Rolling Stone’s Icons Issue: An Antipodean Odyssey

What makes a celebrity an icon? It’s not just talent; it’s a magnetic charisma, enduring influence, and that unmistakable Antipodean spirit that sets them apart. In this exclusive collector’s edition of Rolling Stone AU/NZ, we embark on a journey across the Southern Hemisphere to unveil the 50 most iconic stars of Australia and Aotearoa.

In the realm of music, we delve deep into the anthems that have resonated with Aussies and Kiwis for generations. From a rock god who’s electrified stages to a pop princess who’s touched our hearts, we explore the artists who’ve woven themselves into the fabric of our unique pop culture — a culture that continues to cross borders.

The silver screen has its own share of luminaries, those who’ve left an indelible mark on our screens, and in many cases, around the world. We celebrate the actors who’ve made us laugh, cry, and question, as well as those whose career-defining performances have become timeless classics.

And let’s not forget the comedians who’ve had us in stitches, revealing a unique and homebrewed brand of humour, reflective of our local sensibilities. Their laughter echoes through the comedy clubs and airwaves, connecting us all in shared hilarity.

These names of these 50 icons are etched into the cultural history books — here and abroad — and continue to inspire the next generation of icons.

Jessica Mauboy

Jessica Mauboy

By: Conor Lochrie

Finding fame on a reality singing competition can be a fickle endeavour, and few have used it as a platform to success quite like Jessica Mauboy.

Just two years after finishing runner-up on the fourth season of Australian Idol, Jessica Mauboy dropped her debut solo album, Been Waiting, which would become the second highest-selling Australian album of 2009 and certified double platinum.

A brief but memorable stint in acting followed, with Mauboy earning acclaim for her emotional turn in the 2012 musical comedy-drama film The Sapphires. For the proud Kuku Yalanji and Wakaman woman, the story of four talented, young Aboriginal Australian singers forging their talent in a girl group in the Sixties was one she wanted to be a part of.

But it’s music where Mauboy’s heart truly belongs. Since releasing her debut album fifteen years ago, she’s achieved six Top Ten albums and fifteen top twenty singles, received an impressive thirty ARIA nominations, and saw five of her albums become certified platinum. Her singing and widespread appeal has led her to tour with Beyoncé, perform for Oprah Winfrey and President Barack Obama, and become the first non-European solo artist to represent Australia at Eurovision (2014).

And Mauboy has never shied away from acknowledging where she got her start, giving her all as a coach on The Voice Australia for three seasons since 2021, fuelled by her passion for guiding the next generation of Australian singers through their tentative first steps in the music industry.

Four studio albums and fifteen years in, Mauboy’s solo music career shows no signs of slowing down in 2023. Her fifth studio album, Yours Forever, arrives in February, and is described by the singer as showcasing “a depth that I’ve never gone to or shared before.” Always vulnerable, forever herself, Jessica Mauboy is really just getting started.

Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie

Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie

By: Martyn Pepperell

In 2007, Drake rapped, “Come over, watch a season of Flight of the Conchords” on “Where To Now” off his second mixtape, Comeback Season.

Although the Canadian hip-hop/RnB artist was still several years away from becoming a global icon, that he thought to mention them alongside pop culture references like Jeopardy! and Seinfield spoke volumes to the extent to which New Zealanders Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement’s musical comedy sitcom quickly won over hearts and minds across the globe. Over the next two years, Flight of the Conchords were awarded the 2008 Grammy for Best Comedy Album and nominated in multiple categories at the 2009 Emmy Awards.

Sixteen years later, they’ve had substantial individual careers in Hollywood while reuniting for the odd highly-anticipated tour or televised performance. For McKenzie, work as a songwriter and music supervisor on two films in the longstanding The Muppets musical comedy film franchise came calling, in the process winning himself the 2011 Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Man or Muppet”. Meanwhile, Clement found his pocket in acting and voice work for big-budget films like Rio 2, Men In Black 3, Moana, and Avatar: The Way of Water.

It’s all a far cry from when McKenzie and Clement formed Flight of the Conchords in the late nineties while studying at Wellington’s Victoria University. Despite the life-changing success they’ve experienced since taking their songs and satire overseas, they haven’t lost any of their deadpan charm, well-honed craft, and subtle comic timing. In 2022, McKenzie — once best known for his bit part as the elf Figwit in The Lord of the Rings — released a solo soft rock album, Songs Without Jokes, through Sub Pop Records before touring worldwide. That same year, Clements played a main role in director ArmaÄŸan Ballantyne’s arthouse comedy film Nude Tuesday.

