Fans of The Real Housewives of Sydney know Athena X Levendi as the eccentric, fun-loving, spiritual artist who is married to Greek jeweller Panos Levendis. Together they have three children – Alexander, 16, Pavlos, 12, and Myrella, 9, and live a glamorous life in Sydney’s stunning Bellevue Hill.
The X, in case you were wondering, stands for her maiden name Xenakis. Athena was born in Australia but grew up in cosmopolitan Athens, Greece.
She is fiercely proud and protective of her Greek heritage and says it’s an integral part of who she is.
I recently had a one-on-one with the Greek spiritual gangster who opened up on the ins and outs of being on a reality TV show and spilled the beans on just how much of it is ‘reality’.
Her spirituality and connectedness to the universe is often mocked by the other ladies but we found out the tragic circumstances that led her to her own spiritual awakening. Athena says being spiritual has nothing to do with religion or swearing or being a nice person. Each and everyone can be a spiritual and enlightened being in their own way.
I, for one, love Athena’s exuberance and passion. Yes, she is loud and has a tongue that bites but her ability to acknowledge her wrong doings and apologise is a trait to be admired.
Read Love Chrystal websites’s exclusive interview below for an insight into the wonderful world of Athena X.
How did you become involved with The Real Housewives Of Sydney?
I was actually nominated by numerous friends who kept giving my name to a casting agent who was asking people in the eastern suburbs who is different and who is out there. One day I received a phone call whilst I was doing yoga, in the middle of downward dog, and the casting agent told me she wanted a meeting with me. One of the questions I was asked during that first meeting was have I watched the Melbourne Real Housewives and I answered, “Oh, that show is terrible! Those women just scream.” I think they liked the fact that I wasn’t afraid to speak my mind and be frank . . . and before I knew it I was cast.
Are you a fan of the other shows? Which ones do you follow?
The truth be said I never really watched a lot of these type of shows before I was cast, however part of the process was for me to go in and study the characters and what made the show interesting and addictive. I really like the New York Housewives as the women appear brash, opinionated, interesting, smart, and less petty than in other franchises, not to forget their great city and cool clothes that makes entertaining TV.
You’re very vocal and passionate about your Greek background – how has this influenced who you are and how you react and interact with the other women on the show?
My Greek heritage is something I am very proud of, I feel that a lot of Greek people living overseas away from their country of birth would be able to relate with me a lot easier.
I am aware that my personality is very large and quite polarising and could make a lot of women and men instantly feel a little bit confused or [that I can] even be easily misunderstood as a lot of my jokes or [my] sense of humour is a direct translation from Greek into English therefore a lot of things come out sounding wrong or crazy. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, however growing up in Greece people are a lot more honest with their feelings even if that means they show anger and frustration but we know how to move on very quickly and don’t hold grudges. The best thing about me is I will tell you what I think to your face but I will never backstab you! I don’t like games and I’m not passive aggressive! Yes, I have a temper but I’m also the first person to admit a mistake, apologise and move on! I think that has a lot to do with my heritage and yes, growing up in a culture where everybody understands each other and there isn’t a sense of judgement! I’ve never understood this mentality of catching people out, or passive aggressive language. You don’t like someone you tell them to their face you don’t plot things against them and you don’t campaign against them, that’s my philosophy.
How real is what we see on the show? Do you feel you’ve been misrepresented?
Everything you see is pretty much real reactions, real storylines, real happiness, real anger, real arguments with a few cameras shoved in our faces and a few takes in between trying to get your point across where I always forget and that’s where the problems begin. Probably everything is magnified and portrayed in a way that producers think will make a better storyline and more interesting episode.
The danger with my personality, because I gave them a lot of drama, was very tempting and I can see how they only used all my crazy outbursts … and yes, they did leave out a lot of my compassion and fun-loving moments. One of my greatest moments where I apologise to Matty was never shown nor was the moment I offered my bed on the yacht to Matty. Also in the gallery it didn’t really go down the way they portrayed it . . . yes, I lost my cool but haven’t we all! Overall yes I do have a temper but I am also a very kind, compassionate, loving person who would never campaign or put another woman down by labelling her in every episode ‘nasty’ and I certainly would never have a pack mentality! I fought my own battles and yes, there were many in front of the cameras and behind the cameras.
You call yourself a spiritual gangster – when did you first feel a connection to the spiritual world?
