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EXCLUSIVE Jessica Rowe tells: ‘I was picked on!’

Brekkie TV left bubbly Jess with emotional scars
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Jessica Rowe loves a chat, but she won’t be inviting former boss, Eddie McGuire, around for a heart-to-heart any time soon!

“Ugh, no,” she says decisively when asked about the man who infamously sacked her from Today.

It’s almost 15 years since Jess’ headline-grabbing exit from Nine, but scars remain.

Watch: Jessica Rowe films TikTok embarrassing her kids

“I could not comprehend the level of nastiness directed my way,” she recalls candidly. “All because I smiled, I had short hair, I was too thin, I didn’t have a child – people didn’t know I was going through IVF at the time – and I snort when I laugh.

“It was so public and cruel – definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, career-wise,” the podcaster reveals. “I was picked on mercilessly and couldn’t understand what I had done wrong. Now I know I did nothing wrong, I was simply being myself.”

The pressure was unrelenting for almost a year, while Jess battled on beside co-host, Karl Stefanovic. Rumours swirled she was about to be “boned” by Eddie, who called her journalist husband, Peter Overton – not Jess – to deny the story. The end, due to an alleged “pay dispute” in May 2007, was brutal.

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It’s almost 15 years since Jess’ headline-grabbing exit from Nine, but scars remain. (Credit: Supplied)

But today, Jess says cheerfully: “Many people go through awful things, mine was just so discussed. I don’t want this to be ‘poor me’ – that’s not how I feel now.”

Recently, she invited former colleague, Karl, to be the first guest on her new podcast series, The Jess Rowe Big Talk Show. The first time they had spoken face to face since the Today debacle, they both cried.

“Karl said sorry for not being a better, more supportive man back then. I had not expected that and we had a few tears,” Jess explains.

And has Eddie ever reached out to apologise? “No,” she says, crisply.

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Jess and Karl starred on Today together.

Not even after she accused him on-air of making her life hell? “No, but my happiness doesn’t rest on that. I have far more meaningful, joyous things in my life. It was awful at the time, but those tough moments teach you what’s important. When everything is great, you learn nothing.”

Life has undoubtedly offered the feisty 51-year-old plenty of learning experiences. There were three failed IVF cycles before she fell pregnant with daughter, Allegra, now 14. And then, faced with breastfeeding problems, Jess tumbled into severe postnatal depression.

“It was so lonely. My heart breaks for new mums bringing their babies home in lockdown. Having a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re a failure. I thought I had to be invincible, because I thought that was part of being successful, but that’s crap.”

Confessing her anguish to her husband, Peter, 55, was the first step towards recovery. “Being the beautiful man he is, he took me in his arms and told me it was going to be OK.”

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Jess shares daughters Allegra and Giselle with husband Peter Overton.

Therapy helped and Jessica still takes antidepressants. But it’s clear “Peetee” remains her rock – 20 years after she asked him out after a chance encounter at the Logies.

“We are a fabulous team. He lets me be me, he doesn’t try to quash my quirkiness.”

Right on cue, Peter appears. And he’s puzzled why Jess is sitting in her car, doing a phone interview. She says she doesn’t want to disturb daughters, Allegra and Giselle, 12, who are busy with online schooling.

“I consider myself very lucky,” smiles Jess, whose tireless mental health advocacy earned her an Order of Australia. “If people can look at me in some small way and realise they are not alone – we all have our struggles – that’s huge. None of us is perfect, let’s be gentle with ourselves.”

Read more, in this week’s New Idea, on sale now. 

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