“I still pinch myself. And the days I don’t pinch myself, I should slap myself because I feel lucky every day I’m doing it,” she explains to WHO as she relaxes in her Sydney home.
Barr, who turns 54 this month, is certainly looking and feeling her best. She’s finally feeling confident in the role, conquering her self-doubts and claiming ownership of the position abruptly vacated by Samantha Armytage. She shed 5kg last year after signing up with nutritionist Sarah Di Lorenzo’s weight loss and meal plan and now that she’s recovering from a shoulder injury, she’s ready to return to her favourite workout, Xtend Barre. “It’s like Pilates on steroids!” she explains.
“I filled in [as co-host] a lot over many years so I didn’t actually think it would be much different – but it has been,” Barr says of how her life has changed since accepting the job. “It’s been a lot busier. There’s more pressure, more attention. But I’ve actually also liked it more than I thought, which sort of surprised me.
Like many women – and men, too, she suspects – she looked for reasons not to jump into the challenge, but was urged on by her supporters and her family, particularly her husband of 26 years, Andrew Thompson, with whom she has two sons, Lachlan, 20, and Hunter, 16.
“We look for all the reasons we aren’t good enough, why we aren’t qualified enough and not gutsy enough to do these jobs,” she says.
“I loved doing the news job, that was my life, and then I was offered this and I thought, ‘Can I do this? Am I qualified enough? Can I possibly do this job?’ And I second guessed myself. That was honestly my first reaction.”
Barr recalls with a laugh: “And then my husband said, ‘Don’t be stupid.’ And of course I had to give it a go. And I can do it. And I love doing it.”
While Barr may feel “lucky” to have the job, it’s really a role she’s been working towards with dogged determination since she was a teenager in her hometown of Bunbury in Western Australia.
At 15, she was struck down with osteomyelitis, an infection in her bones, that was initially written off as growing pains. By the time it was diagnosed, it had almost eaten away two vertebrae in her spine. At risk of suffering permanent damage and never walking again, she had to lie on her back in hospital for two months as she was treated with high dose antibiotics during the “terrifying” ordeal.
“People have had things that happened in their life that are terrible and I’m not trying to say it’s one of those things,” says Barr. “But it’s one of the moments in my life that I look back on and the memory has never left me. I guess it made me think that your life can change in a second and to not take things for granted and to make the most of every moment.”
She certainly seems to have lived her life to that code since then. After she recovered, the budding teenage journalist organised her own work experience at the local TV station and caught the news bug.
She has chased her dream and worked hard for every opportunity since. Barr praises her co-host David Koch for his unwavering support and giving her the confidence to do the job. “I just don’t think I could’ve done it without him to be honest,” she says.
Unlike other breakfast hosts over the years, Barr has managed to avoid becoming the story, which she credits to living a normal life and shunning the celebrity circuit. “I’m naturally boring,” she smiles.
"I do the grocery shopping. I just do normal stuff that people do.”
Normal stuff includes making time to exercise and stay healthy. After an indulgent holiday “eating for Australia” last year, she signed up for her first ever meal plan with Di Lorenzo and lost 5kg.
“I’ve never done anything like that before,’’ says Barr. She’s also recovering from a “frozen shoulder” and is working her way back to Xtend Barre. “I also go for walks, but I’m not very good at running,’’ she admits.
Now that she’s finally comfortable in the chair, Barr says she’s not setting herself any new goals, just enjoying herself.
Sunrise airs Monday to Friday, 5.30am on Channel 7.