Zara Cooper Transcript

OUTcast S3, Ep 2 • 28 March 2023 • 43:12

Rosie 00:00:07 Welcome to OUTcast, the podcast where we hear coming out stories from famous faces and brilliant LGBTQ+ people working hard behind the scenes, from all backgrounds and from all corners of the globe. On this podcast, we discover life stories, and in doing so, we dissect some of the most pressing issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Today we hope we can support and inspire you, our listeners, whether you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, out or not, or an ally listening to learn more. I’m Rosie Pentreath, your host, and I’ve shared my coming out story in writing and on various panels, and I know firsthand the value of talking through my experiences. Now I’m giving people from all corners of life and from all backgrounds the same opportunity. You may have listened to other episodes before, and if you have, thank you for coming back. Or you may be here for the first time because of our guest. Welcome. You can follow us on social media at OUTcastLGBT, and you can find us online at Thank you for listening.

Rosie 00:01:28 Today I’m speaking with Zara Cooper. Zara is one half of the Melbourne-based global shoe brand PaperKrane. And her story really stood out to me. She’s a mum of three. She came out as gay after the birth of her third child when she met and fell in love with a woman at the party that both of their children had been invited to. She navigated falling in love against the backdrop of her Jewish community and the backdrop of running her own very successful business. She’s wonderfully open and generous with her story. Hello Zara. Welcome to OUTcast podcast. It’s amazing to have you with us.

Zara 00:02:03 Thank you so much.

Rosie 00:02:05 So we are going to hear all about your coming out story today. Before we kick things off, do you mind me asking how you identify in terms of your sexuality? Do you identify as lesbian, gay, LGBTQ+, queer…?

Zara 00:02:20 All of the above! Really anything. I’m easygoing! I think I tend to say I’m gay, probably more than the others, but absolutely any of the terms I feel apply to me and I’m really comfortable with any of them being used to describe me.

Rosie 00:02:38 So let’s go back to the beginning. Where does your coming out story begin?

Zara 00:02:43 Gosh, now that I look back, I would probably say it began in my mid-thirties when my best friend and I developed non-platonic feelings for one another. And I say that, you know, you say it in one sentence, but actually the whole journey of that happening was quite gradual and took several years time. I had my third child, my youngest when I was 31. And my whole life I was obsessed with having children and you know, I was married to my high school sweetheart and we had these three gorgeous children and you know, even when I had her my third, I was dead set. I want to have another one, I want to have a fourth. And my father actually turned 70 and took the whole family away to Thailand to celebrate. And I just remember sitting on that plane with my three little kids and something in me realised I can’t explain why then and there, I just knew I was done.

Zara 00:03:45 I knew I was complete, my family was complete. And I’ve got to say almost at exactly that time is when everything started to happen with my best friend. And, you know, it started off quite gradually, it was crush like feelings and we just had a really amazing dynamic, amazing chemistry, friendship. We had the same sense of humour. And I just found myself noticing whether her car was parked outside school pickup – our girls went to school together and you know, that’s how it began. And it, as it sort of became more and more intense. I was really honest with myself and from the outset I spoke to my sister, to my friends. I even spoke to my now ex-husband. I was like, “it’s just bizarre”. Like I’ve got these really strange feelings and I’ve never really had that before and I couldn’t understand it. It took a while for that to develop further into something, you know, really non platonic, like into more sexual feelings and thoughts on my part. Yeah. And yeah, that went on for years, that whole journey.

Rosie 00:04:50 Yeah. And what about your best friend? Was she having a similar experience? Were you talking about it honestly, or, yeah, what was her, what was her kind of situation?

Zara 00:05:02 So with her, she was also married, three children. And I’m not the best at putting myself out there and making myself vulnerable. So it took quite a while. And I think when I was kind of sure that there was something there with her as well, did we sort of start to talk about it. And I think how we felt was more like that we were in love with one another. That’s how it felt. It was just like, I feel so alive. And for me personally, I won’t speak on her behalf, but for me personally, how it felt was all the things that felt wrong in my life in terms of being with a man in terms of, you know, even when I was a teenager and I would kiss boys and everything always just felt so wrong. Having boys attracted to me felt so wrong and it, it just never felt right.

