By Megan Miller, Herald Sun
SYLVIA Jeffreys prefers to read the news, not be in it. But when you’re part of the Stefanovic clan, stories have a way of following you around. She’s been the target of pregnancy rumours pretty much since she and TV anchor husband Pete Stefanovic wed in April last year, and she was this month part of the scandal that erupted when a speakerphone conversation between Pete and his brother Karl — Today’s co-host — in the back of an Uber was made public.
It was later revealed that Jeffreys was in the car with Pete as the siblings reportedly slammed their Channel 9 colleagues.
Speaking to Weekend during a recent Melbourne visit, the Today newsreader doesn’t want to discuss “Uber-gate”. However, she will divulge that she’s not pregnant.
“It definitely makes me conscious of how many carbohydrates I’m consuming, because obviously there’s enough there to make people think there’s something going on,” she says jovially. “But no, not yet. Our life is good and we’re very happy and hopefully one day we’ll be blessed to have a child. We certainly hope so, but right now, not happening today or tomorrow.”
The 31-year-old admits being on the other side of the news makes her feel “strangely exposed”, and interest in the Stefanovics is intense. Paparazzi potentially waiting outside her front door has become part of life.
“You don’t really want to be photographed when you’ve got your sweaty gym gear on and you’ve probably had big a carb load and look half pregnant when you’re not,” she says.
Jeffreys knew Nine cameraman Tom Stefanovic first, then Karl when she moved from Brisbane to Sydney in 2012, and then hit it off with Pete in 2013 when the then European correspondent was brought home for a summer stint co-hosting Weekend Today with her.
Pete returned to his London base, but the pair became pen pals for about a year as their relationship blossomed.
“It gave us a good foundation, and an old-fashioned one in that it was based on communication and just talking and sharing information,” Jeffreys says.
“Pete went to Gaza twice that year, he went to Baghdad, he covered the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia, and I started my current role with Today (in 2014), so it was a very busy year professionally for both of us. I imagine that could have put a strain on things if things had been different.”
The couple, both Queensland-raised, bought into a whisky bar called The Scottish Prince on the Gold Coast, giving them an excuse to escape Sydney when they can.
Since January, Pete has been hosting Weekend Today alongside Allison Langdon, rising at 5.15am — a relative sleep-in compared with Jeffreys’s 3.15am Monday-to-Friday alarm.
How do they make it work?
“It’s actually pretty easy because Pete wants to go to bed at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays now and that suits me just fine,” Jeffreys says.
“It probably seems like we’re clashing but we’re very much in sync. It helps to have a partner who understands the sleep deprivation and likelihood of dropping into a rusty mood every now and then.”
Jeffreys was a sporty child who loved touch footy, netball and swimming, with Olympian Hayley Lewis her coach in primary school. She aspired to be a professional athlete but with top marks in English and history and “a curiosity about the world”, she was drawn to journalism.
She made her name at Nine in Brisbane covering the 2010-2011 Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi in 2011 before moving to Sydney.
She says it’s a privilege to have a front-row seat at major events on Todayand be part of the national debate. She signed a new contract late last year to continue as Today’s newsreader and confirms she was never asked to co-host the show after Lisa Wilkinson’s shock departure in October.
Jeffreys says she’s enjoying forging a “deeper friendship” with Georgie Gardner, who took on the role, and remains in touch with Wilkinson, who she applauds for putting the gender pay gap on the agenda — even after it was revealed Karl was reportedly paid two to three times more than Wilkinson.
“It’s obviously concerning there’s still a very long way to go across every industry when it comes to equality in the workplace,” Jeffreys says. “But I’m glad that we’re talking about it and that the discussion is growing louder.”
She uses her profile to raise money for Variety, the Sydney Children’s Hospital and Youngcare, for which she belted out a karaoke version of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart on Today, raising about $25,000.
She runs and does pilates and boxing to stay in shape and unwind from the 24/7 news cycle, and says everyone at Today is “heads down and churning out the work at the moment”.
Today continues to follow rival Sunrise in the ratings, despite the ardent interest in its anchors and their private lives. Karl, in particular, has attracted headlines since his marriage breakdown and new relationship with shoe designer Jasmine Yarbrough.
Jeffreys calls Yarbrough “very grounded and independent” while brother-in-law Karl is a quiet mentor at the network.
Jeffreys believes there’s “very intense” interest in breakfast TV presenters across the board in Australia, given they’re beamed into homes live for 3½ hours a day.
“But if I catch myself thinking too much about it, I try and focus on what’s more important and ultimately we’re all focused on the real stories that matter to real people because, gee, there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” she says.
“I’m not here to set anyone else’s record straight, that’s for them to do, but I work with Karl, I’m also related to him, I love him dearly and his happiness is important to me. But from a professional perspective, while I enjoy working with him very much, I have my own career, my own history and my own things to focus on.”
Sylvia Jeffreys is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.