WARNING: This post discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is in distress, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.


If you’re not familiar with the ABC‘s interview / art sesh show ‘Anh’s Brush with Fame‘, artist, comedian and author Anh Do paints portraits of Australian celebrities while also having a good ol’ chin-wag. It’s fun, we all learn some things about iconic Aussies, and at the end the canvas is turned around for the ~big reveal~.

The unique format of the show means we usually see a side to Aussie icons we haven’t seen before, but last night’s finale, featuring Gold Logie award winner Samuel Johnson, had everyone bawling.

Johnson’s life has been marked by tragedy, and he spoke his truth about it. His mum died by suicide when Johnson was just three years old, and later his girlfriend, Lainie Woodlands, also took her own life in 2006.

“I’m still very upset for [Woodlands], and for her family and it’s probably my life’s biggest sadness,” he told Do. “You know how they reckon that you come to terms with your grief as you go along? Not with this one. With every year, it gets more profound, my sadness grows. I feel it a lot more profoundly than the loss of my mother.”

But a large part of Johnson’s life has been dealing with his sister Connie‘s multiple diagnoses of cancer. In 2014, he completed a year-long unicycle trek for the charity he and Connie set up – Love Your Sister – raising over $1.5 million for breast cancer research and awareness.

Connie has beaten cancer twice (first in the bone, and then in the womb), but in 2010 was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and given just six to twelve months to live. In January, she announced she’d decided to stop treatment.

Johnson’s story of how he found out Connie was first diagnosed with cancer, aged just 11, had the audience in tears.

“I’ll never forget the moment, the afternoon when I found out. I was waiting for my tennis lesson out in the front yard, just playing my strokes, you know? And Dad didn’t turn up, and it was very unlike my dad to not be there if he said he was gonna be there.

“He drove an old shitty blue Torana at the time. I remember the car coming into the driveway and me thinking, ‘I’m not gonna make my tennis lesson now.’ And I looked through the window and my sister was in the front seat, just wouldn’t look anywhere.

“Then I looked over at my dad and Dad was just white. He was just white. I was like, ‘Shit, something’s gone wrong here, man.

“And before I could ask Dad… And I’ve always been a good lip-reader because I’m half-deaf, and I could read his lips. He looked at her and said, ‘stay here,’ and then walked inside and ignored me. I was right there. And I followed him inside, and he was curled up on the couch in the foetal position, sobbing, just weeping, just bawling.”

You can watch the episode of ‘Anh’s Brush with Fame’ here, and see Anh’s finished product below.

Photo: ABC.