The first time I met the woman who has turned out to be the most inspiring person I’ve ever met, she told me about the time she was living out of her car.
Listen to the story below:
I was interviewing her for a story about how successful women can fall from grace and end up homeless, despite being so hard working, intelligent, capable and driven. And Glen Marie Frost was most definitely all of these things and more. But her life hasn’t always been smooth sailing. We met at her tiny apartment (yes, I am pleased to say she now has a roof over her head) in inner-city Sydney, which was littered with unpacked cardboard boxes, and in equal measures, evidence of a past life – French antiques, silver candelabras, extravagant artworks and ornate framed photographs of her in your former glory. This room alone could tell many a tale.
Now in her retirement years, Glen Marie Frost is something of a household name. But for two very different reasons. Back in the early 2000’s Glen Marie was the doyenne of Sydney’s social scene, as the face of the Sydney Olympic Committee. She wined and dined the who’s who of Australia and the globe and rubbed shoulders with the power-set.
This scene changed dramatically however when she and her husband divorced, the Olympics role became obsolete and Glen Marie chose to finally spend quality time as a mother to her young son Andrew. The result was that Glen Marie found herself without a job, without a man to lean on, without a crowd of adoring friends or colleagues and eventually, without a cent to her name or a roof over her head.
And so it was that the legendary and powerful socialite, found herself sleeping in the front seat of her car, upright so that any passers-by would assume she was simple parked, and with her lovely black cat on her lap, her only ally.
The saddest part about this story is that Glen Marie is merely a perfect example of women of her generation and the growing number of Australia’s fastest growing group of homeless people (women aged 55+). These are the group who took time out to have children (and didn’t receive any superannuation during those years), while their husbands earned the coin (and firmly pocketed it when they walked away after divorce) and whose careers copped a beating after taking that time out to be the primary carer. It’s not rocket science as to how these women are ending up in this dire situation – but it is an absolute national disgrace that it’s happening. Not to mention the fact that nothing’s being done to change it!
Fast forward to today, and Glen Marie sits opposite me, radiant, with an aura of resilience and positivity that is extremely rare to find. She strikes me as a woman who is happy in her own skin, wickedly funny in a wise and all-knowing kind of way and humble about her success. She has an authenticity that is mesmerising and surprisingly, she speaks about her journey as one she wouldn’t change. It gave her “resilience”, she explains. Bizarrely in fact, Glen Marie blames herself for the way her life plummeted into poverty. She says she never asked the right questions in her marriage about their finances. She says she never had the conversations with her friends and colleagues about saving for her retirement. She blames herself for not taking better job offers when they were available. And she blames herself for living beyond her means back in the days of dinner parties, never-ending champagne and pouring her money into bottomless rental properties. Even to this day, Glen Marie refuses to point the finger where blame should lie – the Australian Government and backwards societal ways of those days.
When asked what she would say to young Australian women today to avoid living the same fate, Glen Marie says it’s up to women to work together to have these conversations and to take the taboo out of talking about money. Start the savvy savings at university stage, not when it’s too late. Don’t imagine that a man is your plan. And absolutely have all the cards on the table with finances when you enter a committed relationship. And lastly, stop throwing your money away on designer outfits and expensive cocktails. Those dinner parties and fair-weather friends won’t save you when you find yourself alone and on the bones of your bum in retirement. What matters most now is knowing you can afford to see a specialist and you can afford the medicines you need, the things that give you peace of mind and security at the end of the day.
As for the stories of success… people may think that Glen Marie’s most impressive days were back when she was in the public eye and on the covers of the beauty magazines. But to me, this is one woman who has overcome the harshest obstacles and risen strong as a result. She has re-invented herself and risen from the ashes to be one of the most resilient and authentic women I’ve met. And that, to me, is the ultimate definition of success.