United States of Tanja, Season 1

If you asked me I’d say Tanja Gacic is 100% Australian. She’s lived on Bondi Beach since 2007, has appeared numerous times in virtually every Australian magazine – she’s a bit of a celebrity I think – and is married to Pav, the owner of that too-cool-for-anyone’s-good record label, Modular. She even has the accent down. But if my years of casting have taught me anything, I should recognize the Eastern European cheekbones and dark, slavic eyes from a mile away. And I shouldn’t be surprised that behind that pretty face is a smart cookie with larger-than-life ideas, curious interests and challenging philosophies. I couldn’t say it any better so I’m just going to let Tanja do the talking. If only you could hear her sexy, husky voice….

NJ: Hey Tanja! How are you?

TG: I am feeling amazing! I am lying in my backyard getting a suntan right now. I am so bummed the weather wasn’t great when you came to the house. Bondi is really beautiful when it is sunny. Also my gardeners came to replant this week – I am so sorry you didn’t get a chance to see it looking nice… C’est la vie!

NJ: Where are you from originally?

TG: I was born in Croatia but with a Serbian heritage.

NJ: How long have you been in Australia? You could have fooled me with your Aussie accent!

TG: Well that’s funny because in Sydney everyone always spots the Croatian accent as soon as I open my mouth! My family moved to New Zealand when I was 14 and I was discovered by a modeling agent soon after. I first came to Australia in 1996 but modeling soon took me overseas. I permanently moved back to Sydney in 2003.

NJ: You must really love it here to move this far! What’s the appeal of this upside down continent?

TG: I love the expansiveness, the way light is so bright here it makes the colors more vivid and the sky goes on forever. I love how big Australia is – it is hard to explain to a European that a car trip from Sydney to Melbourne takes 12 hours! In Europe you could go through five countries in the same time!

NJ: And what about Bondi? I hear a lot of people who live in the city never even come out here!

TG: Bondi Beach used to be dirty because of bad runoff and only grandmas and backpackers lived here. They fixed the runoff 15 years ago and now the water is crystal clear and Bondi has some of the most expensive real estate in Sydney, not to mention that with its kilometer stretch of golden sand it is a huge draw card for tourists. It gets hectic during the summer months but it is lovely and quiet out of season. I love living here because of the strong connection to nature – we get dolphins and whales in the bay, we can fish for whiting to eat from the beach or go on a spectacular cliff side jog every morning followed by a swim – all before work! The city is only 15 – 20 minutes away so you can get the best of both worlds. The restaurants in Bondi are arguably the best in Australia – I love going to Icebergs for a great cocktail or leisurely lunch with the best views in Sydney, a great family meal at North Bondi Italian or last but not least, my absolute favorite restaurant in Australia – Sean’s Panaroma where Sean and Manu’s menu is strongly focused on local and organic ingredients sourced straight from their farm.

NJ: Tell me a little bit about your family.

TG: I have a 5-year old daughter, Coco Valentine and my partner is Stephen Pavlovic. He’s also half Croatian.

NJ: I noticed you were showing me a lot of 60s cocktail dresses. You looked like one of Don Draper’s mistresses!

TG: I have an obsession with 50s and 60s dresses! There was something so discreet but extremely sexy about the silhouettes of that time and the cut of the garments really hugs the curves in all the right places. I do like the idea that everyone made an effort and women were elegant and desirable in a different way. When I put on the dresses I wonder who these women were who originally wore them, how they moved, danced, sat… They take me to another time and make me feel grown-up and perfectly polished.

NJ: How would you describe your style then? What is a typical Tanja outfit? Surely you don’t run around Sydney in cocktail dresses every day?

TG: I think I suffer from Multiple Fashion Personality Disorder (also known as MFPD) as there is no typical outfit! I really get off on a lot of different looks. Sometimes I am ‘Jenny from the Block’ in hi-top Isabel Marants and sportswear; sometimes I dress in all black leather, or all sweet pastels, or emulate a polished 5th Avenue princess. It’s like United States Of Tara!!

NJ: Where do you find your vintage pieces? You seem to be especially fond of that pink coat! Why is that?

TG: I tend to buy my vintage from the US Ebay site because they have a lot of really old stuff. I also love Kirribilli markets, the little vintage stores on Crown street and big thrift warehouses in Melbourne called Savers. As far as the pink coat is concerned, I suffered blood, sweat and tears to get it! It was my last day in LA when I saw it. I had spent all my cash and my friend told me I looked like a nanna in it. When I got back to Australia I started having vivid dreams about it and knew I had to have it. I called the store and pleaded, cajoled, tried bribing but they just wouldn’t take my credit card over the phone or take me seriously! I finally had to wait for Stephen to bring it back from one of this trips.

NJ: I see you also collect crystal and colorful glass jars, shells, taxidermy insects, hand-painted teacups and lithographs. What’s up with that? Any thing else you obsess about?

TG: I love crystal for its elegance and sparkle and I love depression glass because of all the colors and its democratic past – they were given away free or at low cost during the Great Depression. Basically anything old with a story fascinates me and I often get obsessed about objects for periods of time while I learn about them. I love 18th and 19th century lithographs and etchings not just because of their gorgeous drawings but because they are evidence that 100-200 years ago these animals and plants were just being discovered and were a source of so much wonder for people. When I look at them, I am reminded that planet Earth is home to such an incredible, diverse multitude of species and how lucky we all are to live here. It is paradise!

EVERYONE: Amen.

For more on Tanja’s treasure hunting, come back tomorrow for a Russh magazine shopping special!

May 17, 2012

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