Editor Sarah Cavalier speaks to Alex Fevola about life, losses and her new book.
Thankfully, with many things in life, we can find a silver lining. When faced adversity, as hard as it is or as much as we think life can’t get any lower or maybe not even get any better, if we can push though and come out the other side, we can often find the silver lining in the process and we bounce back and flourish.
My own personal silver lining came about with my divorce. Certainly not the way I saw my life panning out, especially after I had just built my forever home in the Macedon Ranges, but as my marriage unravelled and I moved back to Melbourne, I discovered there was little local support for mums and so I started MamaMag. Had I remained in my humble country life I would 100% not be where I am today and MamaMag would not have reached millions of mums and families in the process.
However, MamaMag is not how I first came across Alex Fevola, although she did come to advertise her then fabulous Hampton hair and makeup salon Runway Room several times with us!
This gorgeous mother of four beautiful daughters first came on my radar when I moved back to Melbourne ten years ago following my marriage breakup. With a background in modelling as a teen, Alex had then moved onto a successful career in photography and as such was hired to shoot my local childcare centres annual class and individual photos.
I didn’t tell her this in our interview, but I actually asked for a refund on those photos! Not because her work was bad. Not at all. She clearly had talent. The reality was it was a week after I had rocked my then 20-month-old daughter’s life (plus that of her 3yo brother’s) by leaving the home they knew, moving in with my mother (don’t worry, that was only temporary!) and starting at a new childcare centre full time whilst I tried to scramble and resurrect my own career. She looked – and was – miserable, lost and confused, and as much as I’m sure Alex and the staff had all tried, there wasn’t a single smile to be seen. Every single photo broke my heart because she just looked so sad. I knew I could never put one in a frame or share them with family, and being a newly single mum, with barely a penny to my name, I really couldn’t waste money like that!
Of course she wasn’t just some random photographer, I knew exactly who Alex Fevola was. It was hard not to. She was married to one of AFL’s biggest super-stars Brendan Fevola. Brendan played 204 games for Carlton and Brisbane between 1999 and 2010 but was known for not only his on-field greatness, but some reasonably questionable antics off the field as well, often landing him in the media for all the wrong reasons.
For so long the media has controlled Alex Fevola’s narrative. Imagine some of your life’s biggest struggles and more personal details being reported on all the time and having it all beyond your control.
In her new book, ‘Silver Linings – a journey to happiness’, Alex is taking the power back and telling her truth, on her terms, not how the media wish to portray her. This being said, you can’t write an autobiography and only share the good things, and while there are many good things in her life, boy does she unearth some sad and unbelievable stories, so many of which we knew nothing about.
If you thought her relationship with Brendan had its own sets of hardship, from gambling addiction, cheating scandals, drinking and money woes, prior to this she had already been through some of her darkest times.
Long before she met the then relatively unknown Brendan in 2003 at the Stokehouse, she was a young eighteen-year-old, in love and smitten with a boy called Lonny.
Her first real love story was swept with its own tales of adversity, from an early break up, reuniting a year later, intimidating parent-in-laws, none of his friends liking her, then a horrific car crash that left Lonny a changed man. Lonny had always been a reckless driver and Alex knew from the instant she received that life changing phone call at 3am, that something bad had happened. Lonny survived, but he was never the same after the accident. She said his demeanour had changed and he’d lost the twinkle in his eyes.
A few months later his life was spiralling out of control. His drinking escalated and cracks in their relationship were growing. But it was at this time that Alex also discovered she was pregnant. She was going to be a parent at age 22. Lonny was excited and they made a pact to work on their relationship but by the end of her pregnancy she knew they had no future.
Mia was born on 14 January 2000, induced 10 days overdue and delivered after a traumatic 18-hour birth. A new millennium baby and a lucky new start? Not even close. The worst was yet to come.
Alex had felt a dark feeling since the 1999 NYE party she went to, 9 months pregnant, when everyone was worrying about the Y2K bug and predicting all kinds of tech problems. But Alex felt a fear closer to home. Those close to her shrugged it off as normal feeling of a new mum, but she felt it was something more sinister. Sadly, she couldn’t have been more right. Four and a half weeks later, Lonny was gone, tragically taking his own life. Little Mia only had four short weeks with her dad.
But there was more horror to come. Seven hours later, after receiving the heart-breaking news and as her mum took her to see Lonny’s family, Alex started haemorrhaging. They rushed to hospital where it was discovered she had some retained placenta and would need surgery. Complications meant Alex almost lost her own life that day and just days later she had to attend Lonny’s funeral on a hospital trolley, driven by ambulance still in a critical condition.
The story continues, and let me tell you, it’s incredibly interesting, but I won’t give it all away, you’ll just have to read the book. Alex’s road to recovery, how she coped with the grief of losing the father of her child, her on again off again relationship with Brendan, and of course the beginning and growth of her incredible business Runway Room, first with her makeover bars and later when she relaunched in 2019 with her incredible beauty range.
This is not a book about being Mrs Brendan Fevola, as some people that have interviewed Alex have assumed (since they hadn’t even bothered to read the book prior). Meeting Brendan isn’t even mentioned until page 129!
Mia was three years old on that glorious day at the Stokehouse when she spotted a muscly guy wearing nothing but football shorts with a tshirt dangling out the back (sounds like Fev!). She described him as distinctive, with his tanned skin and dreadlocked hair. But it wasn’t just his looks that captured her attention; it was his energy, the twinkle in his eyes.
“Our eyes locked and I felt my face flush. He turned and watched me walk to the bar. I was so embarrassed and didn’t know where to look. He, on the other hand, had a very good sense of himself and made it quite obvious that he was certainly not shy!”
Alex had never heard of Brendan at the time, the man who had first captured Australia’s attention back in 1999 kicking 12 goals in the Millennium NYE match which Alex had ironically been watching at that new years party when she was nine months pregnant. Who could have foreseen that the man kicking the lazy dozen on TV three years prior would one day become the father of her four children. But once the 2004 AFL season began she soon realised how amazingly talented he was and what and excitement he was to watch.
Alex Fevola’s book really opens your eyes to the fact that you really do not know who someone is when you read about them in the media. Whilst her early days with Lonny were wrought with tragedy, her relationship with Brendan has been no walk in the park either. But it’s so lovely to hear her side of the story, not the twisted garbage the media feeds to us for clicks.
One thing’s for sure… Today Brendan and Alex, along with their four girls, are stronger than ever as a family unit. Alex is killing it professionally with her latest makeup range from Runway Room (they are seriously great products that I highly recommend you check out) and with daughter Mia involved in the business too. Brendan is excelling in his new-found post football career in radio and he’s still up to some silly antics, but ones worthy of good media attention, like breaking the Guinness Book of Records for highest altitude catch of an American football. Go on, take a look!
So hats off to you Alex Fevola, for having the strength to share your story. The good, the bad and the ugly. Alex has covered topics from suicide, loss, coping with grief, being a young single mum, navigating hard relationships, rebuilding love and her journey to happiness. She wrote this book in the hope to help others and to show that in amongst adversity, you can always find your own silver lining.