If you’re a Queenslander, you might know me as the host of The Great South East, (then The Great Day Out), the travel lifestyle television show I hosted for 14 years on the Seven Network.
For anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s and watched a lot of TV, you may remember me as the host of Saturday Disney and Now You See It, or perhaps you were a fan of Just Kidding! the prime-time show I hosted with Steve Jacobs for the Nine Network.
I often get asked how I got my start in the media. My first TV gig was when I was just 14 on a satellite Music Video show for regional schools produced by the Queensland Education Department. This was followed by hosting Footprints! from the World Expo 88 Channel 10 studios in my final year of high school. My childhood dream of working in TV looked promising, so I deferred from my first year of university (I was going to study teaching) to join the children’s TV show Wombat as a producer/reporter. When that show was axed later in the year, I thought that was it – the shortest TV career ever!
Luckily, Buena Vista International and the Seven Network decided to make a new national live Saturday morning kids show out of the Brisbane studios, and I became part of the original cast and production team of Saturday Disney.
At that time, Seven Brisbane was also producing the TV quiz show Now You See It, which pitted teams from different schools against each other. In 1991, at 20 years old, I took over as host and made Australian TV history by becoming the first solo female presenter of a national quiz show. There’s one for the TV trivia fans.
Other shows I did for the Seven at that time included The Great Outdoors, The Main Event and Tonight Live with Steve Vizard, where I was a regular.
During this period, I made my acting debut with a guest role as Imogen Miller on Seven’s Home and Away. It’s remarkable how many people still ask me about that.
In late 1992, the Nine Network offered me the opportunity to co-host a prime time show with Steve Jacobs. Just Kidding! was a candid camera show of hilarious stunts and pranks, and it became Australia’s highest rating TV show of that year and made headlines reaching 2 million viewers in our first season. Thirty years later, Steve and I are still great mates.
In 1994, partly as a career challenge and partly for personal adventure, I moved to Los Angeles to work for NBC/Time Telepictures as a reporter on the entertainment magazine show EXTRA. It was a dream job travelling across America to visit movie sets and interview some of the biggest Hollywood celebrities at that time. Some of the most memorable are Bruce Willis, Meg Ryan, Nicole Kidman, Sylvester Stallone, and the cast of Friends.
By 1996 this thing called “the internet” was starting to catch on, and I was invited to move to San Francisco and host The Web, the world’s first show about the pop-culture of the internet made by CNET Productions for the USA/Sci-fi Cable Networks. Hosting the sister programme, The New Edge was a rookie TV presenter called Ryan Seacrest – I wonder what happened to him? The Web had a US audience of over 30 million people and was seen in over 18 countries. Next came TV.com, a nationally syndicated program that I co-hosted with Ron Reagan Jnr.
A high point of my time in California was in 1999 when Oprah Winfrey handpicked me to appear as a co-host and technology mentor for her and her best friend Gayle in a 13-part series Oprah Goes Online for her Oxygen network. For a girl from Brisbane, hanging on set in Chicago with Oprah – this was a pinch-me moment.
There’s no denying that a TV career can be incredibly exciting and rewarding, but it is only a part of who I am. Being of Italian heritage, family has always been the most important thing to me. So, when my twins, Jack and Jessica, were born in San Francisco 2000, my husband Scott and I returned to Brisbane and our extended families. We had our third child, Emily, in 2002. We wanted our kids to know the love and support of grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins. Brisbane was and still is our village.
In 2004, I returned to television as the host of The Great South-East on Channel Seven Brisbane. Every week we celebrated the remarkable places to visit and things to do in south-east Queensland, and of course, the inspiring people that made it all possible. I’m fortunate to count many of them as dear friends. Over the decades, our little show at 5.30 pm on Sundays consistently won its time slot and was one of the highest-rating shows on the station. I chose to step away from that role in 2018.
One of the privileges of having a high profile is being asked to MC all sorts of presentations and events. I’ve hosted numerous industry award nights for tourism, fashion and retail. I’ve facilitated global conferences, chaired panel discussions, and conducted keynote interviews with myriad businesspeople, academics, authors, sporting figures and thought leaders. And I’ve had the honour of hosting QPAC’s The Spirit of Christmas concert since 2017, where I get to live out my fantasy of singing on stage (albeit with the help of some amazing guest performers and a muted microphone).
From time to time, you’ll still see me pop up on your TV or social media feed as the face of National Product Review. Being in the public eye, I’ve always been very cautious about which brands or products I wanted to endorse or promote. National Product Review gives me a chance to road test and share the latest in consumer electronics, household appliances and all those wonderful bits of technology that make life easier for all of us. And I get to promote Australia’s retailers, many of whom are independent small businesses.
2021 was the start of a whole new chapter for me when I was offered the opportunity of hosting Afternoons with Sofie Formica on Brisbane radio station 4BC for Nine Radio. It is the first time since 2015 that the afternoon program is broadcast from Brisbane – my hometown. I am excited to have this opportunity to engage with listeners, shine a spotlight on our local lifestyle, and focus on the people and businesses that are the backbone of our community.
Sofie’s Career Highlights
Saturday Disney 1990 – 1992
Now You See It 1991-1993
The Great Outdoors 1992
Tonight with Steve Vizard 1991-1992
Home and Away 10 episodes 1992
Just Kidding 1992 – 1994
EXTRA 1994 – 1996
The Web 1996 – 1999
Murder She Wrote Season 12, Episode 20, character Linda Molen 1997
Oprah Goes Online 1999
The Great South East 2004 – 2018
San Andreas, TV Reporter, 2015