Zara 00:05:51 I always felt so different and I couldn’t understand, you know, what was wrong with me, basically. And this experience, it was really the most alive I’d ever felt the most connected to my body, to my soul. And, and that’s how it progressed for me. And I, I know that she felt feelings towards me as well, but you know, we were in really different situations. I was wanting to be really open about it and to explore it and I mean, understandably so, she wasn’t in the same place. So, you know, it just, it wasn’t to be, and I think that’s how life works. But what came out of that is that it really made me realise, “hang on a sec, there’s something within me that’s always been there that I think has, I’ve always known has been there, but I need to explore this. I can’t turn back now. I can’t unsee what I’ve seen”.

Rosie 00:06:44 It sounds like it felt really natural to you almost this, this kind of realisation. And not all relationships last, but they can be powerful and so important for your life journey, can’t they? And it sounds like that’s what you two had.

Zara 00:06:58 Absolutely. I just think that this was just an incredible female-to-female friendship relationship that opened up a part of me that has now brought me to where I am today. And I had to go through that. And truly it was a magnificent journey to have been on, really. So I’m really glad it happened.

Rosie 00:07:21 Yeah. And you talk about feeling not quite normal or, or feeling wrong. Was this an inkling that you might be not straight, that you might be queer in some way, you might be gay? Or had you not quite made that step? Really.

Zara 00:07:38 Not at all. I, I would test myself. I would look at other women and be like, no, not attractive. It’s just her. It’s just her. And even then, it wasn’t like a fully, fully, fully sexual desire. It was really like a crush and, you know, wanting to kiss her. And I still didn’t know if anything more than that would be right for me, if that’s who I was, if that would feel good. There were still a lot of questions at that time and I most certainly didn’t identify as gay because at the time when this was all going on, I went to a nightclub with my best buddy who funnily enough was going through the exact same thing. She was married with three kids, fell in love with a woman and wow, it was amazing. Unlike me, she’d previously been with women and so this was something she was going through and I sort of went to a, a gay club with her and you know, a lot of women were coming up to me and wanting to get to know me.

Zara 00:08:35 And one of them actually said to me, “so, you know, you’ve told me this story, but are you gay?” And I said, “I’m really not sure.” And I genuinely felt like a bit of an imposter there that night because I was chatting to all these women and there was so much interest and I felt so alive and amazing and like, oh my God, this is the first time I’ve been at a club and I feel so at home and I felt incredible, but yet I still didn’t know for sure if I was gay. And I did have, you know, this, a bit of imposter syndrome.

Rosie 00:09:02 Yeah. It sounds like even though you weren’t sure though, I mean it might be hindsight listening to you now, but you sound quite assured and like, you know yourself. I mean, you had a family, you were with someone for years, a couple of decades nearly. So you were, you are, yes, you are going through this at a really emotional – an emotionally mature time in your life. Because I was gonna ask you when you sort of admitted it to yourself, but it sounded like there was an assurance there. So even if you had it imposter syndrome, it’s not like you were sort of having to really come out to yourself or, or perhaps you were, how do you speak to that?

Zara 00:09:39 I was brought up in a really strong female family. My mum was always like, just backed us. She was always our cheerleader. She brought us up to be really comfortable with ourselves, with whoever we were. I had no issue if I’m gay, then I’m gay. There was nothing there that was like, “Ooh, I’m scared, I’m ashamed. I don’t want be that.” I nothing like that. There was never any fear associated with it. It was genuinely self-doubt. Like, okay, so if I do explore this, am I also gonna feel wrong physically with a woman? Am I perhaps asexual? Is there something wrong with me? I really… that’s how it sounds, really, like negative self-talk saying, is there something wrong with me? But it did feel like that because in every context in my life, since I was a teenager, people were talking about being sexual and loving it.

Zara 00:10:29 I mean, people fight wars over it, people kill each other over it! And I just could never understand why, why, what are people going on about? This is just the drabbest thing on earth. It feels wrong. There’s nothing special about it. I just don’t understand. And that’s what I was like, perhaps that’s just me. Perhaps there’s something with me. Perhaps there’s something missing in me. So that’s how it was. And, and I was quite scared to make the leap and try that, you know, the thought of it obviously until I met my partner, which was by the way, all in the thick of this as well, there wasn’t a break between, it was like, oh, I think I’m gay, bang, I meet her. You know? And then, and then after that everything just felt right. Everything fell into place. I didn’t even feel like I was exploring. It just felt like I’d come home.

