She is most known for her stellar performances depicting strong female characters in feature films like Cedar Boys and I wish I were Stephanie V, but Australian actress Helen Chebatte is also a writer, teacher and mother with a whole lot more to offer.
Raised in Sydney’s western suburbs after her Syrian parents migrated to Australia from Lebanon in the 1970’s, Helen always dreamed of becoming an actress.
And although life took her on a few detours – she fell in love, got married, had children and even worked as a hairdresser- Helen was always determined to hold on to her dream.
‘My family came to Australia in September 1971 when I was just 3 and a half years old and I grew up in Granville where I had a great childhood,’ Helen told El Telegraph Weekend.
‘I married a wonderful man named Charlie in 1988. We have two children, Amanda and Joseph. I worked as a hairdresser until I had them. But I never gave up on my love of acting.
‘It never left me. I always loved to act,’ she said.
Helen did not begin acting professionally until the 90’s, but her love of drama meant she always found ways to squeeze acting in.
‘I started acting in school plays, and continued in community theatre, doing Romeo and Juliette with The First Highest Theatre in Auburn.
‘But more prominently with The Mercedes Theatre Company in Parramatta in the mid 1990’s where I performed in plays such as The Heiress, Pygmalion, A Fifteen Minute Hamlet, A cut in the Rates and Ernie’s Illucinations.’
After Helen had her first child, she decided it was time to enroll in acting classes.
‘I began my acting training by taking night classes with The Sydney Talent Company in the late 1990’s.
‘I then enrolled at The Actors Centre Australia for one year, graduating in 2001. It was around this time I obtained a theatrical agent and began to work professionally as an actor. And, of course, I continue to do so to date,’ she said.
Helen’s journey to becoming a successful actress stems from her childhood involvement in plays and one defining moment she recalls distntically until this day.
When Helen was just 17, an artist asked her if she ‘wanted’ or ‘needed’ to be an actor. Without hesitation she replied that she ‘needed’ to be an actor.
The artist’s reaction to her response has always stuck with her.
‘He pointed his finger at me and said “And that’s why you will be.” I never really understood it at the time but I know now what he meant,’ she said.
In 2006, after more acting training, Helen received a diploma in Performance, Speech and Drama with Trinity, a British based performance training program – with this qualification up her sleeve she taught speech and drama at private school, Abbotsleigh.
Inspired by her upbringing in the multicultural suburb of Granville, Helen has spent a decade writing children’s books in between auditions and rehearsals.
‘I have always loved storytelling and I am very drawn to the theme of multiculturalism. I think children should be exposed to it from a very young age,’ she said.
Helen has won and been shortlisted in both state and national writing competitions and is also due to release her debut young adult novel, ‘Bro,’ which will be published by Hardie Grant Egmont in February 2016.
‘While acting, writing, painting, or any artistic field is fun and pleasurable, ultimately there is a need in every artist to fulfill creative expression.
‘It is a form of growth essential to our life, our journey and our wellbeing. Without it, we cease to be,’ said Helen.
Helen is currently starring in the Australian feature film Alex and Eve- a family comedy about dating in modern day multicultural Australia. In cinemas October 22.