I was with a talent agency in Wellington called Central Intelligence 1 Ltd and was working as a finished artist doing paste up. My hand had ceased (RSI related) and I did the ‘what do I do now?’ appeal whilst raising my eyes heavenwards. My agent at the time called to ask if I wanted to buy the agency. It seemed like a good idea and I’m a firm believer in fate. I’ve been an agent now for almost 30 years.
How would you describe today's NZ woman?
It would be insulting to categorise all NZ women under one description. We’re multi faceted. I love our vibrancy and courage, our readiness to support a common cause when we see injustice, our open admiration of each other even when we are a tad envious – the fact that our complexity doesn’t require an apology or justification, that we can follow fashion or not, try Botox once and laugh at ourselves for doing it (or was that just me?). I think we’re great and we’re not ashamed to attempt something new or have an opinion even if we fail or get things wrong.
What inspires you in your day to day life?
I have a slogan under my address on my emails which says ... Attitude is everything. Live simply; love generously; care deeply; speak kindly.
If nothing else, it inspires me to hold my tongue!
Can you give our readers three tips on becoming successful in business?
Build your foundations carefully, treat everyone respectfully and trust your instincts.
Tell us a couple of the highs and lows of running your own business.
The buck stops here but so do the profits. With the recession has come massive change to the business model you adopt and very little respite before the next issue arrives and you adapt again. It’s thrilling and exhausting in equal measure.
Any highlights of your career that you would like to share?
Representing Anna Paquin when she won her Oscar had to be the highlight of my career. It was a baptism by fire dealing with LA, the learning curve was vertical.
To be able to run a business whilst child rearing was no mean feat but I learned to ignore the fault finders and chose to work with people who understood and accepted that I came as part of a package deal – love me, love my family. Find fault and ..... join the far queue.
It was seldom easy in the early years but the reward recently was Eve turning 21 and in looking back on photos of her as a child she looked genuinely happy. I know this will sound ridiculous but I always felt guilty for short changing the children on quality time. I don’t imagine I was even close to being a ‘super mum’ but I didn’t break them! I can see Gene sniggering at this and shaking his head.
How do you relax when you are not working?
I garden myself to a standstill. There is nothing I love more than seeing things (or people) thrive. I also hammer away at Oamaru stone, I seldom finish any of the sculptures, that would mean I have to hold them up to public scrutiny.
Do you have any favourite quotes?
One of my father’s actually ‘common sense is none too common in this house’. I still find that amusing and I know so many bright people who fit the quote perfectly.
Is there anything else we need to know about Gail Cowan?
First woman apprentice in the printing industry in Australasia but that Gail is long forgotten....