Jackie Weaver

Jackie Weaver

By: Paul F. Verhoeven

I mean this as a compliment, and I mean it sincerely: Jackie Weaver is our nation’s Jack Nicholson.

Think about it. At once charming and terrifying, almost bewilderingly accomplished, and able to nail any performance she takes a swing at. Also, she’d make an incredible Joker. Hollywood? Get on it.

Jackie was sixty-three when she exploded onto the global stage with her brutal, ruinous turn as Janine "Smurf" Cody in Animal Kingdom, matriarch of a crime family, a manipulative, murderous, loving lioness. The complexity and brazenness of her performance earned her an Academy Award nomination. ‘Where have you been hiding this incredible talent?’ Hollywood cried. ‘We haven’t been hiding her,’ was the reply. They just weren’t looking close enough.

You see, Jackie had been hard at it since the Sixties, making a name for herself on both stage and screen. She was in Peter Wier’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, and won a logie for Do I Have to Kill My Child? But with screen roles drying up, she flung herself at the stage, honing her craft in more than eighty plays. And that, it seemed, was that. She was a stage actress. One of the best.

Then, Animal Kingdom happened. A slew of well-earned accolades rolled in, and so did the offers. One of our favourites? Her turn opposite Robert DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook, a role that blended comedy and drama in equal measure. Weaver embodied a frenetic, wounded, eminently believable character; the perfect showcase for her truly unique set of skills.

She’s not stopped working since, making countless forays into the land of blockbusters and indies alike, but she’s also been uncannily shrewd when accepting roles — who’d have thought Yellowstone, the TV equivalent of an aggrieved Garth Brooks ballad, would have become such a stellar hit? Jackie did — she’s been starring in it as Caroline Warner for years now.

What next for Weaver? Based on her track record… whatever she wants.

Iggy Azalea

Iggy Azalea

By: Kasumi Borczyk

In her breakout song “PU$$Y”, uploaded to YouTube eleven years ago, Iggy Azalea is clad in bright yellow disco pants, a striped bandeau, a chunky necklace and bright pink lipstick.

Backing the soundtrack to millennial neo-hedonism, Iggy Azalea emerged onto the hip-hop scene, seemingly from nowhere, only to coast the cresting wave of the indie sleaze era into international stardom. Her meteoric rise to fame as an entirely self-made hip-hop artist is as folkloric as the story of her humble beginnings. Raised in the hippy backwaters of Mullumbimby, Iggy Azalea (born Amythest Amelia Kelly) began rapping at age fourteen. As a social outcast with her heights set on international notoriety, she saved money cleaning hotel rooms to move to the United States alone where she lived, as her song “Work” describes, with “no money, no family, sixteen in the middle of Miami”. While the internet has a flattening effect on time that can make success feel like random happenstance, Iggy Azalea spent years forming rap collectives, making mixtapes, performing and collaborating, before gaining a wider audience and breaking-out into mainstream success. Influenced by her childhood idols Tupac Shakur, Missy Elliot and Lil’ Kim, Azalea raps with a southern inflection adopted from her time spent in the Southern Hip-Hop circuit of Atlanta and Georgia. She has since gone on to create and feature in some of the punchiest pop songs of the last decade, becoming only the second musical act, following The Beatles, to rank first and second simultaneously on the Hot 100 with “Fancy” and “Problem”. Retiring briefly from music after the birth of her son in 2021, Iggy Azalea has recently returned, no holds barred, with the promise of more to come.

Article Author:

Kasumi Borczyk

Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman

By: Paul F. Verhoeven

In the mid-Nineties, Hugh Jackman was playing Gaston in a stage production of Beauty and the Beast. After being told by his doctor to drink more water, Jackman found himself fit to burst mid-number. What did he do? Pissed himself, and kept on performing.

His career since then has been anything but wee.

Hugh’s credits are expansive, but we need to address the snarling, clawed elephant in the room: Wolverine. When Jackman accepted the role in Bryan Singer’s X-Men back in 2000, he was taking something of a gamble, but he instantly made the role his own. It’s a testament to Our Hugh’s raw talent that he stood out amidst the likes of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen; his Wolverine was vulnerable, sexy, hairy and angry.

