11 May 2017

Interview: Olga - Big Fat Greek Mother

Well, wait until you see this crazy (and funny) lady! This my friends is Olga and she has many different characters; and I managed to tie her down for an interview... well I think it was her...

Hello lovely, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for Bad Mum magazine.

You are one crazy lady that makes me giggle! For anyone doesn’t know Olga and her amazing friends then check out the YouTube videos – Alexia Stifado & Friends to see them in action. Olga also has a blog which explains a bit about the characters.

So, how do you think up all these different characters to play and are they based on anyone? Especially Aunty Fanoulla!?

All the zany characters are actually born out of my big fat Greek childhood. I guess you could say they are all based on pretty much every Greek person I know, have known and will come to know in the future! Also lets be honest all the characters carry a huge chunk of me; my foils frustrations and fears. Aunty Fanoulla (the loud, Greek, no filter, mustachioed character) is definitely based on a lot of the wonderful larger than life aunts I grew up with. She is not also dissimilar to a lot of my mums colourful eclectic customers growing up. (My mum used to take us to work with her in her North London Hair salon El Greco which was rather like Desmonds the TV show! Ha ha remember that? Well that's where a lot of my material stems from)

I am going to take a punt and guess you are Greek? How long have you lived here and what made you bring a little piece of Greece to us?

Oh yes I’m Greek baby but my family are all Greek Cypriots from Cyprus. I guess you guys get the Greek flavour by default because well if you cut me open that’s what spills out; (and ouzo.) But to be honest I hope people enjoy the fresh perspective on parenting and life in general you get from my gringlish experience.  I actually was born in London on Holloway Road!  I’m only saying the same things all the other wonderful instagram Mum's are saying but I’m just saying it with a monobrow and a hunk of halloumi in my mouth. Greeks highten just about EVERYTHING and even the tiniest event becomes a Greek tragedy (changing a nappy, going to Asda, opening a tin of beans) which makes everything hilarious. I hope people enjoy this different big fat Greek comedy take on the stresses and strains of modern day UK parenting.

Please tell me what your children think of you? I would have loved to have a fun Mum like you at their age! Are they at that age where they want to kill you as they are dying from embarrassment or are they finding it cool? Olga is a Mama to three boys aged 11, 9 and 7.

I always get asked this and if truth be told I think the poor things are just used to it now. Its part of their socialisation experience seeing Mummy dressed up as a myriad of characters hahaha! The other day I passed boy number 2 on the stairs whilst dressed as a bearded Greek bloke, carrying the washing basket down and he just threw a ‘hiya mum’ at me, just all matter of fact like. The boys have come to lots of my comedy shows so they are used to Mummy being lots of different characters. Also I think they are kind of proud that “mummy does funny stuff” their words not mine! Though they would never admit it. When I pick them up from school they always ask not “what did you do today Mummy” but “WHO were you today Mummy” hahahahaha.

Have you ever taken the kids out; dressed up as a character? You could turn up to parents evening, a football match, take them shoe shopping…even be cruel and use it as a punishment to get them to behave! The possibilities are endless ha ha!

Many a time. At Easter we took a family trip to Sports Direct; the long suffering hubster, the three boys and me as my character called Bambos the north London geezer. Granted they all walked slightly ahead but they still took the trip. (Bambos needed a new pair of speedos you see) As weird as it is they know that this is what Mumma does. I always workshop my characters in this way, in every day life with friends and family (whether they like it or not!) My home, my big fat Greek family, my life; these are my rehearsal spaces, these are my office so to speak. In my head (on a good day) I call myself a comedy-freelance-mum. On a bad day.... you don’t want to know but ‘nut’ and ‘job’ are often used.

What made you start up Alexia Stifado & Friends and take the plunge into Instagram, YouTube and social media?

I was finding it really hard keeping up with gigging the comedy scene and keeping up the networking to and from London. (I live in the sticks) I was getting run ragged holding down a college teaching position, doing the comedy circuit and raising 3 boys. About a year and a half ago some lovely friends (freelancers themselves) were round for dinner and suggested rather than killing myself chasing platforms and getting ‘that big break’ that I should create my own platform from home. Why go and travel to find your audience when you can bring your audience to you? Be my own mumboss! Or ‘mumpreneur’ as the cool kids say.  So that's exactly what I did! Me, a couple of cases of costumes and an iPad. That's all I had. Actually still have!!! I’m still waiting for pennies in the coffer to come from this wild comedy gamble.

Were you nervous putting the very first video up on YouTube and was you happy with the reaction you got?