Rosie 00:11:24 Do you kind of think about a parallel or universe where all of this might have happened younger when you were a teenager or early twenties? Do you wish it had been different or perhaps not?

Zara 00:11:47 I would not change a single thing about my life and how it transpired. You know, my children’s father, I’m so grateful he’s their father. I’m so grateful that we’re still very amicable and in each other’s lives and doing this mom and dad thing together, we’re really, really, I think, well suited to parent our kids together. I would not change that for anything really. Is there a small part of me that wishes that my partner and I got to do life together and have kids together? And yes, I would’ve loved to have experienced that with her. We have such an incredible relationship and mutual respect and understanding and part of me is like, oh my God, it would’ve been amazing to be moms together and have children together and, and have done that. But I just don’t think that that was supposed to be our journey. And she’s got two children and I’ve got three children, so we kind of still are mothering together. And that’s wacky and wonderful and amazing in its own right. So yeah, I’m, I’m curious to know what it would’ve been like, but I I don’t wish it were any different. That’s the honest truth.

Rosie 00:12:46 It sounds like, yeah, coming together as two mums would’ve enhanced that bond and that connection you had. Yes. Similar experiences.

Zara 00:12:55 Yeah, definitely.

Rosie 00:12:57 So what was it like: you were secure in yourself and this journey evolved so beautifully and naturally. What was it like first telling people? Do you have sort of sharp memories of the first few people you told? Obviously you had your husband at the time, perhaps your parents really good friends…

Zara 00:13:17 You know, there was never a… I think because my journey was quite gradual and I was honest from the outset. So for the last few years I’d been saying, oh my God, my best friend. There’s this woman, and I feel this and I feel that I, I really like, I had that conversation with my ex-husband multiple, multiple times. He knew everything. And this went on for years. So look, I nobody ever suspected that I was gay. Truly no one in my life ever thought that. And so when I sort of, this all came to a head and I got to a point where these feelings were so big inside me and I needed to breathe, that’s how it felt. I just, I I, I needed to understand this. I needed to explore this come what may, and I, I had that conversation with my best friend and my now ex-husband.

Zara 00:14:05 I believe I had that conversation with them on a Thursday or a Friday. And on Sunday I met my partner at a kindergarten partying. Once I met my partner, I just, it was just instant. And it wasn’t, you know, automatically sexual or anything like that. It was just, I’ve known you in every lifetime, you’ve known me in every lifetime. How do we catch each other up? How do we join each, you know, to one another at the hip and just, you know, amalgamate our lives as quickly? It it was just like that. It was intense. It was like a knowing. It was just a knowing. And I think everyone around me straightaway just knew. So it was never like, guys, I’ve met this woman and I’m gay now. We just became these two people who kind of became one person and that was it. That was my coming out basically.

Rosie 00:14:57 Yeah. And what was it like navigating that with, with your children? So with your three children and with her two children, how, how did those things intersect?

Zara 00:15:06 I’d been with my ex-husband for 20 years and she’d been with her ex-partner in a long-term relationship. They had the two kids together. So we had this undeniable connection from minute one, but it was imperative for both of us that we approached this with respect to our now exes to our families. We weren’t going to disrespectfully rushing to this and create anything secretive or untoward or, I’m, I’ve always been an open person and this was something I knew was so hugely important. So I wasn’t gonna change being the open person I’ve always been. So I approached my ex-husband and probably like two or three weeks after meeting her was when we decided to end the marriage because I think it just became an understanding that we can’t continue our marriage while I explore this. That wasn’t an option for us. And so we told the kids that we were going to separate and then we probably waited, I don’t remember, it was a few days or perhaps a week before, we then sat them down and explained my sexuality and what was happening and what was going to be happening.

Zara 00:16:13 And the kids were amazing. Truly. Like, my eldest, she was 10 and her words to me, I mean I still sometimes cry over the memory of this, but her words to me and her eyes filled with tears. And she said, “I’m so proud of you Mum, and I’m so happy for you.” Yes. And that was her response. And it was just, I actually snapped a photo of us sitting there when I, like, I’ve still got that photo, it just warms my heart. And the other, I mean, my other one, she was little. She was I think four or maybe just turned five. And she knew no different. There was no coming out to her. She absolutely knew no different and still doesn’t, to her it’s like gay, straight girls, boys. It’s really all an acceptable form of love. And that’s just how she’s grown up.

