WHEN she was 16 years old, Mikaela Phillips' mum sold their car and all their possessions, packing up their lives to follow her dreams in LA.
Single mum Chrys and her teen daughter flogged their belongings at a garage sale before leaving Melbourne for the bright lights of the US, eventually selling their house too.
The move could have been a disaster, and it was hard at first, with the pair sofa surfing and even sleeping in a rental car.
But they both successfully broke into the film and TV industry – making all their struggles worth it.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, Mikaela, now 25, says: "When we first left for the US in 2012, it wasn't meant to be for good.
"It turned into that, which was great, but it wasn't like 'pack up your bags, we've got somewhere to stay, we've got this figured out'.
"It was definitely the opposite, we originally only went for my mum's book tour for The Magic Wars Series and there was a lot of finding our feet in another country.
"We sold all our possessions, packed up our lives, left our friends and went into the unknown.
"One thing just led to another and went on to become a more permanent and intentional move, so we sold our house in 2013.
"I was only 16 but it was something I was very eager for. It's not like I was forced to go or my mum was making all the decisions.
"We had a massive garage sale, sold everything we could to help finance the trip and put that money towards flights and accommodation. We sold our car too.
"Within a couple of weeks of being in America, we ended up sleeping in a rental car.
We sold all our possessions, packed up our lives, left our friends and went into the unknown
"We had done the long haul flight, Melbourne to LA, spent a couple of days there just getting over our jet lag, then we went to Atlanta which is where Mum's book agent was.
"We had booked accommodation but it was a big public holiday we weren’t aware of and a lot of places were completely booked out or even double booked.
"Our hotel room was one of the double bookings, so we were told ‘sorry we don’t have anything for you’. We spent the night in our rental car, we got no sleep.
"We were financially struggling through a lot of it. The Australian dollar isn’t in any way comparable to the US dollar and there weren't any major pay cheques at first.
"We sofa surfed. It was stressful, I couldn’t take on any responsibility or help support us just because of my age.
"But it all showed me how much I could take. I always say ‘adversity will shape you, it won’t break you’."
Chrys previously worked as a copywriter in Australia, before expanding into theatre and TV work, eventually becoming an established scriptwriter and author.
She says: "The second day in LA, we were sitting in a diner eating cake. I looked around and said to myself 'what have you done?'
"I looked to the LA mountains out of the window and I made a promise to myself, and for my daughter, that I would succeed.
Everyone doubted me from home. Many thought I was crazy to sell everything – possibly I was – however to me it was what I had to do
"Everyone doubted me from home and never stopped reminding me of it either but I didn’t want to look back and think I didn’t try.
"Many thought I was crazy to sell everything – possibly I was – however to me it was what I had to do.
"I never regretted it in any way. I experienced many hurdles and hardships but the life experiences were invaluable to us both."
After touring the US, the mother and daughter duo eventually settled in LA – where Chrys worked on her second book while her daughter was homeschooling through the Australian system.
Mikaela says: "At the end of 2014, when I was 18, I started doing content for Afterbuzz TV (an online network who focus on after show podcasts for the likes of Game of Thrones, Real Housewives and Grey's Anatomy).
"That's where I started getting into producing, with celebrity interviews and red carpets, I had an opportunity to flourish there.
"I actually set the record of the youngest ever person to be accepted into their network at 18. I was straight out of the gate like a bull in a china shop, already knocking down doors."
In August 2015, they returned to Australia to work on an Amazon Prime TV series called Counter Play, which Mikaela also starred in, before returning to the States in late 2018.
Since then, Mikaela has continued her work as a producer and a presenter, while mum Chrys continues to write.
Since April last year, they've been back in Australia, on the Gold Coast, having relocated when coronavirus lockdown shut LA's film industry, and are working on a feature film there.
Mikaela says it's become a "mini Hollywood", with productions starring Tom Hanks, Dwayne Johnson, Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Zac Efron all being filmed in 2020 and 2021.
Packing up has definitely benefited us in the long run. We’ve come full circle, the move was a risk, we had to downsize and live very thrifty in the US for a while
She adds: "We sold our house in 2013 and downsized to a two-bedroom apartment when we returned to Australia in 2015.
"But now we've bought a four-bed house, with a garden and a pool, and have upgraded the Honda we used to have to an Audi Q3.
"Packing up has definitely benefited us in the long run. We're thinking of buying somewhere in the US too, in either LA or New York.
"We’ve come full circle, the move was a risk, we had to downsize and live very thrifty in the US for a while.
"We were in one bed flats, we didn’t have separate rooms or any space, but now we’re back to a comfortable living space and this is only the start.
"Some days I’m like ‘wow I can’t believe we did that’, I felt like it was never going to go anywhere. I would never say ‘I knew it was all going to work out' or 'everything will be fine as long as you have faith’.
"You have to be positive but you also have to put in the hard work and I’m a big believer of that. Opportunities do present themselves, there is some luck, but you have to put in hard work too.
"There were definitely people who doubted us, I think there are still some people who do.
"Looking back, there’s so many days where I was completely distraught, stressed, worried and crying but that makes me feel super accomplished now."
Chrys adds: "I came from nothing, with no money or parents in my life, so people told me I'd amount to nothing.
"I didn't have any opportunities or choices but I broke that cycle for my daughter and me, which is something I'm truly proud of."
Dubbed Australia's answer to the Gilmore Girls, Mikaela and Chrys currently live and work together, and are both single.
Mikaela says: "A few narrow minded individuals ask ‘is it a two for one deal?’ with Mum and me, and for the most part it is, we both bring different attributes and skills to a project.
"I don’t want to direct or write and she doesn’t want to produce, so we make for a good team.
"We do have our moments because we are related and sometimes we butt heads, but for the most part it works pretty well.
"It makes sense for us to live and work together at the moment. Some people say ‘oh my God you don’t have a break from each other, you don’t have any time or space’, but we're not joined at the hip.
"Most of the time we're just laughing, we're always having a good time. She's all I've got and I'm all she's got, and that's all there is to it."
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