And much like Wolverine, Jackman’s career seems utterly impervious to damage. He’s played Wolverine in nine films, and no matter how wobbly they sometimes get, he’s always the reliable, immovable fulcrum upon which these blockbusters pivot. He’s also played everything from a time travelling gentleman opposite Meg Ryan (Kate & Leopold, 2001), to a malevolent magician in Christopher Nolan’s superb The Prestige (2006). So our boy has range. But he’s never stopped wowing audiences from the stage, banging out hits as The Boy From Oz (2003), or taking his adorably campy one man show on the road. He’s a born showman. Perhaps even… The Greatest Showman?

Wolverine and Hugh Jackman might seem utterly dissimilar at first glance, but there’s one thing they have in common: something simmering beneath the surface. With Wolverine, it’s unbridled, animalistic rage. With Jackman? It’s the urge to burst into song, to run out an effortless dance number. To take audiences by the hand and wow them. To do whatever it takes to deliver a hell of a show… even if it involves an unscheduled bathroom break.

Hannah Gadsby

Hannah Gadsby

By: Alice Clarke

Hannah Gadsby has long been a fixture of Australian comedy. But it wasn’t until they decided to quit the industry, and go out in a blaze of glory and raw honesty, that they finally found global success.

Like most overnight successes, Hannah Gadsby (who identifies as genderqueer and uses they/them pronouns) had worked as an accomplished and critically acclaimed comedian for well over a decade before the world discovered them on Netflix.

They were a household name for lesbians long before the rest of the world caught up. There was a time in the early 2010s when it was impossible to be a lesbian with short-ish hair and glasses without someone telling you at some point that you looked like Hannah Gadsby.

Gadsby’s work comes from lived trauma, and they describe it as having “all the warnings”, referring to content warnings for abuse, homophobia, sexism, body shaming, gendered violence, sexual violence, and general violence.

Their earlier work was heaped with self-deprecating observations, clearly trying to process the PTSD from growing up in small-town Tasmania at a time when homosexuality was illegal, and when people would severely mistreat them. In Nanette, the show that introduced them to the world, Gadsby powerfully stepped away from that previous attitude, saying they didn’t want to do that anymore with the memorable line: “Do you understand what self-deprecation means when it comes from somebody who already exists in the margins? It’s not humility. It’s humiliation.”

As well as being a hilarious (if occasionally confronting) comedian, they have also studied art history, and recently sent the art world into a tailspin with their controversial Picasso exhibition, It’s Pablo-Matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gadsby.

Gadsby now lives in Tasmania with their wife (producer, Jenney Shamash) and dogs.

Hamish and Andy

Hamish and Andy

By: Vivienne Kelly

Words by Vivienne Kelly

Hamish and Andy

There is a skit that blew up well before the words ‘viral’, ‘authentic’ and ‘content’ were overused.

A man, named James, became known as the “best bloke in the world”.

The prank call, broadcast nationally on radio, was to test whether an everyday Australian would be a job referee for someone they’ve never met. On the spot, and without warning.

It turns out that James (a real guy) would say just about anything to advocate for his newfound friend Tim Barnard (not a real guy, but a fake one, played by Hamish Blake). Tim could speak multiple languages. Was good with money. Is trustworthy. Helps out at the footy club. What you see is what you get. (That is, according to Good Guy James).

The skit was executed by Hamish Blake and Andy Lee, who, perhaps not coincidentally, also exist in the hearts and minds of many as examples of some of the “best blokes”.

Both had that incredible knack for pretending they were employees of “” as much as they do convincing us that everything is unplanned, unrehearsed and untethered. In reality, they go to immense effort to plan, execute and deliver segments that are seemingly off the cuff prank calls to outdoor broadcasts in which they crowd surf for two hours straight. It’s a winning combo that has seen them ride the pointy end of the radio and podcast charts for years. And then, on-screen, there’s the televised overseas hijinks — one of which saw Hamish hospitalised when he (for the lols) put his hands into gloves filled with bullet ants (the toxin from their sting causes the worst pain known to humans).

Doesn’t sound funny, and yet, when these two get involved, it is.

It all could have been so different though.

Imagine a world where Andy Lee is an accountant, and Hamish Blake isn’t a loveable, occasionally hospitalised larrikin, but instead successfully studied computer science and “made robots in artificial intelligence”.

They were the teenage dreams of both Hamish and Andy before they met at university and became one of Australia’s most enduring and iconic comedy duos.

Back then, as now, so many of their conversations started with, “Do you think it would be funny if….?”