Zara 00:17:01 And, and my middle child, you know, we were cooking dinner at the time and I sort of explained to him the situation and he said, “oh, does this mean that daddy’s going to be with men now?” And I said, “no, not necessarily. That’s not at all what it means, but you know, who knows what the future may bring.” And he goes, “okay, cool. Is the chicken almost ready?” And that was it. So yeah, you know, that’s how we progress. It’s a non-event really. It’s an absolute non-event. And you know, in my youngest daughter’s class, there’s, I think out of the 17 kids in her class, there were three with same sex parents. Wow. Yeah. And you know, half of my daughter’s year are gay, bi pan trans. It’s so open and beautiful and everyone just kind of accepts every variation of human being and that’s how it should be. That’s how we brought them up before this situation even happened. So yeah. Yeah. I feel really blessed to have gone through this journey at this point in time. I feel very lucky.

Rosie 00:18:02 Yeah. Well there are still challenges in the community and around the world for LGBTQ+ people. Yes. In this scenario, in, in the world that perhaps we are in, perhaps I’m in a bubble as well and I always acknowledge that, but there is a, a lifting of stigma and a, a visibility to LGBTQ+ people that’s just incredibly hopeful. And you mentioned how your children each reacted, and I think it does reflect society right now where both of us are based in the world at least. That there is that openness and that safety and that diversity. You know, people can be hopeful and you can, or just be a non-event, like you said,

Zara 00:18:44 That’s what we want. And I think we’ve still got a ways to go. Yeah. Because I still do find there’s a lot of dialogue about, well, you know, it’s amazing. We are so supportive of you, we’ve supported you, we’ve been so supportive. And it’s like, well, I’m not supportive of you for being hetero. I’m not, you shouldn’t have to be supportive of me. There’s nothing I’m doing that that should require your support. It should just be a non-event. It should just be another variation of love and it shouldn’t really be an issue. I mean, it’s great that you are supportive of me and I’m grateful, like I said, that I live in a time where the majority of people in my life are, but I just really, I think the next step is that it’s like if my child came out to me, I wouldn’t be like, well I’m so supportive of this. I’d be like, amazing. What’s for dinner? Do you know what I mean? Because yeah, that’s who she is and I support all the things about her, including that. That’s just another thing. And I just don’t think we should be made to feel that we’re some kind of minority that really needs to be spearheaded and supported eventually. I, I’d love it to just be something that’s really normal. Yeah. And a non-event for everybody.

Rosie 00:19:49 That’s it. And I think as different parts of our community are lifted up more and more, and yeah, the more that happens, the more normal it will just become.

Zara 00:19:58 I love that. And another thing I feel like the challenge, the unique challenge that I faced was, I think a challenge that a lot of women face whereby, you know, your first duty is to be a good wife and a good mother. And if you pursue your own truth in the way that I have, well, you’re selfish. You’ve destroyed your family unit. You had such a lovely man. How could you do that? How could you make your children have to live in two separate homes? And you know, you do hear those mutterings. So I think people in my situation who have been married and have lived in a hetero relationship and have had children with a man, I think that is kind of a unique challenge that we do face this, you know, label of being selfish. And that’s not always easy. But in general, I’ve gotta say, I’m not the kind of person that would even bother if people thought or said that to my face. I think I’d be like, I’m not even gonna bother trying to justify myself. Because I think that’s even more degrading to have to prove to you that I’m not selfish for living my truth and being who I am. But yeah, to all the people out there who are in a similar situation to me or women, like keep your head high, because I think that’s the kind of backlash that people do tend to get, who’ve been through a similar journey to the one that I’ve been on.

Rosie 00:21:13 Yeah, absolutely. And I think often those comments reflect the people making them more than you or more than the person that is apparently being selfish. I think that people somehow mix up selfishness, which I’m using air quotes around, and honesty, or living truly. And I think the system requires us so often not to live truly, that once you do, people perceive it as selfish perhaps because they can’t live their own truth, whatever that might be, it’s very complicated. Yeah. I just loved hearing you say that it, it resonated a lot and I hope it resonates with people listening who might be in similar situations. Yep. It’s like any big decision, a decision not to have children or a decision to move to a different country in the world. You know, any big decision like that is often packaged up with these emotional and probably wrong direction, judgmental comments.

