After meeting 23 years ago, radio maven Jackie O and her manager Gemma O’Neill became fast friends. And as life has taken its inevitable rollercoaster, the duo – who formed the company Besties recently – have celebrated both the highs and lows together. Last year that included celebrating Christmas, taking the kids to Fiji for three weeks over the festive season.
“On Christmas Day we went to a local village on another island,” says Gemma. “We’d bought gifts; things they needed like soccer balls, colouring-in stuff and spent Christmas with them. We wanted the kids to experience that and be part of it and I’m really glad we did.”
“Our kids really loved making it special for the kids there,” Jackie says, adding that another day over the holiday they visited another island to help with mangroves planting. “They got so much enjoyment out of it.”
So much, they say, that they are planning to repeat the tradition every two or three years because it “was so fabulous”.
Both women’s marriages ended around the same time. And as fellow mums (Jackie’s daughter Kitty turns 13 on December 9 while Gemma has two boys aged 10 and 8), in addition to being newly single and dipping back into the dating pool, it’s only made their bond stronger.
Jackie O, Gwyneth Paltrow & Gemma O’Neill at the recent Besties event.
“It’s nice to have a single friend who’s been through what you have and is a similar age,” Jackie says.
“It definitely helps. It’s no fun if you’re single and everyone else is married or in a relationship. That is when you feel really alone. So having another friend that is in the same position has made it so much easier.”
“We are having the time of our lives together,” Gemma grins.
And with Jackie having recently moved to Gemma’s area in Sydney, that means spending some more time together when December 25 rolls around this year.
Gemma’s local surf club has an unusual Christmas Day tradition – something she herself has done since she was a child. Environmentally safe dye is put into the water to turn it a bright green. The adults throw hardboiled eggs into the ocean for the kids to find.
“Then they run out, hundreds of them, and jump into the ocean to find the eggs,” she recounts. “When they find an egg, they give it to one of the lifeguards and they get a Christmas gift from the surf club. It’s so joyful. And then everyone has a mimosa and says Merry Christmas. It’s a way of also getting to see people from the area on Christmas Day. It’s actually one of the highlights of my year.”
“Kitty’s going to love it,” Jackie enthuses. “So, this will become our new tradition together.”