tina arena5

Filippina Lydia Arena was born to Sicilian immigrants Joe and Francesca in 1967 in the Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds, she had two older siblings Nancy and Silvana and at the tender age of eight she sang the Cilla Black/Darryl Braithwaite hit You’re My World at her cousin’s wedding party. Less than a year later she found herself in the cast of the weekly phenomenon that was Young Talent Time. Her  vocal coach Voila Ritchie had recommended her to Johnny Young, creator and compere of the show, she was a wide-eyed, enthusiast, with raw talent and a phenomenal work ethic, and would perform on the show for eight years between 1975- 1983, the longest tenure of any of the YTT cast members. Her musical inspirations were Dusty Springfield, Diana Ross, Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand, and the first song that the 8-tear-old “Tiny Tina” sang on YTT was Abba’s Ring, Ring.( see Tina below in the centre of the shot)tina arena 10Her fellow cast members were Karen Knowles, Nicole Cooper, Debbie Hancock, John Bowles (with whom she often duetted, see below)), Robert McCullough, and Steven Zammit, who all worked a grueling schedule of rehearsing, recording, and performing for five days a week, twenty hours a week, eleven months of the year, while they were also full-time students, trying to transition from being children, going through puberty and growing up in front of an audience of three million people who watched YTT every week.tina afena 7In retrospect YTT was nothing more than an airbrushed fantasy of children’s lives every week on national television, but it was immensely popular, it ran for 17 years and would now be criticized for the way it sexualized young female performers and aped the behavior and appearance of much older men and women.tina arena 9Images of young girls wearing feathers and lipstick and tiny leotards and overly revealing minis, and boys with hair-sprayed bouffants and false smiles wearing white suits and wielding Fred Astaire canes, remains cringeworthy to this day. Tina Arena has always claimed that while YTT was demanding it was also some of the best years of her adolescent life, that it provided an invaluable apprenticeship and introduction for her to the world of show business, a workplace in which she apparently thrived, and that it’s ethnic inclusivity was genuine and supportive. But not all of Tina’s fellow YTT cast members, past, present or future, would echo her sentiments, many struggled to adapt to a normal lifestyle devoid of the glitz, glamour, and fawning attention that being a juvenile star on the show afforded, others would turn to heroin and substance abuse to help ease the transition to a life outside YTT with disastrous results, these included Debbie Byrne, Sally Boyden (below) and Jamie Churchill.sally boydenTina also struggled to establish herself as an adult solo performer, to throw off her “Tiny Tina” image, although at 1.57m she is taller than Kylie Minogue at 1.52m, but but she is blessed with a fantastic soprano voice, an amazing work ethic and a feminine warmth that enabled her to connect with fans right around the world. tina arena6Over the journey Tina has sold over 10 million records, is rated along with John Farnham as one of Australia’s greatest singers, she has won no less than seven ARIA awards, and two World Music awards, has been inducted as a Knight of the French National Order of Merit, is a recipient of an Australian Order of Merit, and when Cadel Evans became the first Australian to win the Tour De France in 2011, it was Tina Arena, a proud Aussie, who sang Advance Australia Fair on the Champs Elysee, at that historic victory ceremony.

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