Zara 00:22:07 You know, I feel grateful that I had the strength to make decisions based on what felt right to me, rather than the people who were trying to get in my ear and prevent me from living my truth. Because at the end of the day, my children are so much better off. I feel like they are so happy, so well adjusted. My ex-husband and I get on better now than we did when we were married. We parent better as a team than we did. He’s more hands on. They’ve got an extra strong person in their life, you know, less reliant on me to be that mother figure solely. He’s that too. And they’re doing so well. And I think they’ve seen that it’s okay to be true to yourself. It’s okay. And not to mention they see the love that my partner and I have. We don’t fight. We have such a mutual respect and genuine love and joy in one another’s presence. And I love that they’re growing up seeing a parent who holds hands and, and, and kisses and is affectionate and is full of warmth and love and passion. I feel blessed that they’re seeing this

Rosie 00:23:12 For sure. Did you watch that kind of love in your household growing up? You mentioned having a strong mother. What were they like and what were they like about you coming out?

Zara 00:23:21 My parents had a really toxic marriage.

Rosie 00:23:23 Okay. So no.

Zara 00:23:24 Yeah, it was quite… it was actually quite a difficult divorce to go through as the children in the middle of that. My mum was an incredible force and, you know, always held us up and it was just, yeah, it was difficult. But I’ve, I’ve got to say to you, I was so relieved when she told me that her and my dad were splitting up and they ended up so much better off. They ended up going from mortal enemies who slept on opposite sides of the house to like, by the time my ex-husband and I got married, sat in the same room together, danced at my wedding, like, and it brought out better versions of them. And I’m telling you that that whole experience is what made me so certain and confident that if my ex-husband and I were true to ourselves, it would be the same situation for my children.

Zara 00:24:13 They would be better off because he’s a beautiful man and I think I’m a pretty good person. But we didn’t bring out the best in one another. And especially with my internal journey that I was going on, it was often frustrating for me to be what I perceived trapped in that marriage and not able to explore and understand myself again because of these, this stigma of being selfish and you should be a good wife. And, you know, so we didn’t, I just knew deep down cause of the experience I’d been through with my parents, everything’s gonna be fine, but we do have to be amicable. We decided we will have no lawyers. We will do everything ourselves. We will write our own rules. We will, we will keep our heads above water and we will do this together. And we have, we’ve always stuck to that.

Zara 00:24:59 And so we are really lucky in that we’ve been able to create that situation. And I know it’s not the same for many people, so I don’t take that for granted. But my parents bad marriage and bad divorce taught me a lot of lessons that I think I carried into this situation and I’m, I’m really happy it played out the way it did. And in terms of their support, well my mom has been nothing but supportive. Like I said, cheerleader, as long as her children are happy, she’s happy. It’s her own happiness, our happiness. My mom’s like the least narcissistic person you’ll ever meet. We’re not an extension of her. We’re not a reflection of her. So it’s not like, what are people gonna save? My child’s gay? There’s none, no ego in her parenting. It is just like, it is simple for her.

Zara 00:25:44 Are you happy? Are you good? Are you doing good? Great. Amazing. I’m here for you no matter what that looks like. And you know, when my ex-husband and I were bird nesting when we just split up, we kept the kids in the same, we kept them in our house and we’d take turns. So he’d move in with them for a week. I’d move out to my mom’s, then I’d move me move in, and he’d move in with his parents. So that early period of living with my mom when I just met my partner and my partner was staying with me at my mom’s and we still look back and say, that was the best time of our lives. Just the warmth that she created. And it was just, it was so loving and supportive and wonderful and she’s amazing. And I think in terms of my, my dad, I think he has struggled and still continues to struggle.

Zara 00:26:32 It’s been a bit of a different experience with him. And you know, I just think that sometimes that’s how life works out. And we have to agree to disagree. I promised myself that I would never waste my breath trying to justify to people that I’m a good person, that I haven’t done anything bad, that I haven’t ruined my children, that I haven’t been an awful wife. And all these things I know deep within me that I haven’t, and I don’t feel like I have to prove that to anybody else. I just feel like I have to continue to be true to myself, to be the best mother I can be, to be the best human I can be. And that’s my job, my job’s. Not to prove to anybody else that I’m worthy, that I’m gay, that I’m not, whatever I am. And so we sort of came to that understanding. And once I accepted within myself that it’s not my job to convince others of my story, the rightness of my story, I think I became more at peace with the situation.