I was terrified. But I also knew if the stuff was funny it would float. Initially it was my wonderful friends and family who (under much duress from me) repeatedly watched these little quirky spoof mini movies with out there characters. I’ve had negative feedback too and oh yes I’ve had haters; but then I think you know what I’m not a TV company I’m not a bigwig producer; give me a break. I’m just a mum of three boys doing this on zero budget but with heaps of love, ideas and energy. Yes it looks like I’m larking about but believe you me I take larking VERY SERIOUSLY. When someone messages me that they ACTUALLY find something funny I am so humbled and so grateful and it pushes me on.

Your videos are so different as you cover so many subjects with various characters. Where do you get all your ideas from; do you find them just in everyday life?

Everything is material. Everything. Especially the really mundane yet fascinating conversations I over hear in shops, buses and with mums in the playground! I love peoples little foibles and oddities because that's precious and that's what makes us all the same.  I love covering the big topics too like the menopause (am heading that way Happy days), dating, love, and loneliness. Check out ‘Alexia Stifado Does The Mentalpause’ on YouTube for a comedy take on the 40 plus female joys of finding surprise facial hair, wanting to murder your partner and hormonal imbalance.

I absolutely love your hair and style! How you find the time to be a Mummy, create your characters and look so good? Share your secrets please!!

Ah that's so so sweet of you to say. When I first wake up in the morning I look like Demis Roussos. Then I have coffee and slap make up on. Both do wonders I’m telling you. Also that Clarendon filter always just softens down my usual gremlin look for you pre-post. Plus I am a hairdressers daughter so I do my hair myself! I also have a thing for vintage clobber so that keeps me going in cheap as chips, 1980's, kooky outfits! I try and get a work life balance right by making sure that I am a comedy making machine between the hours of 9am-3pm. Outside these hours I have a sense of humour labotomy and become ‘mama’. I am also fortunate in that I can totally milk the testosterone induced bonkerhoodness of having 3 sons and stick that on the gram; thereby I can time efficiently couple being ‘instagram feed’ funny and ‘mother 3 raising boys’ funny at the same time(I hope!)

As you are one funny lady; do you have the bad parenting days we all do and do you have a different way of coping with it? Humour maybe? Turning into someone else? Wine?

Always. I particularly loathe myself in the morning whereby I turn into screaming banshee fire-breathing mutha to get them to school. Then of course I feel guilty and crappy all day, by the time pick up comes around the guilt has worn off so I am ready to scream and shout at them all over again.  

Humour all the way baby. If I didn’t laugh, or more importantly if I didn't make others laugh then Id cry. This whole “I want to be funny” thing actually came after I had a serious breakdown after the birth of my third son. I went through a horrific season of depression and loss of self. This experience of losing so much and breaking down brought me to a place of strength. When you go to hell and back in your mind nothing scares you anymore. Even if I fall flat on my face nothing will ever be as bad as that season. We should encourage one another more as a mothering community we need to laugh more and encourage each other more to be real. Its also important to speak out and be more aware of mental health issues for Mum's.

Social media is so important today and Instagram gives anyone the tools to start something new. Has Instagram been important to you and how have you found the community on there; which are supporting your journey?

I wouldn’t have got this far without the platform of Instagram. It really has been a wonderful place of encouragement and support. A place where I feel safe to just do my thing but also where I too can support others to do their thing too. I really do believe that we each have our tribe and when we find them we have to love them hard. To coin a phrase! Some people use Instagram to climb and I get that but if you don’t invest in the dreams of others too you are eventually going to fall flat on your face.

What is next on your To Do list and what would be your ultimate dream?

The dream has always been my own comedy TV show. Before I had the boys, years ago I was on the cusp of breaking through with my own show on Channel Four. Then life took over and I got married and (lovingly) bulldozered by 3 boys!! Ten years on I have decided to just go for it.  I have just co-written and started filming a new modern family TV comedy show which is loosely based on my life as a struggling comedy actress and full time mum! Watch this space!

Lastly, everyone must leave us with a parenting confession that they have never told anyone else before…take a shot if it helps!

I’m afraid I can’t help you there as I really am a perfect mother!!!!! I can however tell you a story about a woman I know very well (not me) who gave her three boys a plate of Hoola Hoops each for dinner once when they were small to give herself a flippin break. (not me)

Well, I would love to meet her one day!! Ha Ha! 

Thank you so much and I will hopefully see you soon…watch this space people!

Interview by Sophie Farrow

Photos credited to Olga. 


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