And it seems like Australia is still answering with a resounding “Yes”.



By: Zanda Wilson

Flea may have spent a decent chunk of his childhood and his entire adult life living in the US, but the bass player for the iconic Red Hot Chili Peppers was born in Melbourne and went to school in Canberra, so you betcha we’re claiming him as rightfully ours.

Full name Michael Peter Balzary, Flea had a troubled childhood and an abusive stepfather, jazz musician Walter Urban. Luckily for the world of rock music, Flea channelled his experiences into music, meeting future Chili’s singer Anthony Kiedis at high school.

Of course, his most significant contribution to culture is as the often-shirtless bass player of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (for which he was named #22 on Rolling Stone’s list of all-time bassists). He and Kiedis are the only two members of the band to have remained throughout the band’s history, one that has spanned thirteen albums, countless awards and tours. Flea’s signature sound — an earthy, wildly charismatic hybrid of punk, funk, and psychedelia — forms the backbone of the band.

Flea’s impact on popular culture since the Eighties is also evident through his presence on both television and the silver screen. He’s appeared in over fifty-five movies since 1983, and while a good chunk of these are as talking heads in documentaries, or as himself in cameos, many are acting roles, including small parts in Toy Story 4, Baby Driver, The Big Lebowski and Back to the Future 2 and 3. Add to that TV appearances including his long standing role as the voice of Donny in the beloved children’s cartoon The Wild Thornberrys — and there’s no arguing that Flea continues to be hugely intertwined with culture.

Eric Bana

Eric Bana

By: Fiona Connor

Today, Eric Bana is revered as an immensely talented actor who can take on varying formats of film and TV — but he never took the idea of performing seriously until he was encouraged to give stand-up comedy a whirl.

He'd had a bit of experience as a kid, when, at just six years old, Eric Bana would do impersonations of family members, taking on their mannerisms to get a laugh. In high school, the technique managed to get him out of trouble when he'd mimic teachers. After watching the 1979 original of Mad Max, he became a little more determined to try to make a career out of the arts but was stuck working as a barman in Melbourne. Those early days of cracking jokes weren't all for nothing, and he eventually began making a name for himself in comedy clubs. It led to his casting in the sketch series Full Frontal from 1993 to 1996 before he went on to gain critical praise for his portrayal of Mark 'Chopper' Read in the biopic Chopper. Over the next ten years, he graced the screens as a part of local Australian productions before emerging in Hollywood with a role in Black Hawk Down in 2001. While he's gained a reputation for tackling intense and fierce characters in drama and action films since — fearlessly playing Bruce Banner in Hulk and breaking the hearts of those who watched him as Prince Hector in Troy — it was his incredibly moving performance in the stripped-back flick The Dry that audiences really got to see him shine. Without the backing of Hollywood theatrics, he showcased his powerful versatility as Detective Aaron Falk who returns to his old town to untangle the mysterious death of one of his high school friends. Fans are eagerly anticipating the next movie, Force of Nature: The Dry 2 which is expected to be released next year.

Elle Macpherson

Elle Macpherson

By: Fiona Connor

Who could forget when Elle Macpherson graced TV screens in the ever-popular Friends? Poised, mesmerising and naturally comedic; her Australian accent not yet shaken.

She dazzled Joey, and audiences around the world, as the softly-spoken potpourri-loving dancer Janine, putting a positive spotlight on her home nation and cementing her status as a versatile bombshell. Born in Killara, New South Wales, Macpherson was set to study law in Sydney when she went to the US to have a crack at modelling and save up for her degree, only to be scooped up by a New York City agency. Garnering the nickname 'The Body', her striking looks were seen and celebrated on covers of major magazines like Cosmopolitan, GQ and Harper's Bazaar throughout the Eighties and Nineties. She's appeared on the front of Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue a record five times and walked runways around the world for brands like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Louis Vuitton. While her iconic 1999 Friends episode will always be a fan favourite, the mum-of-two also appeared in Batman & Robin and Sirens, alongside Hugh Grant, before becoming an executive producer and host of Britain’s and Ireland's Next Top Model. Her business success was by no accident. She licensed her name in 1989 to Bendon and launched a line of lingerie, Elle Macpherson Intimates, which became the best-selling line in Australia and the UK. After twenty-five years, she pivoted to Elle Macpherson Body and started WelleCo in 2014, sharing her own wellness secrets with others. Today, she's an ambassador for UNICEF and Australia's Smile Foundation while throwing her support behind the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.