We are all spiritual [and are] having a human experience not the other way around! Spirituality has nothing to do with religion or whether you are a nice person or not. A lot of people have tried to use this term against me! I had a massive spiritual awakening three and a half years ago after the sudden death of my late mother who died from a cardiac arrest in front of my sons and my daughter one Sunday afternoon. It took me six months to recover from a deep depression but it was the biggest gift my mother could’ve given me with her passing. It was life-changing to have this awakening and connect with the true essence of my soul.
An awakening doesn’t last forever. If one doesn’t practice every day, yes, you can go back to square one. I still have a long way to go and as one of the greatest spiritual teachers of our time said ‘if you think you are enlightened go spend a weekend with your family!’ Meaning when we are around people who push our buttons and bring out our insecurities we always regress to our primal fears. Spirituality doesn’t mean you don’t have a temper and you don’t feel anger pain or sorrow. This is a very big misunderstanding by most. Spirituality definitely isn’t an accessory for my ego. But like the Lotus it needs to grow in the mud. I am in the university of spirituality – I have not graduated.
Being a mum to three kids what’s the biggest struggle you face every day? What do you love about being a mum?
There is no struggle in being a mum, it is the biggest gift and privilege for a female, I try to remind myself that my kids do not belong to me and not to confuse them with my own ideologies or complexes. I am only here to guide them, love them, nurture them and give them wings to fly and be whatever their soul is here to contribute on this earth and for their lifetime to be meaningful and balanced. But I do struggle with the laundry.
Are you a traditional Greek cook? What’s your family’s favourite meal?
My family’s favourite meal would have to be spanakopita! I love making it from scratch and whenever I do it is gobbled up straight away. I cook daily.
You were very offended when Kristy first mocked your Greekness and teased the way you spoke. Is this something you’ve had to battle with growing up?
The stereotype of what being a Greek means?
I was born in Australia but I grew up in Athens from the age of eight, so I’ve never really felt degraded for being Greek. Actually in Greece, anything or anyone that’s not Greek is admired because in Athens we love and celebrate all nationalities. So for me the fact that Krissy was mocking my ethnicity and making racist remarks was completely shocking and I couldn’t comprehend why she was doing this in this day and age? Surely she knew being Greek was a privilege – we discovered philosophy, drama, democracy.
The producers were very kind to her and actually edited that entire scene in such a way that Krissy wouldn’t come across as racist as she really went overboard with all her anti-Greek comments. Thank goodness they didn’t show the entire scene. I feel embarrassed for her friends who are Greek and are probably unaware of how she really sees us as Greeky Greeks!
What is your relationship like now with the other women? Who are you truly friends with?
My relationship with the other women is only on a professional level. However, I am very close to Lisa and thank God I have her in my life. I’ve seen Matty occasionally and Melissa and I are back on track. Unfortunately I’ve tried to reach out to the others but they are not interested.
Did you ever get your cape back that Victoria threw in the harbour?
I did get the cape back! The truth be said, Victoria actually did that all on her own merit not because the producers made her, let’s get this straight. For me the most disappointing part of it all, was that she didn’t have the decency to even call me to apologise, even after I texted her that night with no response! She only ever gave me that lame apology on the phone in that vintage shop that day after Melissa told her I was there with her! Interesting how nobody noticed that.
I love your vintage style and sense of fashion. Who are your style icons?
Some of my style icons come from music I listened to in the 80s – I particularly love Blondie, David Bowie, and Michael Jackson. I spent my childhood escaping by watching the old classic black-and-white films with all those magnificent costumes! I love dressing up purely for my soul and the drama of it. I’ve never really followed trends. I follow my instinct and I dress to feel good and tell a story. I adore characters like Iris Apfel and Anna Dello Russo because they dress for their soul.
You always look so flawless on the show – what are some beauty secrets you can share with us?
Water! Healthy, clean eating. Meditation, be happy with what you have even if you think it’s not enough or it’s not the best. Gratitude makes us look happy and content! Believe it or not this is the truth. I am a low maintenance person when it comes to my beauty regime, as I’ve said many times I only use skin care products from Dr Aspect. I don’t normally wear too much make-up and I always make sure I remove it all properly before I go to sleep. One of my best shopping tips would have to be walking into stores for mature women or stores your grandmother would shop at and force yourself to find one gem. I always find really good quality things that are a bit quirky and always look a bit Gucci or Fendi and if you add a ribbon or a brooch – BAM it looks cool! Think outside the box and if everybody else is wearing that [item] – stay away.
Give us three words that describe you.
Layered, compassionate, and loving.
* Chrystal Psaltopoulos is a lifestyle, fashion and beauty blogger at lovechrystal.com.au