Rosie 00:27:32 Yeah, I like that. Being at peace with it. You’re not going to necessarily change your dad or, or anyone else’s mind. If they’ve made up a mind or they’ve got a certain thought or a rigidity around the situation, you know, you can’t necessarily change that. But staying true to yourself is often how you navigate this.

Zara 00:27:51 That’s exactly right. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. And you know, he grew up in a really different time with a different set of conditioning and a different set of rights and wrongs instilled in him. And I respect that and that’s okay, you know, but it’s also okay for me to be me. And it’s also okay for me to do what feels right for myself and for my family. And as long as we can come to an understanding that you are okay, I’m okay. Let’s just, you know, let’s just try and move on as best we can. I’m, I’m happy with that situation.

Rosie 00:28:22 Absolutely.

Rosie 00:28:30 You are Jewish. What was it like coming out in the Jewish community? Am I right in thinking you’re involved in the community and that that plays a part in your life?

Zara 00:28:50 Very much so. So I actually grew up going to a very religious Jewish school. And we’re not a religious family at all. In fact, I’m atheist, but I loved school. I went to an only girl school. It was just, it was my place and I absolutely loved it there. And still maintain quite a few friendships from there. And recently, last week actually at Mardi Gras, I proposed to my partner. So we’re, we’re recently engaged and…

Rosie 00:29:14 Oh, congratulations! That’s so amazing. Congratulations.

Zara 00:29:18 Thank you so much. And so, yeah, a lot of people from my school, like religious people have reached out and, and you know, they even put up on our class Facebook page, you know, mazel tov. I really feel quite blessed that that, you know, I haven’t felt any backlash. My, my son, it’s his bar mitzvah next year. And we decided where we want, you know, him to have his lessons and do his preparations and sort of, we came out to the rabbis and said, look, we’ve got a really modern, unusual family and we want that to be respected and we want that. We don’t want a traditional bar mitzvah. We want it to be us and our, and they sort of said, are you able to sort of extend on that a little bit and explain? And I just came out and told them a whole story and they were also wonderful, respectful.

Zara 00:30:05 They were like, thank you for sharing. Absolutely. That’s wonderful for everyone and we’ll make this work. It sounds phenomenal. And so that’s the religious side, but I’m actually more, my kids don’t, they go to a Jewish school but not a religious school. And I’m more like, you know, yeah, the majority of my friends and community is Jewish but not religious, just more modern. And it really, as far as I know, at least to my face or how it’s appeared, it’s truly been business as usual. They go to quite a liberal school, lot of same-sex parents, a huge amount of LGBTQ children from a very young age now. And it’s really just part of the acceptance, it’s part of the diversity of life. And I have not felt at all any backlash from the Jewish community. I’ve felt truly nothing but support and positivity.

Rosie 00:30:56 No, one of my favourite things about founding this podcast is that a few of my guests have been religious or from religious backgrounds. And actually religion has been a recurring theme. You know, a few stories about stigma around religion, but more often more positive stories about how people’s religions have supported them or you know, how their faith absolutely supports LGBTQ+ experiences. So yeah, it’s actually been a really beautiful discovery, not to myself have a prejudice and assume a religious community or religious upbringing has a negative sort of message for LGBTQ+ people. Because that’s often not the case.

Zara 00:31:36 I agree. And I think if we’re a, you know, open, loving, diverse community, religion can fit within that.

Rosie 00:31:44 Definitely. This all took place while you were developing your business. PaperKrane shoes, they’re described as barefoot shoes. That’s the first thing that really intrigued me. What are barefoot shoes and what’s the ethos of the company?

Zara 00:31:58 Current shoes, like all shoes that we’ve worn for the last, you know, couple of centuries, the aesthetic behind shoes has been solely dictated by fashion. So you’re seeing heels, stiff materials, pointy toes, all these things that are terrible for your feet. Any heel elevation, it’s not good for your body. I mean, we can feel the effects of it at the end of the day. Like there’s just no arguing that. Right. And the premise behind barefoot shoes is that the more you walk barefoot, the better it is. It allows your feet to splay properly, to move properly. I mean, you have thousands of sensors at the bottom of your feet that communicate with your brain. They determine your gate, how you walk, how you move. And here we are constantly basically putting that into a prison, into a brace. And so what our shoes do is try and mimic barefoot as closely as possible.

