Mel Homer takes the helm of The Café on TV3

Thérèse Henkin dis­cov­ers how Mel Homer worked her way out from be­hind the scenes to front two hit TV and ra­dio shows.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

WHETHER IT IS a wind­less day and the sails are slack, or the waves are beat­ing re­lent­lessly against their boat, Me­lanie Homer loves noth­ing more than be­ing out on the wa­ter with her fam­ily.

It’s a far cry from her day jobs, but when me­dia per­son­al­ity and mother of three sons Mel wipes off her make-up and chucks on her life­jacket, she says, there is no greater feel­ing in the world.

“Seren­ity,” says Mel. “That’s how you would de­scribe be­ing on the boat. Even on the worst of days, be­ing out on the wa­ter will al­ways make you feel calm.

“The things you get to ex­pe­ri­ence when sail­ing are in­cred­i­ble. We’ve had orca whales pop right up be­tween the boat and the dinghy we were tow­ing. It’s just amazing, and I am so happy my boys get to ex­pe­ri­ence things like this.”

But, although Mel’s heart might be­long to the sea, her feet are planted firmly on the ground as she jug­gles moth­er­hood and her non-stop ca­reer.

As well as helm­ing Mix Ra­dio’s Break­fast with Mel Homer, she is co-host of TV3’s The Café, along­side her long-time friend, Mike Puru.

“It’s full on and very busy,” she says when asked how she jug­gles work and fam­ily. “But I don’t know what I’d be do­ing if I didn’t have [my kids]. I’d just be sit­ting round in my py­ja­mas eat­ing choco­late, a lot more than I al­ready do,” she laughs.

“Ra­dio is fun be­cause it’s loose and re­laxed. Be­fore I started work­ing on

The Café, peo­ple were say­ing TV wasn’t go­ing to be like that – they told me TV’s re­ally dif­fer­ent and a lot more se­ri­ous. But it re­ally doesn’t feel any dif­fer­ent from ra­dio. It feels re­ally good.”

While Mel has hosted TV shows be­fore, this is her first time fronting a ma­jor daily show air­ing ev­ery day at 9am.

“This re­ally is a dream job. I get to work with an amazing team and give peo­ple an hour of up­beat fun and en­ter­tain­ment.”

The bub­bly pre­sen­ter’s whirl­wind ca­reer be­gan when she fell into ra­dio in her early 20s. “Ra­dio was never re­ally on my radar. In hind­sight, it should have been,” she says. “I was al­ways in­ter­ested in do­ing some­thing creative. Like most young girls I think I fan­ta­sised about be­ing an ac­tress or some­thing like that. Es­sen­tially,

I wanted to be a drama queen.”

As a young woman with her whole life ahead of her and no fear of fail­ure, Mel jumped at the chance to be on the air.

“I got a job as the pro­mo­tions man­ager and break­fast pro­ducer at Clas­sic Hits. I had no ex­pe­ri­ence in break­fast pro­duc­ing. Ac­tu­ally I had no ex­pe­ri­ence in ra­dio, but when the co-host left I stum­bled into that role. I re­ally liked it and I dis­cov­ered I was sort of okay at it,” she says mod­estly.

That year Clas­sic Hits break­fast was nom­i­nated for Best Re­gional Break­fast

Show at the ra­dio awards and Mel was up for best new broad­caster.

Nowa­days, Mel’s cheer­ful voice can be heard on the ra­dio ev­ery morn­ing from 6am to 9am – a time slot de­signed for work­ing men and women look­ing for en­ter­tain­ment as they brave the early morn­ing traf­fic.

After spend­ing sev­eral years free­lanc­ing, Mel loves be­ing able to spend more time with her chil­dren and hus­band on the week­ends.

She beams as she talks about her ra­dio job at Mix 98.2, a sta­tion which com­bines the best of 1980s and 90s music with con­tent tai­lored to en­ter­tain busy lis­ten­ers on the go, but ad­mits be­ing the sole host of the show has had its chal­lenges.

“Some­times you have to get used to talk­ing to your­self. I don’t have a pro­ducer or any­one else to talk to so it can be re­ally hard.

“Some­times you’re sit­ting in there go­ing, ‘Yup, I’m talk­ing to my­self! Is any­one pay­ing any at­ten­tion to me? Prob­a­bly not,’” she says with a laugh.

“I don’t think I talk at all at home now be­cause I talk so much for my other two jobs. I prob­a­bly get home and just grunt.”

MEL IS A FIRM BE­LIEVER in tak­ing chal­lenges in her stride and em­brac­ing ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

“I’ve never been one for life plans. I just keep rolling with things and that’s been work­ing out well.”

