Comedian Michelle A’Court has opened up on finding freedom in ageing, revealing she’s been able to seek counselling, focus more on herself, and liberate herself from the need to be noticed in the last decade.
In the first episode of season three of Grey Areas with Petra Bagust, released on Thursday, the entertainer of more than 30 years says she’s come to realise “it’s not about me now”.
“I think I've spent a lot of my life wanting people to acknowledge my existence,” she told Petra.
“Maybe it's something about being the youngest child in my family, I don't know. But there's been a real drive of ‘Please can you acknowledge that I exist?’ And now I've reached a point where I'm not bothered and I don't need anybody to see me.
“I feel like I'm seeing me, and I’m now wanting to see other people well, and particularly encourage them and host spaces that I have helped make more welcoming. That really matters to me.”
Michelle, who was recently made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her work in the entertainment and comedy industries, says becoming a grandmother has enabled her to embrace being out of the limelight.
She said when her granddaughter was born, she felt herself “shifting from the centre to the edge”.
“You realise that – in the most delicious way, in a way that you wouldn't have thought you were going to like – it's not about me now, it's about somebody else."
“That's a really rich, beautiful place to be. And that's what I mean about making spaces for other people. I really did feel in my fifties that I stepped out of the spotlight on the stage, and into ‘here is this amazing human being, and I will do everything to make her life wonderful’.”
Michelle says one of the joys of this new way of being is the freedom to choose what to do and how to be because the repercussions matter far less than they used to.
She describes her experience of getting older as “less reason to play by the rules, and even more opportunity to say f**k you, if you want!”
“In past years, I might have worried about saying the wrong thing to people in authority or wearing the wrong clothes or using the wrong language, or whatever.
“And now I'm like… I'll be as outspoken as I want to be. I'll be as much of a feminist as I want to be. All the things that they told me not to do – ‘stop banging on about the ladies’ – I think I'll bang on about the ladies.”
SOURCE: Stephanie Soh Lavemaau
Elsewhere in her Grey Areas episode, Michelle talks about how counselling has opened the door to a “real deep-dive, archaeological dig” into her mental health and the things she’d kept buried for decades.
She also discusses her menopause journey, reflects on her comedy career, and tells the extraordinary story behind her family’s strong social justice and service focus.