But this willingness to bare all is perhaps the best testament to Melissa’s character.
“I was at a stage, especially after lockdown, where I thought that I needed to shake things up,” she explains.
The star also wanted to prove to daughter Ayla, 12, and son Cuba, 8 – the two children she shares with husband, Kwesi Nicholas – that their mother can do anything.
While Melissa burst onto our screens as Nikki Spencer on E Street at just 16, she doesn’t foresee her daughter following in her footsteps.
“She’s just not interested!” Melissa confesses. “She’s not into acting, selfies or social media. She’s not intrigued by any of that.”
Beyond being a fiercely dedicated mother (although she admits she is elated that homeschooling is over for the foreseeable future), Melissa enjoys being an ambassador for the Australian entertainment industry.
“It makes me sad that there’s barely any local productions – no drama anymore,” says Melissa, who insists she has no issue with the rise in popularity of reality TV over scripted programs.
“Don’t get me wrong – I love reality, I’m a big fan. I just wish there was opportunity in Australia for actors.”
Over the years Melissa has remained straightforward about how her fame affected
her throughout her adolescence. But as viewers will soon see on SAS after a very intense interrogation, Melissa still has pain to overcome.
“I constantly copped it,” reflects the ‘Read My Lips’ singer. “What that does is make you doubt yourself. I started to doubt my achievements, my talent and myself as a person.
“During filming, at that point, we had been in lockdown, and I knew a lot of people who had suffered with mental health issues. I’m not saying I got to that point … but you do get down.
“I was just feeling a bit low [during filming], but over the years I have stopped loving myself,” she says, insisting she wishes deeply she had more confidence.
Looking back at her soap days, which included impressive credits on Paradise Beach, All Saints and Pacific Drive, Melissa doesn’t regret anything.
“Look, it’s the industry I chose to be in,” she reasons. “Thankfully I know I’m a good person. It’s just when somebody attacks my personality … that really pisses me off.”
Interestingly, Melissa says she finds it funny that she’s always asked about E Street, and is blown away by the still-thriving fan base – despite it airing more than 30 years ago.
“I don’t think the fan fever around it will ever go, the chapter will never close,” says Melissa, who would fully support a reboot if the opportunity ever came.
“Annoyingly, some people think I’ve done nothing since E Street, which is frustrating,” she explains. For Melissa, one of her most moving roles was playing Bethany Daniels in Paradise Drive.
“She was the first-ever HIV character on Australian TV at the time,” says Melissa. Admittedly, she didn’t know too much about the sexually transmitted virus
at the time of filming.
“I had to a lot of research … that time of my life was so important,” she says. “I was meeting a lot of young people with HIV and AIDS, and I look back at that time and I’m so grateful. It does make me sad though, because so many of them wouldn’t be alive now.”
Looking to the future, Melissa is open to everything as she continues taking on acting roles. And as for more reality TV, she doesn’t rule out a return to The Real Housewives of Sydney.
“Oh, hell yeah!” she says. Melissa was one of seven women who starred in the series back in 2017. However, the show was marred in controversy for being too nasty and was cancelled in 2019 after just one season.
“I’d do it just for my gay fans,” she laughs. “It’s not that I hated doing it, but because I had industry experience, I knew how it would play out with the editing. I think that made me a scaredy-cat.
“But yes, you heard it here first – I’d be back in a heartbeat!”
SAS Australia airs Monday to Wednesday at 7.30pm on Seven & 7Plus
For more, pick up a copy of New Idea. On sale now!