This week, we catch up with Australian native, Hollywood stunt woman, author presenter and survival expert Ky Furneaux. After a car accident at 19 left Ky with limited mobility, a doctor warned she would never be able to play sport or enjoy the outdoor pursuits she once had but Ky was determined to prove them wrong - she regained her strength and athletic ability before putting it to the test as a stunt woman. Ky then spent two decades working in Hollywood as a stunt woman for films including Thor, The Avengers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and NBC's Blindspot series.
After first interviewing Ky back in 2015, we wanted to catch up and see what she has been up to. Here's her story:
Newnham: Ky, it's been almost three years since we last spoke. Can you give us an update on what you've been up to?
Furneaux: Gosh, so much! It has been a crazy full on year for me. I decided at the beginning of the 2018 to make the most of every moment, even more so than I usually do. I knew I was going to be on Naked and Afraid of Sharks for a Discovery Shark Week special so the beginning of the year was taken up with prep for that such as breath hold work, and cold immersion, and then I shot that for the last two weeks of February. I then returned home and after a brief recovery time, got on my motorbike and headed north. I had never toured on my motorbike before so it was a huge learning experience for me.
I felt really overwhelmed before getting on the bike, filled with doubts and yet I got on the bike and headed out the driveway. It was meant to be a six week trip but ended up before over four months and I haven't stopped! So basically I now live on my motorbike. It's great because any time I need to work, I just drive to a major city and head where I need to go. I had some amazing and whacky friends on Insta that were doing all kinds of cool and interesting things that I hadn't tried before and I endeavored to meet them all. As a result, I saw a guy make amazing pouches out of emu and kangaroo skin, learned how to flint knap (make arrowheads out of stone) and have been out in the bush learning about some great bush tucker in a lot of different regions of Australia, just to name some of my adventures.
I've also shot two web series in that time, both very different but exciting. Shooting them was exciting and took up a lot of time. One - Girl on Fire, focuses on one extraordinary girl per episode who is doing inspiring and amazing things with their lives. I get to meet and work with each girl in order to assist them achieve their goals.This is through the Girl Shaped Flames organization I work with and comes out on Jan 25th.
The second, Being Human web series, is aimed at getting more families into the outdoors. I think that a lot of people want to interact with the outdoors but are unsure how to get started, so hopefully this series will help. This series is co-hosted with Rocky Instincts founder, Malachi Conway. I have been doing more charity work and also more motivational speaking work, mostly with disadvantaged youth but also with corporate groups. I am honestly letting life guide the way at the moment and it's taking me in some pretty exciting directions.
And I also headed to Nepal to do a reconnaissance trip for a school trip I am running there next year and helped begin to build new buildings for a school in the jungle region there. As I said, every minute was filled last year.
Newnham: We have enjoyed watching your journey on instagram - can you tell us more about the charity work in Nepal?
Furneaux: Thank you! Nepal was amazing. I was involved with an organization called The Adventurous Life Project to do some talks in Australia and as I got to know the co-founder of that, Jacqui Holth, she told me of a debt she felt she owed a community in Bardia, Nepal. This community had saved her husbands life 22 years ago and now they needed more buildings for their high school there.
Kids in the community are being trafficked over the border to India at an alarming rate and one of the things that slows this down is education. By building additions to the school, it is probable we are saving lives. It sounded like an incredible project to be a part of so when Jacqui asked me to help out with the school kid trip she wanted to run over there in April, I was really excited to say yes. Then when she was heading over to check it all out and take all the meetings to begin the project in October, I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it from the ground level. It was amazing to be able to connect with the people and the culture in a far deeper way than we usually get to do while traveling. We were welcomed into the community with open arms and had so many fascinating experiences there. It was such a privilege to be a part of the project and it will be exciting to watch it grow as we re-visit in April.
Newnham: You are a fantastic, strong, role model - how important is it for you to show young girls what empowerment looks like?
