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“Our Enduring Friendship” Pt 2

Anna Saunders

They share our happiest moments and are there for our darkest days, which is why, this month, we’re celebrating the power of female friendships. We’ve collaborated with Polo Ralph Lauren, known for its timeless and enduring style, to interview eight inspiring women about their most enduring friendships. See Part One here

“We are kindred spirits”

Journalists Briana Domjen and Elle Halliwell met as teenagers, and worked together at The Daily Telegraph. Elle was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2016, and discovered she was pregnant two days later. She is now in remission.

Elle: Briana was one of the first people I told about my cancer diagnosis. She and I are kindred spirits. We’ve known each other since we were 14, but it wasn’t until she started working at The Daily Telegraph with me about nine years ago that we became really, really close. Now our husbands are friends, and we have sons who are the same age.

Briana and I are very similar. We’re both sensitive people, and having someone who understands you from that point of view is a blessing, particularly when you’re working in a really cut-throat and stressful environment as we were. We’ve both cried in bathrooms together and helped each other through difficult times in our careers.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, we were both a few years into our respective marriages, and it was a really exciting, optimistic time. We’d spend hours talking about babies or swapping tips on what folic acid brand to use.


When I was diagnosed with cancer, we were both a few years into our respective marriages, and it was a really exciting, optimistic time

I’d had gastro so I’d gone to the doctor, and asked for blood tests while I was there. That’s when the results came back with high platelets. Two weeks later they came back high again. I wasn’t too concerned, even when it took another five weeks to get an appointment with the haematologist.

Elle Halliwell and Briana Domjen PHOTO: Hugh Stewart

I was still in shock when I told Briana. It’s all a bit of a blur. It was so scary at first. All your hopes and dreams get ripped away with one word: cancer. You’re forced to look at your life and think: Have I done enough? Did I live the life I wanted to?

Briana was amazing. She would call me every day to check on me, and send me little texts of support.

In the third trimester, when I started taking the Interferon injections, she was my rock. When we found that she was pregnant too, and that things were looking good for me, health-wise, it was wonderful experience.

Recently, my sister-in-law, Briana and I went away for a week. Having our boys running around playing together is something I could never have imagined at my darkest point. I feel very sad for any woman who would go through life without having a connection as deep as the one I have with Briana.”


“I vividly remember the moment I found out about Elle’s cancer. She had had some funny blood test results, and I remember that, at work, we’d walk to the kitchen together and she’d tell me she felt uneasy. But I was that typical friend, and told her not to be silly, that she had nothing to worry about.

On the Thursday [the results were due] I didn’t want to bother her, so I texted her husband Nick on the way home from work. I got his message when I had stopped at a red light: “Elle’s just been diagnosed with leukaemia.” I remember pulling over at the side of the road and just howling. I think I cried all night.

We met for coffee two days later and Elle was in a daze, just hardly there. 

But from then on she was just so dogged. If it had been me I would have been in the foetal position for weeks. But she was stoic. She found the best doctors, she researched everything, she found other women experiencing the same thing, and she got on with life. I don’t think everyone would have reacted this way.

She really is one of a kind. From the day I met Elle, I’ve always felt she has this aura. There’s always been something about her that other people just don’t have. She is just one of the kindest, sweetest people. Our friendship is very strong and deep – unbreakable, really, when you consider everything that’s happened.”

Brianna wears Polo Ralph Lauren Red Military Jacket $999.00, available in Ralph Lauren Chatswood Chase, Doncaster & Collins St; Polo Ralph Lauren wide leg jean with gold detail $599.00, available in Ralph Lauren Chatswood Chase, Doncaster & Collins St. Elle wears Polo Ralph Lauren Plaid Dress $399; Polo Ralph Lauren black vest RRP$399.00, available in Ralph Lauren Chatswood Chase, Doncaster & Collins St.
Jessica Carrera and Gracie Otto PHOTO: Hugh Stewart

“We’re proud of our enduring friendship”

Director Gracie Otto and producer and publicist Jess Carrera are friends and also work together.

“Jess and I talk most days. I love hanging out with her one-on-one. We met when Jess was doing publicity, and she would invite me out to events where I could network. We started going out more and more, and became friends.

These days, if I was going through a tough time with work or family she would be the first person I’d call.

Jess and I are both very independent and we love travelling. We’ve been to Hong Kong, Cannes, LA, New York, London, Positano, Ibiza. She’s the only person I’ve ever traveled with who can go out and get up at 7am and do emails. She can always be convinced to have a night out, as well. We definitely know how to have fun. 

Once, we nearly set fire to our apartment in Cannes. I’d put a towel over the door and turned on the light, which had been sitting in the sun all day and then it blew and all my clothes nearly went up in flames. We had one tiny bottle of Evian water and the one towel the AirBnb had given us to put out the fire.

Gracie Otto and Jessica Carrera PHOTO: Hugh Stewart

Jess and I work together in a number of different variants – we have our friendship and then we work together. Jess is my publicist but also a producer – she’s basically attached to every project I’m working on in some way. I always rely on her. She’s very smart, she reads a lot and she has good taste.

I admire the fact that Jess has gone out and started a business by herself with just her own ideas and backing. She’s aways done everything for herself. I care about her a lot, and I’m proud of our friendship.” 

Jess: “As a publicist you get to know people you represent really quickly and personally because you need to have a connection to understand and manage them. So I end up with some level of friendship with most people I work with, but Gracie and I really hit it off.

We were both at similar points in our lives and careers when we met, and now I would describe our friendship as one of my top priorities.

I always feel energised after spending time with Gracie – a lot of people do. She is so vibrant. She’s always got an interesting story to tell, and I enjoy her company whether we’re working together or just watching Netflix or catching up for coffee. She’s someone I can see on a good day or a bad day. 

I always feel energised after spending time with Gracie – a lot of people do. She is so vibrant

Gracie is very bold. She’s so willing to speak to anybody, try anything. She’s always at the forefront of what’s new, and she’s incredibly talented with a really exciting, creative mind. She’s always herself. Recently she wore the same pair of shoes – diamanté slides – every day at Cannes, even to the amFAR Gala, when everyone else was in heels. She doesn’t try to fit in.

We’ve had so many funny times together. There was also a difficult period in my twenties where she was really there for me, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

I’d describe myself as a feminist, and Gracie would too. We are both part of The Dollhouse, a collective of women who tell stories for women by women and about women, so that the next generation can see those characters and stories on screen.

Gracie and I have the kind of friendship where I hope we’ll be able to look back in 30 years’ time and really laugh about the ridiculous situations we’ve been in, and the really inappropriate things we’ve done, but it will all by part of our story by then.”

Gracie wears Polo Ralph Lauren Martini Bear Knit $649.00, available at Ralph Lauren Chatswood Chase, Doncaster & Collins St; Polo Ralph Lauren White Skinny Jeans, $189. Jess wears Polo Ralph Lauren Tie Neck Stripe Blouse $349; Polo Ralph Lauren Skinny Jeans $199.


This story was created with Polo Ralph Lauren, which is synonymous with enduring style, timeless design, impeccable quality and the utmost attention to detail. The iconic brand recently celebrated 50 years, and you can find your nearest store here. It is also available at The ICONIC and David Jones.



Photographer: Hugh Stewart

Stylist: Aileen Marr

Writer: Anna Saunders

Make-up: Elsa Morgan

Hair: Kyye Reed

Photography assistant: Sean Slattery

Stylist assistant: Maya Entwhistle


BY Anna Saunders

Anna is the co-founder of Primer, and she cannot imagine life without her brilliant friends.

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