For Megan Gale, her brother’s tragic death in the middle of a pandemic hasn’t been her only source of heartache.
Earlier this week, Gale revealed that not only was she grieving the loss of brother Jason but she had also made the “hard call” to close her baby and children’s skincare start-up, Mindful Life.
In a video posted to Instagram, Gale said she had “trusted the wrong people … in some pretty major elements of the business”.
Gale said she had realised she needed to pull the plug after spending two weeks in Perth hotel quarantine prior to her brother’s funeral, which had given her “a lot of time to think”.
“There’s nothing like the death of someone extremely close to you to make you stop and take stock and reassess what you’re doing with your own life and underline the complete importance of how precious life is and what little time we really do have here,” she said.
Gale has enjoyed unprecedented success in Australia for two decades, first as David Jones’ longest-ever ambassador and then as a businesswoman selling swimwear, homewares and skincare.
The 45-year-old, who is engaged to former AFL player and Survivor star Shaun Hampson, describes herself as a private person with a public profile, suffering any setbacks with grace.
The mother-of-two gave up her lucrative gig with David Jones to star in the lead role of a superhero movie that ended up getting shelved, went through a heartbreaking miscarriage, saw the closure of her beloved swimwear line as well as unfair criticism of her romantic relationships.
But these hurdles haven’t stopped Gale from staying positive, telling her Instagram followers last week that she was “not amazing but doing OK”, adding she was “happy and grateful” for her family.
ACTING ROLE THAT FELT ‘MEANT TO BE’
By 2008 it was hard to go anywhere without seeing Gale everywhere.
The supermodel had been a David Jones’ ambassador for the past seven years and one half of Australia’s most popular couple with comedian Andy Lee.
But Gale was keen to explore her options overseas and asked the department store if she could step back from some of her ambassador duties so she could try her hand at acting.
The decision coincided with Gale being asked to audition for the lead role in an upcoming Wonder Woman film slated to be directed by George Miller.
Her likeness to the comic book superhero blew Warner Bros away and she was cast, signing a three picture deal.
“We started pre-production and then they flew all the cast down to Australia, very top secret, and we all were sitting there working … and then the writer’s strike happened in the beginning of 2008,” Gale told Mamamia’s No Filter podcast in March this year.
“Having been cast, I had to sign for a three picture deal which was great but in turn I went to David Jones and said, ‘Hey you know the way I said I was going to pursue other things? It’s kind of happened now and I have to leave you guys unfortunately’.”
But the writer’s strike dragged on for months and ended up closing down many movie productions, including Gale’s Wonder Woman film, permanently – leaving her with no three-picture deal or ambassador role with David Jones.
The loss of her Wonder Woman role saw doors that had been flung open then slammed shut to Gale.
“As soon as I got signed as Wonder Woman I’d had – I don’t even know to this day how they got my email address – I had CAA, William Morris … all the big agents they all emailed me wanting to represent, so I went over there and met all of them,” she told No Filter.
“But then as soon as the film got shelved, I was invisible.”
Despite missing out on her shot at the Hollywood big leagues, Gale said she accepted that it simply wasn’t meant to be and went on to have a role in another Miller movie, Mad Max: Fury Road.
Gale continued to work for David Jones in a smaller role until 2015 when she decided to retire from modelling for the department store completely.
The supermodel left on a high as the store’s longest-running ambassador and a highly successful swimwear brand under her belt.
Gale’s departure also coincided with the launch of a limited edition homewares line with Target, MG Homewares which proved popular with shoppers.
BLINDSIDED BY SWIMWEAR SHELVING
But just months after being feted during her David Jones departure, Gale’s swimwear line hit a snag.
Gale had teamed up with Seafolly to launch Isola by Megan Gale in 2010, with the collection a hit with shoppers and other Australian celebrities alike.
But in August 2015, just two months after ending her David Jones role, Seafolly announced they were ending their partnership with Megan’s line Isola.
At the time L Capital Asia had just bought a stake in the Seafolly, with the company saying they had discontinued Isola because of difficulties trademarking the name internationally.
Gale has said she was left “in absolute shock” by the decision, given Isola was “selling brilliantly” at the time.
“When Seafolly was looking to sell to their new buyers, I was given absolute assurance Isola was not only included in this arrangement, but there were big plans to both invest in and grow the brand, so based on that, I approved the sale,” she told the Herald Sun in 2016.
“It is only in hindsight I have to wonder was this ever the intention. Never ever would I imagine that a few months following I would be facing the news that I was. It was really hard to process that after years of putting my heart and soul into a partnership that I trusted.”
Since then Gale has developed “a very thick skin” and said she has learned to “always have a good, trusted lawyer that you can call upon”, she told whimn.com.au earlier this year.
‘ABSOLUTELY THE HARDEST THING I’VE EVER DONE’
Gale launched children’s skincare line Mindful Life in early 2019, revealing she had taken her time getting the business off the line after coming up with the idea in 2014.
This time the business wasn’t backed by investors with Gale funding the entire start-up herself, she told Business Chicks.
“I wanted to have my own business where I could control my time and where I spent it,” she said. “I was finding it really hard to be answerable to people. That had to stop until it could be on my terms.”
Gale told No Filter that self-funding Mindful Life was “absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done … but it’s mine”.
“After having a couple of unsavoury business ventures, ones that went well, but I guess what I learnt from partnering with other people was that ultimately you can put in all that hard work, effort, your name, your brand, your likeness, everything,” she said.
“(But) ultimately if someone else holds control, it means nothing.”
BROTHER’S DEATH A ‘HUGE SHOCK’
Tragedy struck for Gale in July when her brother Jason was discovered dead in Karragullen, Perth, after being missing for more than a week.
In a video posted late last month, her first social media post in two months, Gale explained that her brother’s death had been a “huge shock”.
The coronavirus pandemic had meant that Gale had had to make an important decision quickly, hopping on a plane from Melbourne to Perth to go through two weeks of hotel quarantine before attending his funeral, essentially cutting herself off from her life for a month.
“I had a very short period of time to make the decision to travel over, because travelling over meant hotel quarantine for two weeks and then planning the funeral and attending the funeral, so I knew that I could be a month away from my kids and my man,” she said.
“And I also knew that by going to Perth that I would be responsible for risking there being more media attention and more focus on it, which I didn‘t want to do. I already felt bad enough, that I’d be the cause of that.”
‘I WAS SPENT’
But in a video announcing the closure of Mindful Life this week, Gale revealed the tragedy had also given her the clarity she had needed.
She had closed her business after outsourcing “certain responsibilities and tasks” to third parties.
“When you are a very small basic start-up and you don’t have a lot of infrastructure and you don’t have a lot of things done in-house, you have to outsource certain responsibilities and tasks to third parties, other businesses, which is what I had to do,” Gale said.
“In short, I trusted the wrong people … in some pretty major elements of the business.”
A clinch point was when she realised that the business wouldn’t be able to deliver stock in time to customers.
“It wasn’t until I got to about June this year when I realised how much time I’d lost and how I couldn’t come back from it,” she said.
“So at that point I was completely spent. I mean, I’m a pretty tough chick, I’ve got a lot of fight in me. I had used up all of my reserves of resilience and tenacity and just sheer determination.”
The supermodel said she had been “super proud” of the business, which managed to withstand COVID as sales continued to come through.
“It’s not been without its challenges, however. I knew going into a start-up it wouldn’t be without its challenges. I was prepared for that. I was warned about that,” she said.
“What I wasn’t prepared for was that these teething issues would grow into big issues, that they would be ongoing and they would be just ceaseless, really.
“It’s got to the point where these issues are quite insurmountable.”