Furneaux: I think that in this day and age, kids are bombarded with messages about what to and what not to do, how to act and what is cool. Telling them what to do is one thing, leading by example is another, and one that I think creates a more lasting impression for them. Showing them what women are capable of and how they can be powerful and feminine at the same time is a good thing. What we have to give to them is a sense of place in the world, a sense of their strength and a feeling of surety in themselves and their values.
I don't want them to feel like they have to fight the whole time for their power. I never really fought for my power. I just knew I had it, never questioned it and in turn, the people around me didn't question it either. You will be faced with people who want to put you down in all walks of life and from all genders - taking it all in your stride and knowing that usually if someone has a problem with you, it's their problem, not yours really does help. The most important thing is to be the very best you can be and stick within your morals and values... I don't believe you can fail then.
Newnham: Fitness and strength (mind and body) are clearly very important to you and what you do. What are your top tips for keep our minds and bodies strong in tough times?
Furneaux: I believe that my physical fitness is very closely linked to my mental fitness. Healthy body, healthy mind type thing. I know that for me, working out gives me clarity of thought, gives me time to think and allows me to start the day with a "win".
I love training first thing in the morning before my mind fills me with reasons why it's too late to train or I'm too tired to train. I get up and get into it before my body realizes what is going on. That way, half an hour later, I have already achieved something in my day.
I love being active and I love having the energy and physicality to do everything I want to do at a moment's notice. So my top tips would be:
- Doing something is better than nothing so even if all you manage is one trip around the block in the morning, do it.
- Don't beat yourself up about not going for a run, congratulate yourself on doing anything at all.
- Don't view exercise as a punishment for eating too much food either. There are studies that show the mood you are in when you exercise effects how effective the training is. So find something you love to do that's physical and use that as your exercise. It doesn't have to be a traditional form of exercise, it can be salsa dancing, hiking, self defense or horse riding. Anything active at all is exercise but if it's fun, you will find reasons to do it rather than reasons not to.
- Also, having someone to do it with is also a good key to motivation. Organizing someone to be waiting in the park for you will help you get up and at it even if the only reason you are doing it is to not let them down.
Newnham: What's next for you?
Furneaux: Who knows what's next? My life is a flux of amazing adventure opportunities and having to work somewhere in between. My plan for January is to solo hunt a goat with my traditional bow. It might sound awful and killing an animal is never to be taken lightly but I will be using the whole goat from the meat to its skin and tendons. I have been working hard with my bow to get to a stage where I can do this as humanely as possible and I am determined to eat more feral animals in an effort to move towards sustainable living. This seems like a good start since Australia has huge populations of feral animals that decimate our native flora and therefore fauna.
I have hunted with other people before but never on my own and it will be a huge journey and learning experience doing that and living solo in the bush too. Very excited for that adventure. I then have the opportunity to be the first female to ever kite surf an ultra light board that a friend of mine has designed. Since I can't kite surf yet, learning that will all be part of the journey as well.
The Girl Shaped Flames, Girl on Fire web series comes out on the 25th of Jan with a Brisbane release in a cinema with a Q&A afterwards and of course I will be leading the student trip to Bardia Nepal in April. With some motivational talks scheduled around all of that, and a bunch of adventures I'm trying to slot in, we will all just have to stay tuned as to what falls into place :)
Newnham: Amazing. Finally, if you could go back in time - what advice would you offer a younger Ky?
Furneaux: This is always a tricky question for me because any advice I would give would alter the path I went down and I love every up and every down, every dead end and every trauma, every time I questioned my self worth or wondered if I was enough or lovable led me to be being here - in this moment - this person I am now. I would look at the young me for a heart beat and then send her on her way knowing she was enough to deal with all life dealt her and that no matter what, she would always come back to finding joy in every moment, even the hardest of hard.
But advice for the other young "me's" out there is "Be you." Be unapologetically, wildly, amazingly you. It's what makes you different that makes you special - not all the ways you can be like everyone else.