Sandra Sully says the focus on appearance ‘ridiculous’

Veteran Ten newsreader Sandra Sully has pushed back at the relentless focus on her appearance during her decades spent in front of the camera, calling it “ridiculous”.

One of the most recognisable faces on Australian TV, Sully also revealed that she called out the behaviour of a former male colleague after overhearing his comment in the workplace.

The man had commented that another journalist’s breasts were too large for her role on camera. She shared what he had said during a speech she made at an event about woman in media just a few days later.

“It got back to the office and that [former male colleague] said to me, ‘That was a bit pointed, wasn’t it?’” Sully told the ABC.

“And I went, ‘You shouldn’t have said it, should you? What’s that got to do with anything? You’ve got to stop this, it’s not how you behave anymore.’”

Sully, who has now been behind the newsdesk for more than 30 years, also recalled being on the road as a reporter when a senior producer told her she must put on lipstick before an interview. The producer was insistent, “because it was important”.

“I remember I just laughed. I went, ‘What? You can’t be serious.’ I don’t even know if I verbalised it. I think I just thought it and moved on,” Sully said.

“I became increasingly aware of the double standards that women were being judged: What you wear, how you presented, what your hair looked like, your make-up.”

She said the focus on appearance was simply “ridiculous”.

Sully said she was also told her voice wasn’t suitable for being on television.

“It was an era when women’s voices in general were considered jarring, too high, less serious. And so that was an extra kind of obstacle to overcome,” Sully said.

“We were judged far more harshly than men.”

The presenter said that she became determined to “change the paradigm” following the criticism.

“We were 50 per cent of the population, and people – the media, the public – were going to have to get used to women’s voices and deal with it.”

At the time, she recalled that newsrooms were “very blokey”. However, she said she wasn’t “perturbed” by it.

Sully had joined Network Ten’s Parliament House bureau in 1989 after beginning journalism in the mid-1980s at the Seven Network.

She said things have changed a lot since she the beginning of her career.

“Women are considered for every role and have every right to seek those opportunities,” she said.

But, she added, there was “still a boys’ club and I think it’s more unconscious than conscious”.

She recently appeared on television with her hand heavily wrapped in a bandage, sparking concerns over a possible injury.

The journalist read the 5pm headlines for 10 News First on Monday with two of the fingers on her left hand covered in medical wrapping.

Network 10 confirmed Sully had undergone surgery after being injured the week prior.

“Sandra Sully suffered a small injury last week that required minor surgery on her finger,” a spokesperson said.

“She is doing well and is now on the mend.”

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