2023 has been a landmark year for Wiradjuri elder and fashion icon Aunty Cheryl Penrith.
After recently celebrating her 60th birthday, Aunty Cheryl has been ‘Stylin Up’ Wagga with her recycled fashion workshops, she was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) and, following her performance with Voices of Women at the Wagga Art Gallery, she’s ready to take the show to the big smoke.
“I’m gonna be on Broadway! How amazing is this?” Aunty Cheryl said with a laugh, clarifying that the performance will be on Broadway in Sydney at the Kings Cross Theatre.
“Sixty has been a massive year for me, can you imagine what’s going to happen when I’m 70?”
Aunty Cheryl’s story is one of reinvention and intentionally creating a new life after nursing her husband through terminal illness.
“I am a connector, an influencer, I am spiritual, I am a fashionista, I wear many hats in my community, family is everything to me,” she said, summing up her message in the promotion for next month’s world premiere of Embellishment.
The Voices of Women performance explores “Infinite Possibilities in the Definition of the Self” and showcases the work of 10 writers.
It will be the third time Aunty Cheryl has shared stories from her life and experience with an audience, something she would never have dreamed of doing even a couple of years ago.
“I’ll be doing four performances and I’m really looking forward to it, but it does really take it out of you with all the adrenaline and everything, so I’ll just have to pace myself,” she said.
“I’m gonna do one of the stories I’ve told previously and I’m also going to do a reading for someone else which will be really interesting.”
In the wake of a busy NAIDOC Week, Aunty Cheryl is starting to gear up for her Broadway debut and, as you would expect, planning something special to wear for the performances.
“I’ll be away for a week, so I’ll have to plan a few things,” she mused.
“I’ve got a headdress that (local artist) Debbi Wood made so I’ll wear that again and probably something white.”
As well as raising her own voice, Aunty Cheryl has been public in her support of a national Indigenous Voice to Parliament and said she hoped people would look past the negativity that had emerged.
“Sometimes I think people might be just looking for an excuse and there’s a lot of misinformation and the scare campaigns and everything,” she said with a sigh.
“I think people have just got to really look in their heart and think about how we walk together in this country and I’m not sure we’ll ever get another opportunity like this.”
Aunty Cheryl said that she hoped that by putting herself out there, she could inspire others to do the same.
“I’d love to see more First Nations women and young ones getting up and telling their story and getting their voices out there.”
Embellishment will be staged at the Kings Cross Theatre from August 9 – 12 and you can find out more here.