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In My Own Words - Bec Cartwright

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In my own words - BEC CARTWRIGHT

Sunday Telegraph Magazine

17 April 2005

Her life has always been different from the next teenager's, but her surprise engagement to tennis ace Lleyton Hewitt means the 21-year-old Home and Away star is making headlines like never before

I was hyperactive as a kid. Mum said that as soon as she put my clothes on, I'd take them off. I just liked to be out there, naked. As you get older, you realise you're not supposed to do that, although I remember being seven and still only wearing bikini bottoms.

I used to talk a lot. The reason Mum got me into acting was that I was so chatty. I'd travel on a train somewhere and would have the whole carriage talking to me by the end of the trip. If I was shopping with Mum and Dad, while they were trying on jeans or whatever, I'd go off and start talking to all the tourists.

I got my first agent at five. I'd been dancing since the age of three and my dance teacher said I should be [signed up] with an agency. One day Mum went, "All right, we're going." She took me on straightaway.

I grew up a lot quicker than most teenagers. I started on Home and Away when I was 14. I was working in an adult world and I never had any down time or days to just hang out. I know you can't take it back, so I don't like to think of it too much.

Being on TV made me cautious about who my real friends were. All of a sudden, there'd be people who were years below me at school who'd see me in a shopping centre and come over and give me a big hug as though they were my best friend. I had no idea who they were.

I did lose contact with my friends in a big way. It was all so overwhelming for the first couple of years. I was so busy trying to fit school work in, I didn't hang out with them as much, and even when I did, they'd have in-jokes I didn't understand. I kind of felt a bit out of place.

I broke up with my boyfriend Beau Brady last year [bec and Beau announced their split in November] after four years. Our relationship went from a romantic one to a friendship. The end of any relationship is hard, but I know Beau and I will remain friends.

I'm now engaged to Lleyton Hewitt. We met at a celebrity tennis match for the Starlight Children's Foundation and we've been friends ever since. We caught up before Christmas and things obviously developed romantically. He proposed in our hotel room after the Australian Open final. Was I shocked? Yes and no. We both knew things were heading in that direction, but I had no idea he'd had time to buy a ring.

Mum and Dad love Lleyton. They know how happy I am with him, so they were really pleased [for us]. It was all so great. We were all very excited.

I admire in Lleyton what I admire about all the men in my life, including my dad. Namely, being committed and dedicated to your career, having a sense of humour and showing passion and honesty. But who can predict the future? Right now, it's day by day and life is great.

Some media have been scathing about our engagement. But I make my own decisions and do what's best for my life. You need to be true to yourself and I am. So it's simple - this is what's right for me.

We haven't made any wedding plans yet. Between my work and Lleyton's tennis, we haven't had enough time to think about the details. I don't think marriage will change me much, though. I still have my commitments on Home and Away and we've managed to work out how we can be together throughout the year, so it's life as normal. Lleyton is overseas a lot, but we can - and will - work around that.

I'd love to have a family. But that's not a goal at this stage in my life. It's too frightening - give me another 10 years at least. I've got a dog, Buster, and he's my baby substitute. He's a hyperactive kelpie who suffers separation anxiety.

I was brought up a Catholic. But I don't practise now. I believe there's more out there, but I think it's just important to live your life how you're going to be happy and not to upset anybody else along the way.

I'm really indecisive - it's my worst habit. But only with small decisions, like deciding what to eat. I know it drives other people nuts. But when it comes to something big, like when I bought my house, I woke up one day and thought, "Right, I'm getting it." I was 18.

I'm always saving dogs on the side of the road. I take them to the vet, then the owner if they're microchipped, or I ring the number on their tag and say, "Is your dog meant to be out?" I like to think that if anything ever happened to Buster someone would take care of him, too.

A trip to Vietnam changed my life. I went over to do a story on endangered species, but while I was there, I learnt more about the AIDS problem. Another actress I was with, Joy Smithers, took me to an orphanage where all the kids had AIDS. Before I went there, I didn't really know anything about HIV/AIDS and its prominence in the country. But now I'm going to do whatever I can to raise awareness [of it].

Some people consider it uncool to be in a soap. Some actors are almost apologetic about having been in a soap, and I think that's really sad. There's some good acting on these shows, especially considering how quickly we shoot these scenes. I'd love to move into the film industry, but I would never look back on Home and Away and talk it down.

I've always been a happy person. Mum and Dad say that even as a baby I'd wake up with a smile on my face, and even now, when I turn up to work at 5am, people say, "Why aren't you grumpy? Stop smiling." But I want to make the most of my life because it's the only one I've got and I'm going to use it wisely.

* Bec Cartwright stars as Hayley Smith on Home and Away each weeknight at 7pm on the Seven Network

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