Triple J presenter Nat Tencic

Triple J presenter Nat Tencic. Photo supplied.
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“I can’t believe it’s my job. I love breaking down barriers, having conversations no one else is having and hearing people’s real stories.” Nat Tencic, Triple J presenter and host of The Hook Up, speaks to Molly Jones.

Do you have a particular story or moment that inspired you to make journalism your career?

Honestly, no. I think I was in Year 10 and working on a project about newspapers when I thought, “hey, I love writing, I’m good at it, I could make this a career” like every misguided English student. Really, I wanted to be an actor, but I thought media would make a more sensible back-up plan which is kind of laughable. Once I got to university I started volunteering at SYN and that’s where I really found my passion for radio. I loved the immediacy of it, the ability to improvise and play that you didn’t get in film and TV. I picked up a real romance for audio that’s come with me throughout my career.

How did you transition from being an RMIT journalism student to hosting Triple J’s The Hookup?

It’s a long, twisted story as is many a media career but the abridged version is I did a stint hosting the Naughty Rude Show, the sex show on SYN FM. One random day in third year uni, I got a message from my radio manager saying the content director at Triple J wanted to talk to me about filling in for Sunday Night Safran with a sex show. I was freaking out with excitement but I couldn’t take the opportunity as I had an internship in Seoul, Korea, at the same time. They said, get in touch and we’ll demo you when you get back. After some changes in management, when the Hook Up actually started, I was given the opportunity to audition but didn’t get the gig. I was too serious for what the new Content Director envisioned at the time. It happens. I kept working at Triple J as a producer and presenter in heaps of different roles, everything they threw at me until eventually, Hannah Reilly announced her departure and I took her place. I suppose that wasn’t so abridged in the end. 

Were there any challenges that stood out at the start of your tenure with Triple J?

Honestly not really no! As Melbourne Producer, my identity became ‘the Swiss Army Knife’ because I could pick up pretty much anything really quickly. I think my real challenge was backing myself in doing what I really wanted to do, rather than taking everything thrown at me. I’ve always been pretty open and changeable with my interests though, so having a lot of variety in those early days suited me, but the more you’re a generalist, the more people are going to treat you like a generalist, I guess. I wanted more than that.

What was your first time on air with Triple J like?

Thrilling. It felt like dreams coming true, it was like a huge party, but on my own in the studio. I went on at 1am, voice shaking, but it was such a rush to be heard by everyone from my mates in Melbourne to Josh the Coota Baker (a text line staple at the J’s). I had a lot of friends tune in, the requests for ‘Sandstorm’ were flowing and you better believe I played it, much to Kingsmill’s chagrin. But he and I are cool now. 

Where did your interest for talking about sexuality, gender, identity, lifestyle, health and relationships come from?

It’s always been there and I really don’t know where it started. I always had a desire to fill my life with big experiences and have amazing stories to share with people. Seeking pleasure and being the most interesting person in the room, or at the very least to be interesting at all, have always been motivators for me. A lust for adventure, I think. I think relating to other people, being intimate, challenging alternative identities, struggling against repressive norms, that’s the greatest adventure to me. I’m so drawn to it. 

I think coming to terms with my own queer identity and finally coming around to my bisexuality had something to do with that long-lingering interest too. It was something that was clearly inside me and driving my interest in sex and gender from a young age, but that I never had to come face-to-face with until my mid-20s. 

Why do you feel like these are important conversations to be had?I could just never get my head around why society is so repressive around sex when it’s something everyone does. It’s fun. It feels great. It’s natural. Why is there so much stigma attached to it? I believe taboos are dangerous and everything should be discussed, no matter how uncomfortable, but particularly sex. It drives so much of our culture, the way we relate to each other, and so many of us feel alone because we can’t talk about our desires in safe spaces. So many people just want to know if they’re normal, that they belong. Well, we all have perverted thoughts, we all have desires, we all think people aren’t going to accept or understand us, but it’s the most normal thing there is. Talking about it prevents agony in isolation, it makes us happier, have better sex lives, it saves lives. It’s so important.

What is the best thing about your job?

Getting to talk about sex every week is ridiculous, it’s fun, it’s the best. I can’t believe it’s my job. I love breaking down barriers, having conversations no one else is having, and hearing people’s real stories. I think though, the very best feeling I get is when someone tells me the show has helped them break up with a toxic partner, or come out to their family, or just feel seen. I’ve felt weird and unseen for a while and I’m glad my oversharing is helping people feel less alone.