By Kerrie Simon-Lawrence, photography Melanie McNiven, shoot location Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island
Eleesha Quinn can still remember the Instagram photo that changed everything. “My daughter Logan asked me to be in a picture with her. I had never really liked to be in photos, so I said no. I’ll always remember her disappointed face; I couldn’t believe I’d said it, that I’d let my own personal fears get in the way of doing something special with her. Her little face just lit up when I picked her up and snapped a selfie of us together. That was the very first picture I posted of myself on Instagram, and it was of us in matching hats and hairstyles.” From that moment on, @the.quinn.girls Insta account went from being a style file of her daughters’ outfits to a documentation of the family’s day-to-day life. And the followers came running.
Fans will tell you that The Quinn Girls account is a fashion feast – three gorgeous sisters and their total babe of a mama, all dressed matchy-matchy. And while that’s what the account has evolved to be – with close to 200K followers waiting to see what look the girls will rock next – Eleesha, 34, insists her social media presence was borne out of a need to connect with other mamas.
Together with hubby Brock [the pair went to high school together, started dating shortly after graduation, and got hitched when Eleesha was 20], she packed up her life in 2001, moving from Bundaberg in South East Queensland to Tieri, a tiny town in Central Queensland with a population of less than a thousand. With Brock’s work as an underground explosives technician forcing him to work away from Eleesha for weeks at a time, the move to Tieri meant they no longer had to be apart. There were a few catches though: the nearest grocery store was an hour’s drive away, and there was little to do other than hitting up the local pub for a steak. But she loved it.
“It was such a small town, but we made some really incredible friendships while we were there, and that made the time pass so quickly. Six years seemed to fly by,” she recalls.
A few months after making the move, Eleesha fell pregnant with Logan and while she had made some great friends, being a mining town meant most people headed away on days off. “There were some days I literally had no one to talk to. But I made some pretty incredible friendships through Insta.”
Eleesha and Brock added another two girls to their fam-bam while they were in Tieri – Aleeia and Isla – and finally headed back home in early 2017, in time for Logan to start school. By that time, Eleesha’s Instagram account had developed something of a cult following. And while she continued to post her fashion-forward pics, she found herself coming to rely on her ‘village’ even more.
“Friends on Instagram are always there. Someone is always up at the same time feeding their babies through the night or asking for advice. No measure of distance can change the amazing friendships you can make,” she says of her followers.
They’re connections she’s had to rely on since returning from Tieri, as Brock now needs to travel again, leaving her to solo parent Logan, seven, Aleeia, five, and Isla, three. “He works a week on, a week off. It’s still very testing at times and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had some really dark moments while he’s been gone, just totally not handling the girls on my own.”
“I watched my mother go through motherhood with what seemed like such ease. She always had hot home-cooked meals on the table, clean washing in our cupboards, a clean, tidy house and always looked so immaculate, all while working full-time, with my dad working away often too. I went into motherhood assuming I could do the same. Boy was I wrong. I’m a hot mess most of the time!”
The benefit of being back home though? Being able to share her gorgeous girls with her family. “I often catch my parents with tears in their eyes, saying, ‘Isn’t she just a little Eleesha’. So it’s nice to be able to have that.”
She came to rely on her parents even more last year, when a health scare shook her family to its core. “I was coming home from school pick-up. I went to the doctors for a massive pain I had in the side of my stomach. They seemed to think my appendix was about to burst and had to operate immediately. Of course Brock was away working, so luckily my parents watched the girls and into surgery I went. The next thing I remember was waking up in a totally different hospital with cords coming out of me everywhere. The doctors standing over me were asking me if I knew where I was. While I was under, my heart had stopped beating. Once for just under a minute and then again a second time for longer, and they had to perform CPR to start it again.”
She was referred to a cardiologist and had a loop recorder inserted to record everything her heart did. Results were sent to her cardiologist every day. “A few months later I had a call from the doctor saying that my loop recorder had picked up that my heart had stopped while I was sleeping for quite a considerable amount of time. I would need a pacemaker but they couldn’t fit me in for the surgery for two weeks. So I spent the next two weeks so scared every time I went to bed, hoping and praying that I would wake up. After my pacemaker surgery everything was different. I had the most profound appreciation for my life, more than ever before, and was so incredibly grateful for modern technology. I have scars on my chest and wear them proudly.”
It’s with this knowledge of how precious and fragile life can be, that Eleesha and Brock want to teach their girls to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. “Brock and I have always agreed that we want to be able to show the girls the world, experience different cultures, eat different food, just generally live for the moment. We have had so many scares in the last couple of years that have made us realise how short life can be. We can always make more money but the time we have with our children before they venture off into the world is short. I want them to have as much knowledge of it with us as possible.”
And while she’s happy to share her story with her followers, she absolutely doesn’t want to be put on anyone’s pedestal. “I’m no different to anyone else. I want them to walk beside me, going through this motherhood journey or just life in general, together. Sharing our mistakes and triumphs as one. I love being able to use Instagram as a platform to celebrate and support each other.”
// FAV INDULGENCE?
My mama’s home-cooked biscuits, warm out of the oven with a cuppa.
// WORST HABIT?
Talking really loud when I’m on a phone call!
// BEST MAMA TIP?
Don’t ever feel forced into parenting your child how someone else thinks is the RIGHT way.
// BEST LIFE ADVICE RECEIVED?
You’re never wrong to be kind.
// LIFE MOTTO?
Die with memories, not dreams.
// SECRET POWER?
Finding a bargain.
// WOULD LOVE TO BE TRAPPED IN AN ELEVATOR WITH?
Ellen DeGeneres for a laugh, Jeff Bezos –the richest man alive – for some business advice, and my husband to remember everything that my mama brain forgot.
// MUST-HAVE IN YOUR HANDBAG?
Lip balm and hair ties.
// FAV CURSE WORD?
Definitely the F-bomb. It’s just so expressive! Sorry Granny!
// BEST DATE-NIGHT GO-TO?
Dinner and a movie always seems like fun but if I was going to get all romantic I’d pack a picnic platter and some drinks, fill the boot of the car with cushions and blankets to go and watch the waves roll in at our secret little spot. We always did this pre-kids.
// IF YOU HAD A DAY TO YOURSELF…
I’d drive to the day spa with MY music cranked, enjoy a nice quiet relaxing facial, go and enjoy some lunch that I actually get to eat, visit my parents for a chat without being interrupted, and then head home and binge watch some Netflix with popcorn and a block of chocolate.
// BEST FAMILY HOLIDAY DESTINATION?
Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island is so close to us, so it’s absolutely incredible to duck away for a weekend and feel like you’re in another country. It is stunningly beautiful, and the kids have an absolute blast.