She's 41, single and breaking new ground. Today Tonight host Helen Kapalos talks to Michael Sheather about divorce, TV and taking on Tracy.
Helen Kapalos fell in love with her childhood sweetheart when she was just 18. They dated for nearly six years before they married when she was 23 and still studying at university. In many ways, it was a dream start to a promising life.
And for the next 13 years, Helen, a young aspiring journalist trying to make her way in the cut-throat world of prime- time TV, lived that dream, believing that the man she was married to was the man who would be her life partner.
"But, sometimes, dreams don't turn out the way we expect," says Helen. "Sometimes, you find yourself on a different path. That's what happened to my husband and me. We simply grew apart. We each had visions of life that simply didn't align. It was one of those unfortunate things where we didn't see things in the same way anymore."
Her divorce six years ago left her "bereft and devastated", but Helen tells The Weekly she feels very fortunate to have had that part of her life.
"In some ways, I feel that I share so much more with other women now, having had a relationship that failed and being a single woman for the past six years, being a woman in her 40s who has had to grapple with the question of whether she would have children or whether that opportunity has passed me by, questioning the balance of career and a personal life," she says.
"So, being someone who has walked all those paths and who is still walking those paths is something that connects me with women on so many levels."
This surprisingly intimate and deeply personal revelation comes from a woman about to embark on perhaps the biggest gambit of her career.
Helen, a former Sydney-based reporter who until recently co-hosted the nightly Melbourne news bulletin for Network Ten, is the new face of the Seven Network’s tabloid current affairs show, Today Tonight.
Her appointment may also herald a new era in Australian broadcast journalism in which women are finally a dominant force. For the first time, the hosts of the three major current affairs shows — Today Tonight, the Nine Network’s A Current Affair and ABC TV’s 7.30 — are women, something that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.
"It's a different path to the one that I originally envisioned for myself, but I am comfortable with that path whatever it brings. That's certainly not to say that children are out of the question in the future, but the possibility that it might not happen is something I had to come to peace with and I have."
Helen's new role has brought with it a wider recognition of the Melbourne newsreader, made most evident when widely-reported comments in a recent newspaper article made the gossip rounds, suggesting she thought her new job would impede her chance of finding romance — leading the question of work/life balance.
"At the moment, my career is at centre stage and that is wonderful. But that is not to say I have to dim the switch on every other aspect of my life," she says.
"Honestly, why can’t there be room for everything?"
Read more of this story in the February issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.