Zara 00:32:52 So our shoes are designed to protect your feet, but other than that, they’re completely flat, they’re light, they’re ultra flexible and they’re foot shaped. So you don’t have the pointy toes. They allow your feet to sit in their most natural position. And we’ve just found that the benefits of living this as people are now calling it the barefoot lifestyle, there’s more and more research coming out now to show how tremendous those benefits are. Even some recent studies are now showing that wearing barefoot shoes can help to solve pelvic floor issues, things like that. You know, it’s absolutely wonderful. I’m actually a corporate lawyer by background, but I studied fashion and my business partner’s a designer, and we say that we bring the fashion into function and we bring street to bare feet. And so that’s what we are all about. We’re all about bringing fashion, high fashion, fun to this market. And so, yeah, that’s what we’ve been doing. And it’s been incredible. Recently at Mardi Gras, 60 performers on the Poof Doof to float all wore our shoes. And it was just, oh wow. I reckon that’s definitely a career highlight, seeing that

Rosie 00:34:01 You’ve told an anecdote before that your partner, when you met her, their son was wearing the shoes. Am I right?

Zara 00:34:08 Yeah, yeah. So that kindergarten party I met her at, yeah, my daughter and her son were invited to the same kindergarten party and he was wearing those shoes. And so later that night when we met up, she was like, oh, oh my God, you’re PaperKrane. Like, that’s crazy. My son, yeah, he’s obsessed with your shoes. They’re his favourite shoes ever. He won’t take them off. Like, it was just so funny. He was like randomly obsessed with this pair of our shoes. And so, yeah, I think another, another piece of evidence that it was all meant to be. Right.

Rosie 00:34:39 Yeah. It’s so gorgeous. Does that happen quite often to people? Do you meet people who know PaperKrane and you have to sort of say, oh, well I’m sort of behind that in a major way.

Zara 00:34:51 It’s happening more and more often, and I’ve gotta say like, it’s such a nice feeling. My sister was in the airport, she was traveling and she goes, “oh my God, look what I just saw.” And she’d snapped a photo of a whole family wearing our shoes. And my daughter just sent me a voice text the other day going, “Mum, Mum, I just saw someone wearing PK boots!” You see people on social media because they tag us. But then when you’re actually out in the wild and you see people wearing them, it, it feels so incredible. It feels quite amazing.

Rosie 00:35:19 Yeah. Yeah. Must do. You’ve talked a lot about it already, but how would you sum up how coming out has changed your life or, or how it feels now to be an out gay person and in love with your partner and honest and whole? Can you encapsulate that feeling and describe it to our listeners?

Zara 00:35:39 I just, I feel alive. I feel like I’m living, I feel like I am the fullest, most colourful version of myself. I, I just feel, obviously life’s not always easy. You know, I’ve got the normal stresses and things that everybody else has, but I have them as myself. And you know, I look back and all I ever wanted, anyone who knows me back from school, back from when I was a child, used to laugh. I was obsessed with having kids. It was this deep need in me that it was an ache within my body from as far back as I can remember. And it was, I used to look at people when I was five years old who were holding a baby and just my body used to ache to have that baby, to have a baby. And so I think that that’s, that’s what allowed me to live my life wearing blinkers, because to me the natural step towards that was marriage.

Zara 00:36:32 And, and that’s not to say that I, my, I loved my ex-husband. We had a beautiful friendship, relationship. I mean, I was 17 when I met him. We were also inseparable and we grew up together. You know, his family was my family, my family was his family, and we had three children together that was genuine. It’s just this part of me that felt like there was something missing. Always. That’s, that’s how it was. But I think the fact that I was having these children, I’d always wanted and had this beautiful man by my side sharing that journey with me, that allowed me to continue to blinker myself and throw myself into that. And I don’t regret any of it. It was wonderful. Like, I loved motherhood, you know, with all its hardships and whatever it brings, you know, if you’ve been through what you understand.

