From farmer to philanthropist, the SA media personality on a mission to bring joy to the masses.
Gregarious larrikin, former Biggest Loser contestant and wannabe bull rider Andrew ‘Cosi’ Costello lives for making others happy.
He’s also intent on making radio station Hit 107 number one and “becoming the most influential media personality in South Australia.”
“That could be perceived as being arrogant, but I know that if I can achieve it, I can help truckloads of people,” said the TV personality and Hit 107 breakfast host.
And helping people is what Cosi does best. From throwing a birthday party for children who’ve never been invited to one, organising charity events for kids with disabilities, to buying cows and then lending them to impoverished Cambodian families, Cosi confesses he’s “wired to please people.”
“Giving back is addictive. Every day I look at what I can do to make other people’s days better,” he said.
The funny thing is, I studied agriculture, then started in the media pretty much straight after that, and I’ve been in it for 17 years and only recently when I travelled to Cambodia did I start using my ag degree with my charity there.Andrew 'Cosi' Costello
After failing Year 12 and receiving the lowest mark in Maths B in the state, Cosi repeated and went on to study a Bachelor of Agriculture at Roseworthy College. He was working as a pig farmer 19 years ago when he won his coveted position on SAFM (now Hit 107) through the station’s Great Race competition.
“I had no home for about 18 months after uni. I just did contract work on farms, camped in caravans and swagged it every other day. I wasn’t homeless, I could’ve afforded a home but I chose not to,” he said.
“I then started working for SAFM and my colleagues couldn’t believe I didn’t have a house. I’d finish my day’s work on the farms, drive to Adelaide, and if I had to work on the breakfast show the next morning, I’d just roll out my swag opposite Greenhill Road and sleep near the creek or under the building.
“People in the industry still joke that I was that guy that used to sleep in the swag.”
Sporting an $8 Dunlop shirt and carrying a Woolies plastic bag with his things to attend a ‘la-di-da’ lunch after our interview, the affable father of three is probably the least materialistic person you’ll ever meet.
“I hate materialistic possessions, I basically have none except for my massive fish tank at home (the largest in Adelaide) which holds two tonne of water and I have my race horses because they make me feel connected to the country.
“I have no desire for stuff, just a desire for memories and moments,” said Cosi.
That wasn’t always the case though. Before his appearance on The Biggest Loser, Cosi’s single-minded goal was to be a millionaire by the time he turned 30.
But the social isolation and confinement of being on the reality TV show transformed his financially driven life philosophy.
“Two weeks into the show with no radio, no phone, no contact with your family or friends, nothing, you start to do a bit of self-assessment and I realised I had all my priorities around the wrong way.”
While Cosi was in the Biggest Loser house, the financial crisis hit and he lost a lot of money.
“I lost 52 kg in the house and a quarter of a million bucks but it was the best quarter of a million loss because it reset me,” he said.
From this reset, local travel TV show South Aussie with Cosi was born. It’s been screening for the past eight years, is the biggest TV show in the state, broadcast internationally and is 100 per cent self-funded by Cosi.
“Investment in travel is such a win. At the end of the day, we’re all going to be lying on our death bed and the recall you’re going to have is the family and friends moments, and most of those moments are going to be when you’re on holidays.
“When I started working in media, I found everyone was in it for themselves and that 99 per cent of what the media portrays is negative which really got me down, that’s also why I started South Aussie with Cosi.
“I thought, if I can claw back half an hour, once a week and fill it up with positivity, then that’s half an hour less negative media,” he said.
Agriculture still runs strong in Cosi’s blood.
For the last three years, he’s been taking Roseworthy students over to South East Asia as part of his Cows for Cambodia charity which he started after travelling to the region and falling in love with the place and its people.
Giving back is addictive. Every day I look at what I can do to make other people's days better.Andrew 'Cosi' Costello
The charity is all about breaking the poverty cycle through lending Cambodian families a pregnant cow so they can keep the calf when it arrives. Cosi’s plan is to have 1000 cows in the program and then grow it in Botswana where he has been trialling the same model on a smaller scale for the past two years.
"The funny thing is, I studied agriculture, then started in the media pretty much straight after that, and I’ve been in it for 17 years and only recently when I travelled to Cambodia did I start using my ag degree with my charity there."
Cosi always wanted a farm, now he has one.
“The irony is, I finally got my farm but it’s in South East Asia. We’re very proud of it. We’ve built the best cattle facility in the country and we’re moving towards being the biggest agriculture charity in South East Asia in the next couple of years.”
2018 SA Local Hero of the Year has also started a free-range piggery in Cambodia which he believes will help locals make more money per hectare than they can from rice.
In fact, there’s not much Cosi hasn’t done, but for now, his focus in 2019 is ‘fixing’ the station that gave him his start in radio.
“Succeeding in making this station reign again would be euphoric. I will succeed because I won’t let it not be successful. It’s like a fire in my belly, a gut determination.”
Story by Rachael Nightingale
Photos by Meaghan Coles