“I can remember when I first rode my bike without training wheels. I knew I wasn’t supposed to have a go unless [Dad] was there holding the bike – but I just took off,” says Pip Russell.
Determination is a trait that this suburban superstar and Brisbane local developed at a young age. After an unsuccessful application for a junior PR role at Network Ten, Pip auditioned for national children’s program Toasted TV.
“I wanted to do something that was very people-focused,” Pip explains. “A family friend told me to just be myself and pretend that I’m talking to a friend [during the audition]. They’re looking for the personality behind the person to hire, not someone who’s just going to put on an act.”
Pip believes that staying true to herself has been one of the driving factors of her professional success; she spent almost a decade in front of the camera at Network Ten, fronting Toasted TV and Totally Wild.
From the age of 18, Pip Russell has had a strong connection with the Children’s Hospital Foundation. An avid volunteer for the charity in her teens, Pip had to put this work on the backburner after landing the full-time position as a television presenter. However, the young TV personality continued to lend a hand organising “party days” for the children at the hospital.
Pip remembers this time in her life fondly, and says the work she carried out gave her great meaning. During one particular moment, while meeting some incredible children, Pip thought, “There’s an amazing opportunity to make an immediate and lasting impact here. I have to go down this path and see what’s possible.”
And that’s exactly she did. After almost a decade at Ten, Pip gave up her day job in 2014 to focus solely on her passion for making a difference. She created Juiced TV, a television service made for sick kids, by sick kids.
The weekly episodes are broadcast internally throughout the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital (the largest children’s hospital in the Southern Hemisphere), and experiences are also created for the children based on their wishes and the needs of their families.
Pip admits that the initial responses to her career change were mixed. “I could definitely sense some hesitations and raised eyebrows,” she says. “But for me, even if Juiced didn’t get off the ground, I still would have had a sense of contentment knowing that I did all I could to give it a shot.”
Now 30 years old, Pip puts the development of the initial Juiced TV concept (and its ultimate success) down to her experience in the national television industry.
“I had some incredible experiences [at Network Ten], learning from great producers, writing, post-production, and meeting many interesting people,” she says.
Juiced TV made worldwide headlines when international superstars Johnny Depp, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston graced the screen to greet children while filming on location in Brisbane and at the Gold Coast.
When asked what these visits meant for the children, Pip found it difficult to describe the impact. “It’s a positive ripple effect that is felt throughout the hospital – [for] all staff and families,” Pip says.
A return to commercial television is never off the cards: this past summer, the TV veteran spent time commentating from the pool deck at the Gabba for the Big Bash League. Even in her time away, Pip Russell hasn’t lost her touch as a presenter.
Despite enjoying the return, Pip assures us that Juiced TV remains at the forefront of her mind. “Before I say yes to any opportunities that come my way, I think about how it could benefit the program and the kids,” she says.
Since its creation in 2014, Juiced TV has provided Pip with personal rewards on many levels. Along with the obvious satisfaction of quashing any initial self-doubt, Pip tells us that the biggest rewards have come from the tiniest moments, such as “learning about the true meaning of family and selflessness, and seeing an oncology patient who didn’t believe she was pretty enough to be on TV gain confidence.”
The objective behind Juiced is to give sick kids back their childhood, and reduce the alienation felt in an environment that can be both daunting and painful for sick children and their loved ones.
Pip hoped that people would believe in Juiced TV but did not expect the level of support that the cause has received. “It’s incredibly humbling to think of all the wins we have had over the past two years of operation,” she says.
Pip also acknowledges that without the support from donors, fundraisers, guests, volunteers and some key people (with huge belief in the project), those wins may not have been achieved.
2017 is already jam-packed with events for Juiced TV. This year, the show will be expanding to regional hospitals throughout Queensland, taking patients to red carpet interviews at the Logie Awards, and carrying out a mini Commonwealth Games event for the children.
When asked what a young Pip Russell would think of the adult version, Pip says, “I think she’d be really proud, and she’d also laugh a lot. [She’d wonder] why there was always a lot of worry about whether things were going to work out, when they always do.”