Sandra Sully is one of the most respected newsreaders in the country. Warm and shining on our screens, it’s easy to assume that Sandra’s life is perfect. But away from the news desk and bright lights, Sandra is facing a big personal challenge.
Only those closest to Sandra have known that her husband Symon has moved to New Zealand. Living an ocean away from the one you love can’t be easy, but the couple is making it work.
Sandra has always been a generous mentor to me and I’m grateful she chatted so honestly about love, health and her career, from one Queensland girl to another.
Jessica: Sandra, you’re newly married, you love your work, you look fantastic and healthy, you must be pretty content in your life at the moment?
Sandra: I am, but I have to say, life isn’t without challenges. For me, in the last year and a half my husband has moved to New Zealand, so there is lots of travel across the ditch every other weekend, or he comes here. There’s also a lot of juggling with my step-daughter. It’s my reality but I think you have to embrace what you have to do.
I’m a glass-half-full type of girl and I think you have to see the positives in everything. Most people don’t know that my life has changed dramatically, with my husband taking a job in New Zealand. It’s pretty crazy but I’m happy and he’s happy.
I remember when he said to me ‘babe this is a great job and I’d really love to do it but how are we going to be?’. I said ‘well if it’s what you want to do, we’ll make it work.’ So far so good!
Jessica: So it’s going well?
Sandra: Yes, he’s really loving the job and we’ve both fallen in love with New Zealand. You just never know where life will take you….it’s great.
Jessica: You must be very good at balancing it all, having time for yourself and each other?
Sandra: Well it’s never going to be perfect, but time management is the most important thing. If you stick to the priorities in your life, and for me it’s my husband and my family, then you just accept you’re not going to be able to do everything.
My step-daughter is a real gift. All of a sudden in the last 4 or 5 years, wow, I’ve got a little girl in my life. I have to think about making sure I have food in the house to make lunches!
Jessica: Does having a little girl around keep you grounded
Sandra: Absolutely, she’s 9 going on 29. She’s my new little friend and am very aware of my new responsibilities. As much as I like and need order around me, I just love when I am with her that I just switch off my phone or my iPad and spend time with her. We have lots of fun together and a child in your life changes your perspective in a really lovely way. She is good for me.
Jessica: So you’re forced to switch off?
Sandra: Yes, since Symon’s moved over there, I can, at times, work longer hours but then I can shut it down as quickly. People often say will say to me “gosh you tweet a lot”, but I do switch off on the weekends and when it suits.
I’m only online as a ‘news person’ though and try to keep my private life out of social media. Someone once said to me, if people can’t see the picket fence people will always trespass, so I try to create those fences so I and others know the boundaries.
Jessica: What is me-time for you?
Sandra: I’ve been getting back into pilates. I’ve had a nagging injury and it’s taken me five years to get to the bottom of that problem, so pilates is all I can do at the moment.
My guilty pleasure is movies, reading, sports and some trash TV. When I’m with Symon, we walk a lot, go to the gym, but just spending time together is pretty fun.
Jessica: For many women, it takes a while to work out exactly what ‘works’, when it comes to nutrition, beauty and health. Do you think you’ve ‘got it’? You sure look like you have!
Sandra: I’m probably the most unfit I’ve ever been in my life and I don’t have it worked out. I hate feeling unfit and unhealthy but am slowly getting it all back on track.
I used to be a fitness trainer before I started journalism, but lately I haven’t been able to run at all. I’m not there yet, but life is a work in progress.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do for yourself is try to eat well and get lots of sleep. I think I’m having an affair with sleep, it’s the best tonic.
Jessica: At Chanel Ten you have really driven social and digital media and you have your own online newspaper, #shortblack. Is an online presence important to you?
Sandra: I saw a need to be involved early on, for the newsroom and for myself. I have found it quite rewarding professionally and many opportunities have come as a result. I think you constantly have to up skill and I have learned a lot. It’s given me an extra focus. It doesn’t mean I’m the guru but I love it.
Jessica: What would you tell others starting out in our industry or to girls who want to find success in their chosen career?
Sandra: When you work out who you admire, work out why. Determine what are the attributes that set them apart, then try to be honest with yourself about what you need to work on. I’d also say, life is full of tangents and opportunities – embrace them!
Ten has been through a lot of upheaval and at times I’ve struggled with survivor’s guilt. Then I think, I’ll keep going as long as I can, and remember it’s not what drives me.
I do it because I really love it. I don’t ever want to be seen as ‘hanging on’. When I am not enjoying it, either in front of the camera or behind it, then I might move on to something completely different.
I don’t live in fear, I just accept that it’s television.
Fortunately, television is full of warm people like Sandra but she is one of a kind – a Queensland girl at heart, juggling her life, career and family but still spending time helping the next generation of women succeed.
She isn’t pretending to have it all worked out, but will pass on what she does know to help others and that is a gift.