
Although Mia is still a driving force behind Mamamia, and the partner site, i-Village, she now has more freedom to spend time with her family. Making sure, more often than not, she is there to tuck her children in at night “I always like to have cuddles with them at night and we have the best conversations while putting them to bed, so whenever I can, I like to be there…”
Most comfortable behind a computer screen, with her rescue dog Harry at her feet and a steaming mug of tea by her side, Mia is the type of woman you could imagine being best friends with; which may just be the reason behind her overwhelming success.
Despite her obvious intelligence, foresight and eloquence, her voice and views sound oddly similar to my own. This sentiment is something felt by Mia’s entire battalion of beauties – a group that are quick to disagree with her opinions from their computers, but are first to defend her character in the real world.