Meeting Shae-Lee Shackleford and Russell Raven for the first time at the recent Nuggett x Charlie event, my immediate thought was that I 110% needed to get these two on Husskie to do one of our Love Stories. With Shae-Lee the director and talent at viral online comedy SketchShe and Russell also a renowned writer and actor, these two not only knew how to deliver the laughs – but also were quite obvious in how much respect they had for each other. Couple goals.
Following their official duties as ambassadors for Nuggett x Charlie – a new luxury organic vegan skincare – I grabbed the two aside after the launch event for a little couch chat. Here, I grill them on everything from initial misgivings to how a hankie could have destroyed their first date (but instead made it).
First off, can you tell me how you two first met?
S: We were in an acting class.
R: It was a week long intensive and we didn’t like each other at the start. At all.
S: In particular I didn’t like him. He plays it like he didn’t like me, but…
R: Nah, it was mutual. It was all part of the game.
S: So not true. But by the end of the week, I was like ‘he’s not so bad’… He had absolutely no game for like 3 months, he’d be like: ‘Do you want to run scenes?’ and would always be trying to relate everything back to work. I was always unclear of whether or not he was actually asking me out or not.
R: After the theatre and some plays and stuff, we then went on a date. I was sick as a dog – but because Shae-Lee was always so busy, I didn’t know if I’d get another chance. It was funny because on the date I was sitting there and my internal monologue was: ‘If I pull out my handkerchief, I’m never going to see this girl again’…
S: But the funniest cutest thing is, he pulled out his handkerchief and my grandfather – who I was very close to – had always said to me ‘A gentleman always carries a hankie’. And so I was like ‘Oh my God, he’s got a hanky’!
R: At the same time I’ve gone ‘I’m never going to see this girl again’ – Shae’s fallen in love! So it was this great transition – synchronicity at its finest.
So rewinding, why didn’t you like each other at the start?
S: When Russ is in a group scenario, sometimes he goes quite introverted but it can come across as arrogance – but I now know it’s because he’s shy. I’m the opposite – I’m very extroverted so I just thought ‘This guy thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread’. And I was like ‘And he’s not!’
R: But really, I was packing it in…
S: Really, he was just really nervous – so that was quite funny. I just thought he was arrogant but once I got to know him one-on-one, I realised he was very sweet. He’s not what you expect when you look at him because obviously he looks a bit like a Hemsworth.
R: Never judge a book by its cover, that’s what it taught her.
With your first date, who asked who?
R: I asked. Shae was back from America and SketchShe had just blown up. She said she was going to be back in Australia for a few weeks before she had to go to the US again and so I had one week to wine and dine and catch-up. I asked her out to this restaurant. Turns out that it took only cash, and I didn’t have any cash, so not only did I use a handkerchief – but she also had to pay for the date. Gallant levels were out of this world! The first date was not smooth.
And Shae, did you even know you were going on a date?!
S: Not really, it was pretty unclear. I was like ‘I think we’re just friends’, but that was honestly fine. When I first met Russ, I was in the background working on SketchShe and my online stuff and then within that time we had our viral videos – so my world just turned on its head. But the thing that was really interesting is that before that had happened, Russ had already been very there – like he’d tried to get me an agent and done all these things that were him just being a genuinely nice guy. When we had these viral videos, a lot of people came out of the woodwork. It’s this very interesting thing where everyone in the world was like “Oh hey!” but it stuck out to me that Russ was being lovely and present before all of a sudden we were on Ellen and whatever. So he got in at the right time!
R: I didn’t get in at the right time, I was just genuinely nice!
S: Everything happens for a reason though…
You’re married now. How long have the two of you been together?
S: Almost five years now.
R: I proposed in New York City on Christmas Day, so it was very cute. I went to do a full thing – tried to propose at the carousel in Brooklyn, and the carousel broke down. And then we went to the pizza place that we’d booked that has the best pizza in New York – and the oven blew up.
S: I obviously had no idea what was going on. When he was really disappointed at the carousel, I was like ‘Okay, why?!’.
R: Little did she know that my world was crashing. So the next morning I decided to do it in bed and make it quite private and personal. I put our favourite song on and asked her. The funny thing was when I asked her Dad for his permission, he got off his motorbike and I was like ‘Neil, I need to ask you a question mate. Can I have your daughter’s hand in marriage?’ and his response was ‘Hold that thought, I’ve got to pee’. So when I proposed to Shae, it was the exact same sentence: ‘I’ll be right back, I’ve got to pee’.
S: It was first thing in the morning! I was like half asleep on the toilet when it hit me.
When did you two get married?
S: We haven’t had a proper ceremony yet but we’re married on paper, at some point we will have an actual party and ceremony. We’re basically married in every other sense, but our families will kill us if we don’t have an actual ceremony.
What is it about Russ that you love the most?
S: I was saying this to him the other day, and this isn’t the sexiest thing you write home about, but the thing is that he is extremely reliable. He is so unbelievably dependable. There will never be a time where I’m like ‘I need you to pick me up’ and he’s not there or I can’t get a hold of him. He’s very solid. I get breakfast every single day of my life – he makes me cooked breakfast. And he’s a gentleman – he really is an old school gentleman. The hankie didn’t lie!
And Russ, what is it about Shae that you love the most?
R: When I first met Shae, I was very introverted and wouldn’t show the goofy side of myself. Shae makes it okay for me to show the most authentic, goofy, loser side of myself. She’s encouraged the best version of myself to come out – which is this big goof ball, and that’s okay. There’s no point where you think – ‘Did I just go too far with that?!’ I said to her on our second date that the energy she brings around wants me to be a better man.
What makes you two such a good couple?
R: We compliment each other beautifully in that Shae is a real go-getter and hustler and then I’m more slow and methodical and I like to plan – so the tortoise and the hare can actually be best friends.
S: Communication. Knowing that whatever happens with us, we’ll be able to discuss it. Anything that comes up, whether it be an issue or we have a fight about something, we’re always like: ‘Okay, there’s a reason that this happened. Let’s discuss what that is and where we’re coming from’ and we always grow from it. I think that the biggest difference between my relationship with Russ and previous partners is that we grow from every single circumstance. I know a lot of guys aren’t good with communication, so I’ll give Russ that – he’s very good at expressing himself and listening.
R: And we finish with most of our arguments with laughter. They start with ‘you’re a dick’ but then they finish with ‘we’re both a dick’ – and laughing about it.
A big message at today’s Nuggett x Charlie event is ‘happiness’. What does happiness mean to you?
S: I think it’s being able to have a laugh with the people you love and not take yourself or life too seriously. Surrounding yourself with people that you care about who truly know the real you and that you can be yourself around.
Talking about Nuggett x Charlie, how did the two of you get involved with it?
S: I’ve known Nuggett for years and this really has been an absolute passion project for her. For us, we can 100 per cent see the passion Nuggett has put into this range. She’s tirelessly worked on it over the years and the reality is, we’re not just saying that we like the products because we have to, we genuinely love them. I think they really do represent everything we’re about – to be healthy, to put things in your body and on your skin that have no cruelty to animals and are plant-based. That’s why it was such an obvious alignment for us. I don’t know anybody else who has put quite so much love and passion into what they do as Nuggett has into this range.
And just to finish off… Five year’s time, where are you hoping to be in your relationship?
S: I think we’ll definitely have a kid by then. I was always thinking I’d be late 30s when I would want a kid as I had all these things I wanted to get done first, but I’ve started to change my perspective on a few things. That, and making films. At the moment we have a few films in the works.
R: Almost like we own our own production house – we’re months away from that now, so that’s really exciting.