Model-turned-author Maria Thattil is known for being one of Australia’s most glamorous personalities. However, when it came to writing her debut memoir and self-help Guide Unbounded, she had no hesitation in turning to her former HR inner nerd.
“I used to work in corporate HR so to formulate chapters, I used a project management methodology that we used to brainstorm ideas and come up with initiatives!” she laughs. “I brain-dumped every thought I had. Then I started to group them, and clear themes started to become very apparent – a guide was emerging interwoven with my personal story. I wanted each chapter to be a call to action so, I named each chapter after a verb.”
Here Maria shares her thoughts about coming out, her girlfriend Jorgee Rae and why she regrets projecting her teenage angst onto her parents.
Why did you want to write Unbounded?
In my mid-20s I discovered it was really important to ‘act out of your beliefs instead of your fears’. So, I wanted to write the book because I think a lot of young people still to this day absorb a lot of confusing messaging that tells them in order to be good enough they need to follow a blueprint. My book tells them that they don’t need to follow one, they just need to do what feels most true for them.
You write about coming out as bisexual to your traditional Indian parents and you’re also an Olay ambassador for their Glow Your Own way campaign which touches on a similar theme – why was it important to share your experience?
It’s important to let other people struggling to come out to traditional parents that despite expectations you need to be true to yourself. In the chapter titled, Shed, I talk about shedding the beliefs that don’t serve me. To come out to my parents at the age of 28 in 2021 was really challenging but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that if you want to curate a fulfilling life you have to be willing to part with people, places, things and relationships that don’t serve that.
Coming out did require me to shed a lot of my old concerns about religious beliefs and also required me to have months of open conversations with my parents. Initially, they didn’t understand. I didn’t expect them to understand everything initially as they are from a totally different generation and cultural context. However, they have come a long way and are proud of me and my brother who identifies as gay. I sat alongside my brother on the Olay float this year for Mardi Gras.
What did you find particularly painful to write about?
I had an experience at 14, a mental health crisis. I was a very shy kid and was experiencing such frustration about feeling like I didn’t fit in and didn’t belong due to racism and bullying.
I recalled how deeply I struggled with the pain and angst, and I projected it onto my parents which makes me feel sad. As a child, I felt it was easier to blame my parents than face up to the bigger picture. A lot of kids choose to project their anger onto their parents and say they are too controlling or whatever, when in fact there may be other factors at play.
How has your girlfriend Jorgee Rae felt about you going public and thrusting her into the spotlight?
We’ve had many conversations over the last 10 months about going public. She is my best friend we talk about everything. We kept our relationship private for a long time and talked about what it would be like when do go public. I warned her that people would be watching her actions, but she says, “I don’t care I love you, I get it and will learn and understand from it all.”
She already has quite a big TikTok audience of her own, so she knows what it’s like to have a community watching you.
You recently debuted in a new short-form TikTok comedy-drama series Let’s Get Ducking Famous alongside a duck – did you enjoy that?
Absolutely! I am so excited about this original content series it was such an honour to lead it. My next project after the book was to get into acting. In the series, my character Naomi and her friend try to become social media famous through posts about Naomi’s pet duck Steven.
I had never held a duck before. I was surprised at how big they are, the first time I picked up Daffy (who plays Steven) he scratched me. However, once we got to know him and his stand in Daffy 2 they were actually very sweet and placid!
You can find Maria Thattil’s self-help guide, Unbounded: Manifesting a Life Without Limits, here.