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lip lit: roxy jacenko, strictly confidential (+ giveaway!)

If you live in Sydney, chances are you know who Roxy Jacenko is.

I’ve heard whispers of Jacenko through friends who work in PR. There’s the story about the graduate who was rejected for a job, and her only post-interview feedback was that she was “too nice”. Or the story about how Jacenko allegedly banned her staff from the consumption of carbs, and how she holds weekly weigh-ins in the office. While these are stories you take with a grain of salt – Australia is notorious for tall-poppy syndrome, after all – even if they were 100% true, I would still find it hard to not respect Jacenko.

After starting at Diesel as a receptionist and working her way up the ranks, she founded Sweaty Betty at 24. Now at 31, Jacenko employs a team of 20 and is responsible for over 70 fashion, lifestyle and beauty brands. Sweaty Betty also perhaps has the most name recognition of any PR firm in Sydney, and Jacenko is often in the social pages (and not just for spruiking her clients).With Jacenko’s reputation preceding her, I was intrigued when I received a copy of Jacenko’s debut chick-lit novel, Strictly Confidential.

The novel is centred around Jasmine Lewis (aka Jazzy Lou), a young publicist working at one of Sydney’s hottest PR agencies. Jazzy works long and erratic hours, does menial tasks without complaint and gets paid a pittance. She also works for a boss who would give Anna Wintour Miranda Priestly a run for her money. With murmurings circulating that Jacenko is a little more like the evil boss than the protagonist, I was curious to see the direction the novel would take.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Jacenko shoots down many misconceptions of PR being a glamourous world. Jazzy has a second job because her salary can barely cover her rent, her boyfriend is constantly angry at her because she barely sees him, and she sometimes has to wrangle Hollywood stars at 3AM. It’s refreshing to see the reality of the world of PR portrayed: it’s intense, cut-throat and fickle. PR is surprisingly devoid of fluff and glitter (well, 95% of the time anyway).

Strictly Confidential really gains momentum when Jazzy is fired and decides to start her own PR Firm, Queen Bee.  Jazzy’s new role as owner and director — and having to act accordingly — is where the novel reaches complexity. Could it be Jazzy discovers that her former boss wasn’t so evil after all, because she just needed to make difficult decisions in order for her business to be the best, and to do the right thing by her clients?

Thinly-veiled characters from Sydney’s social scene also grace the pages, and provides the reader with the fun of working out who is who. Which powerhouse magazine editor could the below be?

“Lillian Richard, editor of Eve Pascal women’s magazines. Lilian might have been last in line when it came to haircare but she was third in line in the Richard’s media dynasty.”

Strictly Confidential is definitely a quintesitial summer read. What is most refreshing about it – and what sets it apart from many of its contemporaries – it’s not about romantic love.  Romance isn’t even the b-storyline. It’s a novel about a woman working her way up into her career  and the missteps and success she encounters along the way. In a soundbite: Strictly Confidential is witty, quick and completely captivating.

We have one copy of Strictly Confidential to give away. To win, e-mail [email protected] with how you would describe Roxy Jacenko if you were disguising her in your own novel.  


Allen and Unwin

Out in bookstores now

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