Zara 00:37:20 And I felt so complete and content in that. And then it was, I think once I was mentally done with that stage of my life, and that didn’t happen consciously, that’s when the, the real version of myself was like, let me out now. Let me out. Like I, I want to come out and that’s a force that can’t be stopped. And I’m glad I didn’t try and stop it. I’m glad I didn’t torture myself with like, trying to bury that back in. I, I feel really happy and proud that I embraced that entire journey. And I’m so grateful for the outcome of it all. Because like I said, it’s, I am, I am me. And that’s the best part of it all.

Rosie 00:38:00 Yeah. Nothing beats it. And I think if you haven’t been LGBTQ+ or stigmatised in another way, you don’t quite understand what that means to not be yourself. And I think listening to this, I hope allies and people who perhaps haven’t been through that can understand it through your words because it really is such a relief and such a celebration when you get there.

Zara 00:38:23 That’s right. And I think what people don’t understand is it’s like if you expect a person who is queer and needs to explore that, to not do that for whatever reason, it is essentially the same as telling them to stop breathing. And I think that’s what people need to understand. It is like telling someone stop breathing. So I remember when I realised that things couldn’t continue on with my best friend, that I wouldn’t be able to explore that. And then I looked at my marriage and I, I felt like a part of me sunk. Like, I’ve, I can’t unsee what I’ve seen. How do I go back to this now? Who am I, what do I do? Where do I belong? It was this feeling of, it was like I was being sucked up by quicksand, you know? It was awful. It was, it was awful. And so I’m, I I think people need to understand and respect that this is who we are. This needs to be given oxygen, this needs to be respected and cherished and allowed to breathe. And yeah. Asking someone who’s gay or you know, in the queer community to not be themselves is truly robbing them of being alive.

Rosie 00:39:35 Yeah. Such a, an incredible way of putting it. I want to finish on a really hopeful note. The whole conversation has been absolutely kind of sprinkled in hope actually. But we’ve just had world pride here in Sydney. You mentioned that you came down from Mardi Gras that Poof Doog was wearing your shoes, and of course you proposed and became engaged, which is, is wonderful. So, so many hopeful things. I was gonna mention, I took part in the 500,000 strong pride march across the bridge. It was so hopeful. And you know, you see families of all backgrounds and of all sizes and shapes just flying the rainbow flag all ages. And it’s just the most hopeful thing. It was very moving. What gives you hope as an lgbtq plus person?

Zara 00:40:26 I’ve gotta say on that note with Sydney, I have never experienced anything like that. The feeling of being in Sydney during Mardi Gras. It was like the city was so proud to have that there. That’s what it felt like. Every shop, country road, Mecca, anything, you name it, everyone had changed their signage and rainbow and such love. And just the smiles and the warmth. And people would say to my partner and I, my fiancee and I, oh, can I take a photo of you too? You look so beautiful together. You know? And it was just, I can’t even explain to you, it was the most beautiful thing. And I said to her, you know, if there wasn’t such a thing as the lgbtq I plus community, there wouldn’t be this. We have brought this love, this incredible love, this celebration of love to this city.

Zara 00:41:16 And that’s what I feel like it, it was the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. And when the Dykes on Bikes opened the parade, I, I, I was so flooded with emotion. I had tears streaming down my eyes. It is the most wonderful, wonderful thing. And I just feel like as long as we can keep celebrating love, I think we as a community should be so proud that we are the ones in the world spearheading that celebration of love. All these things we do are just trying to make people realize that love in all its forms should be celebrated and truly coming back from Mardi Gras. I think I’m gonna remember that for the rest of my life. That feeling that that brought and yeah. I can’t wait for next year, by the way. I’ll be back. My whole family wants to go. It was amazing.

Rosie 00:42:09 Yeah, it’s amazing. I I can agree more. It just feels amazing. I still feel like I’m on a hive from the, the last two weeks. It’s just absolutely wonderful and hopeful.

Zara 00:42:20 Yeah, the best. And really, like, I feel so proud to be part of a community that has brought that into the world and it’s just the best.

Rosie 00:42:30 That’s it. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’ve been so generous and so honest and so open. I really appreciate it.

Zara 00:42:39 Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Rosie 00:42:42 Thank you for listening to OUTcast, a podcast with interviews and coming out stories from inspiring LGBTQ+ people. You can follow us on social media at @OUTcastLGBT, and you can find us online at

Published by OUTcast Podcast

Coming out stories from inspiring LGBTQ+ people today.

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