The day she ran off to join the circus Bianca Dye sat in a motel room gluing sequins to every centimetre of a vest and to the bottom of a very short skirt. A black top hat completed the ensemble.
Having flown from Melbourne to Coffs Harbour for the audition and having landed the job, she quickly needed a costume fit for a ringmaster.
The next six months would be an adventure of a lifetime. She would turn 21 on the road, win over some gruff and burly circus masters and live the life of a Russian gypsy as she travelled Australia with the famous Moscow Circus.
The co-host of the i98FM breakfast program turns 40 this month - a milestone that's made even more special by the fact that the same circus that she ran away with when she was 20 rolled into town this week.
"It's so ironic that they're here when I'm turning 40," says Dye. "I totally feel like it's a coming of age. So much has happened in the last 19 years."
Dye, a self-confessed rock chick and media personality, who once interviewed Madonna and Pink and defeated 2UE king John Laws in the fiercely fought radio ratings wars as the morning host of NOVA FM, now lives a more settled life in Wollongong - with long walks around Belmore Basin and Bikram Yoga regular activities.
Gone is the public relation's party machine that would once send her clothes and jewellery, pay to have her hair and make-up done and send a limousine to take her to and from the most popular parties in Sydney.
"They would do all that just so that I would mention their party or launch the next day on air," says Dye. "It would mean thousands of dollars for them."
Instead Dye has settled down with her on-again, off-again boyfriend of four years, i98 sales manager Sean O'Shannassy. The couple have moved in together and are hoping to start a family.
"My whole life is a bit of a soap opera and has been played out on radio," says Dye. "I can't help it. Being open about my life to my listeners is something I've always done. I don't worry about it too much, although it has often gotten me in trouble with my partner."
Coincidently, Dye and O'Shannassy are planning a road trip from Brisbane to Port Douglas for her 40th. She remembers being on the road for her 21st and spending the night in a hotel room of a small town, that she now can't recall the name of, somewhere north of Coffs Harbour.
"It was a Tuesday night and I had no idea where to go," she says. "I remember thinking 'I'm 21, what am I doing here?'."
The ringmaster gig had come courtesy of legendary circus promoter Michael Edgley.
Edgley had contacted Dye's father Issi Dye, a late night television talk show host, seeking recommendations for the ringmaster position.
When Issi asked his daughter if she knew anyone who would fit the bill, she asked if they would accept a female. The answer was yes.
"I was studying a Media and Communication degree at RMIT and wanted to be a journalist or a television news presenter at the time," explains Dye. "That was back in the days when presenters weren't celebrities. I liked the idea of television because I had grown up around Channel 9. I used to go to Bert Newton's and Don Lane's house with my dad. It sounds like I'm boasting but that was my life. From a young age I was fascinated with television and I wanted to combine it with my love of writing."
But Dye, having been dux of her her year at Brighton High School in Melbourne, was bored with university life.
"When they said they would consider a woman I thought why not, I'll give it a go."
So Dye traded in study for the spotlight and the smell of sawdust and began stocking up on the sequins.
But when the Russian performers discovered their new ringmaster was a young female, barely out of her teens, there was enough tension in the air to rival a lion tamer's act.
"It was hilarious," she says. "They were very old school. You can imagine all these Russian men not wanting to have a female ringmaster. They wouldn't stand for it. In the end it was agreed that I would co-ringmaster. So a male ringmaster would say something in Russian and I'd translate it for the audience. It worked really well actually. But they were very sexist back then. It was a very male-dominated show and the women who were there were expected to just smile and look pretty. A lot's changed since then."
The Russians were affronted by Dye, who wore short skirts and had a cheeky wit.
"The Russian women were very modest and I think I freaked them out a bit," she says. "They sat me up the back of the trailer and didn't want to know about me for a few weeks."
It wasn't just gender that was an issue but also a clash of culture.
"One day I was on the bus doing my make-up and whistling away," she says. "Well that was the worst thing I could have done. Apparently in Russia only men and women of the night women, if you get what I'm saying, whistle. They thought I was an absolute hussy and as I walked out of the trailer they all spat on the ground after me in disgust. In those first few weeks they were very arrogant. It was a bit lonely at times."
On long bus trips they would bring out a Russian delicacy of dried fish to snack on - the smell, explains Dye, was nauseating.
"I had to sit up the front of the bus I felt so sick," she says. "It was 40-degree heat and the smell was like ... OH MY GOD ... and of course they would all be laughing at me. They thought it was a huge joke."
Within a month Dye, thanks to her sense of humour and crazy antics, began to fit into circus life and even the most hardened Russian male began to warm to her, so much so that by the end of her six-month stint they were all good mates.
"We'd explore the towns together and swim in the hotel pools," she says. "It was an exciting time and a lot of fun. Circus people are a very rare breed. They really are travelling gypsies. They were also very much the chosen ones. They had been chosen from all these incredible acts in Russia to come out to Australia. These people had been given a second lease on life and back then Australia was considered the golden land."
Many of the performers resided in caravans and beyond the sawdust there was always a group of colourful characters living out their lives.
"It absolutely fascinated me. They were the real deal circus people," she says. "You would walk out at the back of the Circus tent and people would be handwashing their costumes. There would be sequined leotards and gloves hanging on lines. It wasn't unusual to be siting down having breakfast and see a chihuahua walk past in a tutu. It was totally normal."
Her father still has her top hat among his memorabilia in the garage of his Melbourne home.
"I told him not to lose that hat," says Dye. "There's a lot of blood, sweat and tears in that hat. We did eight shows a week. There was no rest. I worked my butt off. But while it was hard work it was so much fun."
Dye, who was once a Sydney socialite has lived in Wollongong for four years.
"People often say to me if I miss Sydney," she says, "I say nope. This is the best place to live. I couldn't work with a more fantastic group of people."
Although if she had her time over she would perhaps re-think a tattoo she had inked on her 36th birthday, her first day on air with i98FM co-host Marty Haynes.
The tattoo on her wrist is of a pair of wings with the words: "Breathe, believe, just be, be now". The tattoo represented a time of significant change in her life.
Haynes, she says, often teases her about the tattoo.
"He'll often say, 'Don't forget to breathe Bianca, don't forget to breathe'," says Dye.
The Moscow Circus will be at Warrawong's Kully Bay Park Reserve until August 25.