MONIKA Kos is fresh from swimming laps in her suburban pool and arrives like clockwork at Channel 7’s studios with the unshakeable focus she has had for 20 years – current affairs.
“I love my work. Always have,” says the veteran voice of Seven’s Today Tonight.
It’s a brutal, testing business at the front end of Perth’s top-rating network, but Monika has survived – no mean feat.
Unflappable, oozing confidence and never embroiled in controversy or scandal.
Monika has flourished.
She has juggled the pressure of fulltime work with motherhood and family life, even breast-feeding both her children to age one in her dressing room at the old Dianella studios.
She says her boys, now teenagers, are precious to the life she shares with hubby Grant, a member of media royalty, the Willesees.
Grant, a freelance cameraman at Seven, juggles his schedules around Monika’s work demands, including shifts from 6am.
I point out to Monika that her 20 years at the helm of Today Tonight and her own 50th year both fall this year.
Monika shrugs it off. There’s nothing planned for a milestone celebration.
She has no urge to move on to other things in the lucrative TV business or to take a grand trip around the world – or anywhere specially.
“I really just take one day at a time. I always have and always will,” she says from her desk.
Monika and family are regular visitors to Tasmania where her great, great grandfather was a stalwart of the Catholic Church.
He wrote and published the Catholic Standard newspaper and his son was Tasmania’s chief draftsman.
Monika also has a half-brother in Tasmania, a farmer, she learnt about only late in life and they are regularly in touch.
On the day after Monika’s mum, Jane, told her about her half-brother, he turned up for a visit.
Monika was staggered and happy to learn she wasn’t an only-child.
Monika says the huge Willesee family holds get-togethers and reunions and she’s happy laughing along with many of their stories.
“The Willesees keep having boys. There are so many of them I can’t keep up,” she laughs.
Monika’s dad, Fritz was Austrian. It is ironic that one word Monika stumbles over pronouncing is the Austrian national dish, schnitzel.
Fritz was an architect who became Australia’s first architectural photographer.
He was prominent in Perth and his work is in Perth’s Battye Library.
Jane, Monika’s mother, was a graphic designer and artist.
Monika by all accounts was a steady Catholic school student before getting her Bachelor of Education.
She joined the Academy of Performing Arts and studied media performance before landing a job at 6PR as an assistant producer to announcer Steve Altham.
Monika moved up to become producer of the Drive program and when Altham left shortly afterwards, Monika suddenly found herself filling the microphone spot.
“I was out of my depth but everyone helped me along. I am thankful to Howard Sattler for constantly pointing me in the right direction,” she says.
Monika moved to Seven in 1990 as a cadet journalist.
Seven years later she began her weekday stints in front of the cameras hosting the highly-successful Today Tonight.
“Driving to work sometimes I would be crying that I’d be away from the boys but it all worked out and they’re both doing well.
“I feel good about being at the boys’ school happenings and sporting events, that I didn’t miss anything and that I have two loving boys and a loving, supporting husband,” she said.
Being at the studios each weekday by 11am allows Monika to be involved in getting the boys to school and Grant’s early finishes mean he can be with the boys and do afternoon parental duties.
Arriving at work each day, Monika grabs a coffee and catches up with events from overnight and what has been slotted for the evening’s program.
Some days she might be out on the road covering a story or in the office preparing the script before doing over-the-phone radio interviews – the live cross – outlining that evening’s stories.
There’s an hour in make-up and then dressing.
Clothing is brought in to the studio for the presenters and their stylist helps choose and co-ordinate their outfits.
“I won’t wear anything that’s unsuitable and the stylist wouldn’t let me wear anything that’s not appropriate, but people will ring up and say they don’t like something. And that’s ok. They’re entitled to their opinions,” she says.
Monika’s clothes and hairstyles were a hot issue when she was doing her radio segments with Bob Maumill who’d have fun grilling her.
“Monnnn! What were you wearing last night? Now, really, where did you get that top?” Maumill would wail.
It was classic Maumill teasing, seized on by some listeners. But Monika lapped it up.
“I loved it. I always loved working with Bob. It’s lively. It’s entertaining,” she laughed.
Clearly, Monika loves her work and is intensely loyal to Seven.
Her fellow veterans include Rick Ardon and Susannah Carr, the world’s longest news reading duo over 32 years, and smooth-talking sports presenter Basil Zempilas.
They’ve proved to be an unbeatable team.