This taste for ad­ven­ture has taken her all across the world, in­clud­ing a six-year stint in Hong Kong from 1998 to 2004.

She left her job at ra­dio sta­tion ZM to fol­low her now hus­band Andy Pilcher, a sail­maker, to Hong Kong. Their pic­ture per­fect start to mar­ried life still holds a spe­cial place in her heart.

“We lived a re­ally cool life­style,” she says proudly. “We did a lot of sail­ing and offshore rac­ing.”

Re­flect­ing fondly on re­gat­tas she and Andy com­pleted around Asia, Mel says the Hong Kong-Viet­nam one was among the most mem­o­rable. But even back on shore, life in dy­namic Hong Kong was never short of ad­ven­ture.

It was dur­ing this time that Mel and Andy wel­comed their el­dest son, Jesse, into their lives. A few years later, Mel re­turned to New Zealand for six weeks for the birth of their sec­ond son, Finn.

Although Mel had planned to give birth to Finn in Hong Kong, there was a SARS out­break in the city dur­ing her preg­nancy. “Be­ing in a Hong Kong hospi­tal dur­ing SARS was pretty hor­rific. You weren’t even al­lowed to have any­one visit you. So we thought we would come back to New Zealand and have Finn.”

At 30 weeks preg­nant, in the midst of the dis­ease panic which sent the city into lock­down, Mel con­tracted a cough which was soon di­ag­nosed as pleurisy – a lung in­flam­ma­tion with sim­i­lar symp­toms to those of SARS.

“I trav­elled with my chest X-rays in my hand lug­gage be­cause I sounded horrible. The doc­tor had al­ready cleared me that morn­ing to fly and I was de­ter­mined to get on that plane! So I car­ried around the X-rays think­ing surely some­one is go­ing to stop me in New Zealand. I was com­ing from Hong Kong where there was a SARS out­break – the epi­cen­tre of the epi­demic – and I sounded like I was dy­ing.”

But she took this com­pli­ca­tion in her stride. Moth­er­hood never slowed her down.

“When I was preg­nant with my first child I was jet­ting around on a lit­tle rac­ing boat in the heat of the Hong Kong sum­mer up un­til I was seven months preg­nant.”

She even at­tempted a yacht race from Hong Kong to the Philip­pines.

“The rud­der broke on the boat, and we had to turn around and go back. In hind­sight that was prob­a­bly a good thing. I was ac­tu­ally 10 weeks preg­nant at the time. But, be­cause it was my first child, I was like, ‘It’s fine I can do this,’ but re­ally, look­ing at it now, it was prob­a­bly a re­ally dumb move to go on a rac­ing yacht offshore when you’re preg­nant with your first child.”

Mel laughs now as she re­calls her naivety. “You live and you learn,” she says.

But it’s this head­strong and care­free at­ti­tude that helps Mel keep up with her three bois­ter­ous boys, Jesse, Finn and Tom.

“I’ve only got a sis­ter my­self, so I had no idea about boys at all, but as soon as I had Jesse, I just knew I was go­ing to be a mother to boys,” Mel re­calls.

“It’s a lot of testos­terone in the house. I feel quite out­num­bered, es­pe­cially as they’re get­ting big­ger,” she jokes, proudly scrolling through pho­to­graphs of the three boys on her phone.

She says it’s easy to stress about the lo­gis­tics of get­ting the kids to their var­i­ous after-school ac­tiv­i­ties, but she’s try­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate the mo­ment.

“It some­times feels like all we do is take them here and pick them up there and sign per­mis­sion slips and bake for things. But ev­ery now and again, when I start com­plain­ing about all the smelly rugby socks that are left in my car, I re­mind my­self this is just a fleet­ing mo­ment and I have to em­brace it and not moan about it.”

MEL RE­FLECTS FONDLY on her child­hood, say­ing her par­ents were “deeply in love” and fam­ily hol­i­days with her mum, dad and sis­ter are some of her most trea­sured times.

“If I can have that same child­hood for my kids, I will be very happy.”

So far Mel and Andy have taken the boys trav­el­ling to Asia and Rus­sia as well as on sev­eral re­gat­tas and sail­ing trips.

“I think travel is re­ally im­por­tant be­cause my kids aren’t go­ing to re­mem­ber what they’ve got, they’re go­ing to re­mem­ber that re­ally cool trip they took with Mum and Dad. Some­times you’ve just got to find ways to make stuff hap­pen.”

When asked if she looks for­ward to slow­ing down, Mel shakes her head.

“If I am do­ing in five years’ time what I am do­ing right now, and

I have happy and ful­filled chil­dren, I wouldn’t com­plain.”

BY JULES ARMISHAW

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY HE­LEN BANKERS HAIR, MAKE-UP AND STYLING

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