The daughter of Australian TV icon Jeanne Little has opened up about her superstar mum’s life and legacy for tonight’s Australian Story episode on ABC.
The Australian icon, known for her distinct voice and high camp wardrobe, passed away last November after battling Alzheimer’s for over a decade.
Jeanne made her TV debut in 1974 on The Mike Walsh Show, but in the early years was only being paid $25 a week.
Katie Little, Jeanne’s daughter, told Australian Story her mother loved fashion all her life and “always wanted to look fabulous.”
“She’d rip photos of Hollywood movie sirens out of Vogue magazines and stick them on the wall,” Katie told Australian Story.
“And she’d figure out how to do something similar on a shoestring budget.”
To do so, Jeanne constructed her famous eye-popping frocks and hats from all sorts of household items.
Katie described growing up in the Little household as like being in a sitcom.
“I do really feel like I grew up in almost a theatrical production,” she said.
“I grew up in this big, tall terrace house and my bedroom was on the top floor with my mother’s sewing room.
“Down in the basement was my father’s interior design business. So we lived in this big, crazy creative mess.”
Katie also told Australian Story her mother’s signature voice was the result of a crippling childhood stutter.
“The way she overcame that was learning to elongate her words, like daaarling,” Katie explains.
“She put a lot of work into being able to speak.
“People would just stop in the street and turn around, they knew instantly it was Mum’s voice.”
Jeanne Little battled Alzheimer’s for 11 years
At age 68, Jeanne was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Katie explained it took some time for dad Barry to accept the diagnosis.
After her admission into care, Jeanne sadly deteriorated quickly and within three months could no longer recognise Katie.
Jeanne died on November 7, 2020.
Before her mother’s death Katie partnered with Neuroresearch Australia to create the Jeanne Little Alzheimer’s Research Fund.
Katie told Australian Story she wants her mother to be remembered for her incredible career in Australian entertainment.
“I am on a mission now to get mum the recognition I feel that she’s entitled to as one of Australia’s first female comedians,” she said.
“I’m not going to rest until I get that done.”
Australian Story’s I Dream of Jeanne screens on ABCTV at 8pm tonight (March 1) and streaming on ABC iView.
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