Australian swimmer James Roberts and his partner/best friend influencer Gabby Epstein are each other's best friends.
Australian swimmer James Roberts and his partner/best friend influencer Gabby Epstein are each other's best friends. Jerad Williams

Having a good friendship is simply the best

This Friday, June 8, is Best Friends Day. We ask some BFFs who has their back through thick and thin.

JAMES ROBERTS AND GABBY EPSTEIN

Australian sprint swimmer James Roberts and social media star Gabby Epstein are best friends. They also happen to be partners but their friendship came first and has been the foundation of their 18-month relationship.

They knew of each other as teenagers on the Gold Coast when both were state and national level swimmers. James, now 27, was a few years older than Gabby and they have a photo of them both in the Queensland Schools Swimming Team in 2007, sitting in the same row wearing maroon tracksuits.

"We're four people apart,” Gabby says. "So we've sort of known of each other for quite a long time.”

Gabby's swimming career ended in her last year of school from a rotator cuff injury while James went on to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra for five and half years. He too battled injuries which plagued his swimming career before he returned to the Gold Coast and won two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in April.

In the meantime, Gabby began modelling part-time while she was at school and university before launching a social media career which has had her accumulate 1.7 million Instagram followers.

James and Gabby met up again in January, 2017, through mutual friends. They ran into each other one night at a bar and then the very next day on Burleigh Hill.

"It really just started as a friendship,” Gabby says. "It all felt very natural. I felt like I had known him for a long time.”

"I asked her if she wanted to hang out sometime,” James says. "We still joke that we're just hanging out as friends. That's what it feels like. It's that kind of relationship - it's easy.”

Gabby travels a lot, as her Instagram account will attest, but she and James speak a few times every day no matter where they are.

"He really is my best friend,” she says. "He's the first person I think of ringing when something happens. I tell him everything. We've never had a fight. We never argue.”

James is back into training for the Pan Pacific Australian team trials starting June 30. The Pan Pac Championships are on in Tokyo in August.

Already Gabby is shuffling her travelling schedules so she can be there at both events to support him.

"It can be challenging at times with the travelling but it's not difficult,” Gabby says. "Nothing is really difficult with us.

"We've gone travelling overseas together and it's like travelling with my best friend. That's what he is.”

WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS?

James: The big smile. I remembered that from our younger swimming days. Coaches used to call her Smiley and it was still there. She was playing with a puppy on Burleigh Hill and she was laughing hysterically. I thought she was happy, positive and bubbly.

Gabby: When I was younger and we were in the swimming circles, people would say he was humble and friendly. He wasn't one of those older boys that could be obnoxious. I thought he was very down-to earth. When we met up again on Burleigh Hill, I also liked that he liked dogs.

WHAT ARE THE THREE QUALITIES YOU MOST VALUE IN THE OTHER?

James: Gabby's very positive; she never has a bad word to say about anybody and she's funny.

Gabby: He's loyal, super-reliable and he makes me laugh.

WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU KNOW ABOUT THE OTHER THAT MOST PEOPLE WOULDN'T KNOW?

James: Gabby is really smart. She was an OP1 student, the dux of her college and studied biomedical science at university. A lot of people only see one side of Gabby because she's an influencer but she's smart and also very down-to-earth.

Gabby: James is a terrific dancer, almost Michael Jackson standard. Well, maybe not but he's amazing to watch.

Living Room co-hosts and good friends Barry Du Bois and Miguel Maestre.
Living Room co-hosts and good friends Barry Du Bois and Miguel Maestre.

BARRY DU BOIS AND MIGUEL MAESTRE

Living Room co-hosts Barry Du Bois and Miguel Maestre are such good friends, they wrote a book about it.

The two met at a test casting for the Network Ten lifestyle program that was held in a Bondi apartment more than six years ago. The producers wanted to see how their four possibles: Barry, Miguel, radio personality Amanda Keller and celebrity vet Chris Brown, "gelled”.

"We all sat on the couch and the four of us chatted for two-and-a-half hours straight and then we went across the road to Icebergs and chatted for another few hours,” Barry says.

"I don't want to sound like I'm carrying on but even though we're quite different people, there is a real connection of souls.”

"Yes,” Miguel agrees. "You can have manufactured friendships but real friendships are like flowers. They blossom.”

Spanish-born Miguel, 38, is prone to the lyrical language of his native tongue. He came to Australia as a young chef, working in some of Sydney's premier kitchens before scoring TV gigs.

Barry's background couldn't be more different. The 57-year-old was a builder by trade before getting into building design. He ran a successful Sydney property development company, retiring in 2005, before being invited to host a renovation reality TV series.

They somehow ended up together on a new lifestyle show and the unlikely duo have been close mates ever since.

"You know, Miguel got me dancing,” Barry says. "I'd never danced in public in my life and at the first Logies we were at Miguel said to me 'Barry, can you believe we're here? We're going to have more fun than anyone because how did people like us - a builder and a chef - get to be here?' and he got me out there on the dance floor.

"No one had ever done that and we were the first up there dancing. Now I dance all the time. That's what he does for me.”

Barry has fought very public battles with cancer and a more secret battle with depression. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and was in remission for six years before announcing in October last year his cancer had returned in a more aggressive form.

The blurb for Barry and Miguel's book Life Force describes it as a story of friendship, life, food and cancer. It is a book of two parts: Barry's story and Miguel's support of Barry through his illness, with his special cancer-fighting recipes developed in conjunction with cancer treatment centre Chris O'Brien Lifehouse.

At last check, it was number three on Australia's best-selling non-fiction list but both Barry and Miguel say the book has already achieved what they wanted out of it.

"It was good for Barry to have a project at that time, something for him to be excited about,” Miguel says. "It was a beautiful thing to work on it together. Friendship is the best medicine. It's the best ingredient.”

Barry has been humbled by the public response to the book.

"When you get this media platform, there is good work to be done,” he says. "I've had people contact me and say how much the book has helped them or their family member through their cancer journey.

"People have said to me 'you've changed my life'. What an honour. You know, life is a summary of all the greatest times you have and friendship is a big part of that.”

WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS?

Barry: I sum up personalities very quickly but it was hard to understand what he was saying. Miguel talks faster when he's excitable but one thing I soon worked out was he only had good things to say. He never has a bad word.

Miguel: Sophisticated, nice hair, he had an agent. I thought he was a star.

WHAT ARE THE THREE QUALITIES YOU MOST VALUE IN THE OTHER?

Barry: Well, as I said, he never says anything bad; he has a great love for his family and I admire the way he is creating a wonderful life and future for himself.

Miguel: 1) Barry welcomes everyone. When he has a party, he invites the CEO and the cleaner. 2) Barry is good at sharing. He shares everything, especially his wisdom. He pays the bill. He is very generous. 3) He is a very sensitive person. Underneath the curtain of the tough businessman, the builder, he takes life and fills it with feelings.

WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU KNOW ABOUT THE OTHER THAT MOST PEOPLE WOULDN'T KNOW?

Miguel: I could tell you a thousand things but when he was a young fellow, he was known as Barry Blowwave because of his hair. An old friend of his from Bondi told us that and I love it.

Barry: It was a profound moment when we were ambassadors for R U OK Day and we were in Dubbo. There were quite a few drug affected and mentally ill people around. There was one homeless man obviously under the influence of drugs and he was approaching the "celebrities” and no one really wanted to know him but Miguel took him to the sausage sizzle and fixed him up with a gourmet sausage, made sure he got one and that he was eating it. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.



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