Feild­ing's so­cial star

Wil­lie Cribb is the funny guy from Feild­ing who reaches over 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple a week on so­cial me­dia un­der the pseu­do­nym of Wil­lie Wai­irua. Sam Kilmis­ter finds out what’s so spe­cial about Wil­lie.

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Front Page -

As Wil­lie Cribb and his man­ager Johnny Gbenda-Charles pull up to the Feild­ing Ho­tel in a taxi, we dis­cuss if we should chat out­side in Feild­ing’s pic­turesque Manch­ester Square, as op­posed to the dimly-lit lounge of an 1870s pub.

‘‘You’ll get cars toot­ing and peo­ple shout­ing out,’’ Gben­daCharles warns.

We go ahead and do it out­side, be­cause it’s Feild­ing.

Barely five min­utes go by with­out a ‘‘there he is’’ from a nearby ve­hi­cle or pedes­trian.

Cribb ac­knowl­edges each one with his sig­na­ture Wai­irua wave. ‘‘One of the boys there,’’ he says. ‘‘Don’t know who it is but all the breast to him,’’ pulling out one of the catch­phrases.

Ask any­one and they’ll tell you Cribb has al­ways been a joker.

When he left school and joined the meat­works he found him­self the sub­ject of sev­eral stitch-ups.

The old guys would of­ten rub his knife along the con­crete as pay­back be­fore plac­ing it back in his satchel. He learnt a lot there, es­pe­cially how to sharpen knives.

‘‘I’d strug­gle. They threw me un­der the bus, but it was fair game be­cause I gave them heaps.’’

School teach­ers, sport coaches, friends and fam­ily say he’s al­ways been cheeky, mis­chievous and en­ter­tain­ing.

As a child, Cribb was the heart and soul of his rugby league team, for­mer coach David Lo­max says. He be­lieves Cribb has al­ways mas­tered the art of be­ing funny with­out caus­ing of­fence.

Lo­max re­calls a player in his 2007 Cen­tral Fal­cons team with a lazy eye and, dur­ing an ar­du­ous bus trip, hear­ing Cribb belt­ing out Dr. