Is this the end for Abbie Chatfield?
That’s not a tabloid headline. It’s a question that crosses my mind as she sits across from me at a cafe in Sydney’s Pyrmont.
My worry is genuine, at least more so than the faux concern shown by the gossip rags speculating that her projects and public persona are about to implode. “Something’s gotta give.” “Are cracks starting to show?” “Is this the unravelling of Abbie Chatfield?”
No, in this instance I’m worried it’s the end because she’s choking on her steak.
The last question I asked her was about the incessant feedback loop of social media. Imagine dying talking about social media feedback.
She recovers (spoiler alert), and I think, ‘Fuck. It must be exhausting being Abbie Chatfield’.
Even a casual observer could look at her resumé or social media content and think, “It’s a lot” (which is also, as it turns out, the name of the podcast she launched in March 2020).
At the time of writing, Chatfield hosts the new Binge dating format F BOY Island, is a panellist on Channel 10’s The Masked Singer, fronted the national nights radio program across SCA’s Hit Network, and has a beer brand, a clothing line (more on that later), and a best selling vibrator.
She’s constant tabloid fodder, and rumours abound in certain media circles that she’s difficult to work with. Demanding. Needy. Egotistical. Chaotic. Unpredictable.
Both interviewer and interviewee, however, are acutely aware that there are men in the industry who are difficult to work with. Demanding. Needy. Chaotic. Unpredictable. And, paid more.
“I mean, yeah,” she pauses, noticeably silent, when I ask her about these rumours, particularly the alleged never-ending “chaos” behind-the-scenes at her radio show.
I’m slightly concerned she might be choking on her steak once more, but it soon becomes clear that she’s more likely choking on her own tongue. For the first time in the interview, she is visibly holding back her thoughts.
“I think if people knew what actually happened, they wouldn’t think that. […] It’s frustrating, especially because it’s the easiest thing to say that a woman in media is hard to work with, without also thinking about other contributing factors. I think it’s funny that everyone’s ‘go-to’ is that I’m the issue. I mean, I can’t give away too much, but yeah.”
She stops, and makes a face that says a lot more than her words did.
Does the face mean she thinks she is held to too high of a standard and judged too harshly?
“I don’t think it’s too high of a standard, but I think it’s higher than other people,” she says, noting that F BOY Island, for example, is meant to be a silly, unsubtle show. She thinks the negative feedback around its announcement was premature and presumptive. “I never said that I was doing a Louis Theroux documentary,” she says.
“I never said that I was doing a Louis Theroux documentary.”
Despite her initial hesitation, she’s now recovered and is willing to say more.
“It’s a very easy narrative to say a woman’s hard to work with in media. Men get way more allowances. Men are allowed to have an aggressive outburst on-air. There are some people in media who are truly awful — both at work and away from work. It’s known in the industry, but no one says anything. But a woman doesn’t smile enough, and then they’re a bitch and they’re hard to work with,” she says.
It’s a difficult balancing act though for someone who lives so much of their life online and in the public eye. A lot of Abbie’s ‘personal brand’ hinges on her calling people in, calling people out, calling for change, calling for more accountability. She does it visibly and vocally. As such, there’s an underlying expectation that she should be more than prepared to be called out herself, whether it be for her behaviour or her business decisions.
So when her clothing line, Verbose, was seemingly not fulfilling some orders or replying to questions on Instagram about the viability of the brand, people were quick to label the radio silence as inconsistent and disingenuous.
While the Verbose Instagram page remained silent, Abbie was making a lot of noise about F BOY Island on her personal channel. About social issues. About other money-making ventures. About anything and everything. Just not Verbose.
For her part though, Abbie is frustrated that people automatically assume malicious intent, conspiracy or deliberate wrongdoing. There is, she insists, nothing to see here.
“I’m having a big break because I’m so busy. [Product] releases drop. The drop is bought. There’s nothing dramatic, it’s just that I haven’t even had time to call my Mum, let alone run a label,” she says, playing down any drumbeat of drama.
“I’ve just been too busy to do a clothing brand properly right now, so I’m pausing it until my brain is not so [preoccupied]. I need a break,” she adds.
“It’s just majorly paused because I can’t add another thing to my plate right now.”
She also notes she’s stuck between a bit of a rock and a hard place in attempting to avoid burnout while also keeping everyone happy.
And this is where the truth and complexity of Abbie’s situation becomes clear. Some people feel like she’s too much, but actually, it’s never enough.
“People tell me, ‘Take time off’, and then I pause something and it’s like I’ve killed someone’s first born. I haven’t even said ‘No’ [to the label continuing], I’ve just gone, ‘I can’t do it right now’.”
There is, it would appear, a very real and tangible fear living inside her that this could all disappear.
“I think it’s frustrating when people say, ‘Have some time off’, and I have people DM me with the best of intentions saying, ‘What I’ve realised is you’re always replaceable at work, but you aren’t replaceable to your friends and family’. And I’m like, ‘Totally, except you’ve just pointed out everyone’s greatest fear in this industry. So thanks for reminding me that I’m replaceable and that I cannot stop working’,” she says.
Even at lunch with Rolling Stone, she is a bit anxious that she’s not doing enough. Not lining up her next project. Not making something. Filming something. Fronting something. Sharing something of herself publicly.
At her recent Trauma Dump stage show, which toured across the country, she publicly shared a lot of herself, and revealed some incredibly dark and terrifying things which have happened to her. Actions, perpetrated by men, which would, if nothing else, give rise to someone being demanding. Needy. Egotistical. Chaotic. Unpredictable.
And yet she did it in such a way that made the Abbie Chatfield on stage seem much more real, and raw, than the Abbie Chatfield you might read about online.
She told a story which started out funny and relatable — about a seemingly mediocre but mild man — which quickly turned to terrifying violence, control and abuse. The abuse unfolded while she was already in the public eye, with paparazzi and the public watching her every move, but nobody knew — until now.
The girls, the gays, and the theys in the audience were visibly traumatised and weirdly comforted that “something like this” could happen to “someone like her”.
Sharing this much of yourself though, must leave little in the tank. What, if anything, does she keep for herself?
She says she now avoids talking about situations when they’ve just happened, when they’re heightened and in the moment. Basically, she’s trying to cut back on just blurting things out. She does, however, warn potential partners that they might be discussed on her podcast. If they’re not okay with that, she won’t sleep with them, because she can’t guarantee silence.
“I actually can’t change my behaviour. […] My job is to be open about my personal life. If I was to stop doing that, I wouldn’t be doing my job.”
She adds: “Everything is a reflection of my personality, when I’m posting online, or doing my radio show, or my podcast, I need things to be how I want them to be, and that’s why I am where I am, because I have learned to speak up for myself if something isn’t correct — because if it isn’t correct I’m the one that gets backlash and I’m the one that isn’t proud of my work. And I also don’t want to waste anyone’s time. […] When everyone’s making money off-of you, you have to be a strong woman in media, otherwise you wouldn’t have a career.”
She finishes the meal, and it seems that no sneaky steak, malicious man, gossip guru, or reductive rumour is going to spell the end for Abbie Chatfield.
This article features in the September 2023 issue of Rolling Stone AU/NZ. If you’re eager to get your hands on it, then now is the time to sign up for a subscription.
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