“I was eating rhinoceros arse and I got pink eye from it. How disgusting is that?” And so begins a conversation with Jackie Gillies.
Born in Croatia and raised in Newcastle, the psychic medium and television personality best known for her roles in Real Housewives of Melbourne and this year’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here calls a spade a spade.
She is also an open book.
“You can ask me anything, darling, and I’ll answer it. I don’t mind,” Gillies says.
And she doesn’t. She’s passionate, loud, talks a mile a minute and is fiercely opinionated. A successful businesswoman in her own right, she has a sharp mind and a critical eye. But these traits tend to divide opinion and attract criticism.
They also tend to overshadow her kindness, her warmth and her willing ear. Loved by her friends – Julia Morris described her fondly as “the real deal” in a conversation with Weekender just last week – Gillies is often misunderstood.
She is in the middle of her national Shine It Up tour when we speak. Contrary to popular belief, the show is not about spirits and ghosts and reconnecting with departed loved ones. Shine It Up is all about self-empowerment, motivation and inspiration. Gillies brings people together to share stories, gain clarity and restore their inner sparkle so they can, in her words, “shine”. The show is described officially as “Tony Robbins meets Ellen, meets John Edward, meets Oprah” and it comes to Newcastle next week.
But first, the pink eye. And the rhinoceros anus. For those not familiar with I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, contestants are forced to eat stomach-churning, offal-dominated dishes to earn “points” for the camp. Gillies was a natural. Far from being a princess, she wolfed down bugs, spiders, eyeballs, animal genitalia –you name it, she swallowed it.
“It’s all in the mind,” Gillies says, clearly not savouring the memory.
“I had to think about anything else rather than what was going in my mouth because it was so disgusting. My hands were always clean in the jungle, I was forever using the antibacterial hand stuff, but I still got pink eye and knowing how makes it so much worse.”
Gillies courted controversy in the jungle by wanting to “channel” Princess Diana through her former butler Paul Burrell, a contestant on the show. She also aggravated fans of boxer Danny Green by accusing him of bullying her.
“It was hard, you know? I don’t like speaking negatively about anybody but sometimes you’ve got to give it back because if you don’t, you’ll be stood over,” she says.
“And look, there were a couple of issues with a couple of people in there. It wasn’t until I got out of the jungle that I realised what people had been saying and I was like ‘What the hell? Are you serious?’ I’m a person who is very straight forward and if you’ve got a problem with me let’s just clear it up now rather than finding out about it only when some scenes are played back to you.
“In the end you’ve just got to bless those people with love and light and off they shine. That’s how shit goes down in my world.”
Lying around with nothing to do for hours on end in the jungle gave Gillies time to think. Perhaps overthink. She confirms that she is now ready to have a baby with husband and former Silverchair drummer Ben Gillies. She gave that a lot of thought. She also wants to do more to help less fortunate people in the world, despite already helping children in need through the Moira Kelly Creating Hope Foundation.
“Being in the jungle, everything just comes to you. You sit and think what it is that you want from life, and what can you do to help other people,” she explains.
“I need to do more. I am going to somehow get involved in something but I don’t know what that is yet. I’m going to leave that in the universe’s hands and when that comes, I’ll let you know what the gods say.”
Gillies believes in guardian angels.
Her own empowerment started, she says, at the tail end of a toxic relationship when she realised her “gift” was to help others. It was an enlightenment of sorts. A light-bulb moment.
She had a dream one night and it was “like looking at a movie theatre”. As time went by she came to learn these flashes of insight were, in fact, her intuition.
“In this dream I knew every woman my boyfriend had slept with and where it happened. It was like a flash that went straight though my head and I’ll never forget it – it was as clear as day,” she says.
“The next day I confronted him and the first thing he said was ‘Who told you?’ My angels showed me. I realised I was blaming every other person about this relationship except myself. I allowed that man to take my power away. In my shows I tell people that nobody has the power to take your power away from you, emotionally, unless you allow it.”
There’s that word again. Power.
“It’s almost like I have to show people what their purpose is. I show people how to find their self worth and that means starting to love you first, getting to know what makes you happy,” Gillies explains.
“I show people how to listen to their intuition and not be afraid of it. I also tell people you can’t let other people’s insecurities hold you back. I went through that. I was losing myself and realising that really forged who I am today.”
Gillies was 24 when she started doing psychic medium readings at Angels By The Lake, Warners Bay. It irritates her that some people think she became a psychic after appearing on television.
“I was already known as a professional psychic medium and I had a name and I had a three-year waiting list before I started Housewives. I never once marketed myself. It was solely word of mouth. That’s one of the reasons I was asked to do the show – the executive producer had heard of this Jackie Gillies from Newcastle and how her friends had come up from Melbourne for psychic readings.”
Gillies says she “speaks her truth” at each show to empower others. She talks about the importance of changing your mindset, using as an example the unhappiness she felt working as a corporate banker in Sydney.
“I worried what people were going to think of me if I came out as a professional psychic. It went against everything that I was doing, the people I hung around with. But I did it and following my intuition, listening to my angels, has got me to where I am.
“It’s all in the mindset and knowing your self worth. It’s finding your passion and following it. If you are always negative about yourself you start creating negative experiences around you.”
Gillies has been quoted as saying she always wanted to be famous. It’s been used against her and is not entirely accurate.
“It’s not that I wanted to be famous. Let me tell you the story. I was about 14 and watching the Grammy Awards and singing and dancing along when Whitney Houston and CeCe Winans sang Count On Me. I started crying. The song was about a friendship that will never end and it affected me. I wanted to be able to do the same to other people.
“It is true, though, that from the age of five I used to write “famous Jackie” on all my birthday cards.”
Fame has it positives and its negatives. It’s something Gillies says, sighing, that she “knows all about”. I use as an example the media frenzy surrounding her husband’s recent appearance in court on a drink-driving charge. Gillies is surprisingly happy to talk about it.
“Ben has made mistakes. He’s learned a significant lesson and I know how remorseful he is because he’s never, ever, ever, when he’s with me, drank and gotten behind a wheel. Ever,” she says.
“But I will say my husband has had problems with alcohol in the past, and my husband had not drunk alcohol in four years. When I went to the jungle Ben missed me, and that’s no excuse, but he did relapse.
“I don’t want to say that I’m disappointed he had a relapse. I’m more disappointed that he got in a car and could have killed himself or somebody else. That is the thing I was really upset about. But he’s his own person and he has to make his own mistakes, I can’t control him.
“Ben and I, we’re together every day. It’s natural for us. It’s not like a co-dependency: I go out and do my thing and he does his thing, but he struggled with not being able to talk to me when I was in the jungle. He saw me crying, he saw another man bully me on the show, and he couldn’t help me. I think all of that combined with everything else, it was like a f – – – ing pressure cooker for him.
“It was probably very humiliating for Ben, being on the news, but so be it. He shouldn’t drink and drive.”