Crowds of young Amazons in bosom-popping brass bras and gold belts part as Lucy Lawless,28, star of Channel 5`s Xena:Warrior Princess walks across the ballroom.
At 5`11" she is a good head and shoulders above the 400 Xena wannabies who`ve flocked to meet their idol at a sold out Xena/Hercules convention in California.
At first Lucy, who films the series in her native New Zealand, had a problem with all this.`I felt like I`d become some kind of anti-Barbie,` she admits. `But now I find it a pleasure. I`ve even used it to change a few things in my life; I quit smoking for instance because I don`t want the young women who look up to me to think it`s OK.`
`Xena`s a wonderful role model,` she adds.`Anyone who`s suffered any kind of abuse can relate to Xena. She`s always fighting the good fight.`
Lucy, a kung fu expert, lets the stunt doubles handle the truly dirty work, and has sustained few injuries during the series. Ironically, her worst injury ocured on a US chat show, when she fell off her horse as she rode onto the set. Lucy reckons the time she spent in hospital recovering from a shattered pelvis brought her closer to her daughter, 8 year old Daisy.
`She`s a lot prouder of her mother now that the show`s a success. Originally she blamed Xena for the break up of the family,` says Lucy who divorced Daisy`s father, bar manager Garth Lawless, and is now dating Xena`s co-creator and executive producer Rob Tapert.
Working 16 hour days she only gets to see her daughter Daisy at the weekends; her ex-husband looks after her the rest of the time. `I wish I could spend more time with her.` she says `But we`re doing the best for her. I think the toughest thing I`ve done in my life is to go through a divorce and be a working mother. You feel like you`re losing your kid and can`t defend yourself. Even your kid thinks you don`t care. At times I`ve had to surpress my natural urge to fight back and say my piece.`
Raised in Auckland, New Zealand, she `lived a charmed existance. I have five brothers and one sister;I didn`t know I was a girl until I was eight.`
Crowned Mrs New Zealand in 1989, she studied for three years to become an opera singer, then moved with her husband and child to Canada, where she went to drama school and won tiny TV walk on parts.
Returning to New Zealand three years ago she guested on the hit series Hercules twice as another character before winning the part of Xena.
`I was fighting the flu and trying to give my daughter a camping experience in New Zealand when they tracked me down and offered me the part,` Lucy explains.
Luckily, Lucy already had the body of an Amazon. But she still had to alter her looks for her new role- she got hair extensions:`They`re ghastly,` she says.`No one can run their fingers through my hair!`
There were some changes made to her character too. `When Xena guested on Hercules she was the most reprehensible woman there ever was,` Lucy remembers. `She`s a lot less nasty now:one brush with Hercules made her a better person!`
HOW XENA GETS HER KICKS
She talks as tough as John Wayne, dresses like a dominatrix in black leather, kung fu kicks her way out of trouble, and only reveals her softer side to her sidekick Gabrielle. Xena:Warrior Princess is a very nineties action heroine. A spin off from the tongue-in-cheek fantsasy series Hercules:The Legendary Journeys, the show combines mythology and martial arts action- although Xena always tries to solve things peacefully first. The series has achieved cult status in the US, where it`s the top rated syndicated show. Here it`s been doing well on Sky 1 and Channel 5 has high hopes: `We`re confident Xena will build the audience on a Saturday night,` a spokesman says.
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