From Australia: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/sydney-confidential/how-being-a-teen-mum-growing-up-as-jehovahs-witness-and-my-kids-prepped-me-for-masterchef-fame/story-fni0cvc9-1226974154930
Renae Smith with her two daughters Kyah and Paris who had to agree before Renae went onto Masterchef. Picture: Richard Dobson
- Renae Smith was pregnant at 18, divorced at 22
- ‘Doorknocked every week with her family’
- Persuaded to marry by her church
- Moved on to unhappy new relationship
- Wants to open a kitchen to teach young people
AFTER emerging from a strictly religious childhood, Renae Smith has had a startling and at times harrowing personal journey.
But the single mum from Masterchef is determined to show her daughters — Kyah, 12, and Paris, 10, that you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
Smith, 31, has opened up about her childhood as a Jehovah’s Witness, revealing she and other family members “did doorknocking every single week”.
People think ‘oh it’s a cult’ but for me it was just a way of life and although we had a really strict upbringing, it was quite happy and lovely
“It’s a not a bad upbringing, a lot of people think ‘oh it’s a cult’ but for me it was just a way of life and although we had a really strict upbringing, it was quite happy and lovely,” she said.
However, Smith was pregnant and married by 18 — and divorced by 22, with two young daughters.
Renae Smith has had a long journey to the Masterchef kitchen.
She said the religion’s rules about romance were strict: “you can’t hold hands or be alone with a person before you’re married”. But she fell pregnant after dating a fellow church member for only four months.
“Obviously that got me in a lot of trouble, and they do recommend — although you don’t have to — that the best way to deal with that is to be married, because you’ve made a mistake and you need to be willing to prove to God that you accept that. I was 18,” she said.
Smith said her marriage was a quiet and straightforward one, but described their situation “as more like flatmates”.
The couple went on to have their second daughter when Smith was 21. But Smith broke up with her husband a year later, after deciding to leave the church.
She eventually moved on to a different man, which led to one of the toughest periods of her life.
The Newtown-based Mum became openly emotional when discussing the behaviour of an unnamed male partner, which she says turned into a nightmare.
“I found myself in a relationship with someone who would tell me what to wear, if I went to the city I had to bring my parking tickets back to show where I was,” she said. “But I didn’t see it, I thought ‘he loves me so much’ rather than having a realisation of ‘that’s not normal’.”
After gaining the blessings of her two daughters Kyah and Paris to participate in Masterchef Renae’s dream is to start a kitchen and school in Redfern to teach young people how to cook. Picture: Richard Dobson
Smith alleged she was eventually physically attacked by the man. “I was, I definitely was, it got quite bad,” she said.
“It’s something I guess hasn’t come out [publicly],” she said. “It’s something I’ll talk about a little bit, but not too much, because of my kids obviously.”
Smith said she left the relationship but it irrevocably changed her and how she approaches life. “I made a commitment then that I wouldn’t be with anybody and learn who I was, what I liked ... what I wanted to wear,” she said.
Her goal of appearing on Masterchef — to achieve her dream of opening a cooking school for disadvantaged kids — came only after Smith’s daughters agreed to the idea.
“I couldn’t go on the show unless it was a decision I made with the kids,” she said. “For me, it came down to having that open conversation with them”.
Smith, who runs her own brand management company, hopes to open a kitchen and school in Redfern, so that she can teach young people how to cook — and see the benefits flow into their family lives.
Originally published as Renae Smith’s rocky road to fame