This week, popular blogger-model-actress Annalise Braakensiek was found dead at her Sydney home. She was 46 years old.
Jacqui Lang writes about the friend she’d known for more than 20 years.
Whenever I think of Bondi Beach, I think of Annalise Braakensiek, the sunny ‘bikini babe’ who was so much more.
Yes, she was beautiful, but Bondi, where she lived for much of her adult life, was full of striking models. What made her stand out was her kind wit, compassion for others, and her charisma.
Her close friends knew she suffered from dark depression at times, something she later shared publicly.
Even so, with her focus on health, fitness, and meditation, and her huge circle of friends, she seemed like a woman who would always remain afloat.
I met Annalise in the late 90s, soon after she’d split from her rock musician boyfriend Phil Ceberano.
I interviewed her for a magazine at her Bondi apartment one morning and I left her home that afternoon, not just with a story but with a new friend.
“Let’s do the Bondi to Bronte walk one day,” she’d suggested.
Walk it we did, and over time I grew to really enjoy many outings together. (And I got used to the heads swivelling her way for the entire hour.) I’d hear about the tribulations of the modelling world and Annalise’s efforts to do more TV work. She loved acting in SBS comedy Fat Pizza. She’d also talk about her love for animals, family, and the man she married in 2002, businessman Danny Goldberg.
Raised in rural northern New South Wales, Annalise didn’t know her biological father for the first 20 years of her life.
“I felt a dark void for many years. I knew so little about dad. Just that he was Norwegian, his name was Odd and he loved sailing.”
Her luck changed after she won a modelling contest in her early 20s. The prize was a trip to LA, and there, she met an Australian yachtsman. “I asked him if he knew a man called Odd.” He didn’t - but knew someone who did.
A few days later, Annalise found a call on her answer machine. “Hello Annalise. I believe I’m your father. I might add that I’m as nervous as a schoolboy on his first date.”
They arranged to meet at a local yacht club: “I didn’t have a photo of him, but one look and I knew. We just knew straight away that we were family,” Annalise told me, aged 27, as she sat with Odd, 47 years her senior, at a Bondi cafe.
Her cooking was legendary. She managed to turn simple healthy ingredients into a sumptuous feast. “I’ve been known to send Danny across Sydney to purchase the freshest produce or some special Asian paste for me,” she told me once.
So many loved her meals that she began cooking as well as modelling. She’d send her friends out an email once a week, telling us what was on the menu, charging us all so little that she barely made a profit. She and I fantasised about making a TV cooking show together – I could see her become a bit of an Aussie Nigella - but we both travelled too much to ever sit down, nut it out and make it a reality.
Some models hitting middle age fade out of the limelight. Not Annalise. Using social media, Annalise managed to win over umpteen new followers, combining her love of travel, health and jewellery design.
Though maintaining her bikini bod, she relished having so many interests other than modelling.
“One day I sat down and listed all the things I love the most: art and design, painting, yoga and dancing and poetry and languages. And cooking,” she told me. So her life was full of these things.
On the surface, it all looked picture perfect. But of course, nobody’s life ever really is. Her marriage to Danny ended last year. She moved out of her beloved Bondi. Change wasn’t always easy.
And now comes the terrible news that she has left us.
Annalise, who spoke five or six languages, was accomplished at so much. Despite her millions of social media followers, I don’t think this woman with the kindest of hearts realised just how much she was genuinely loved and valued by so many.
For me, Bondi Beach, the place where we conducted our entire friendship, just lost a little of its sparkle. Goodbye, dear Annalise.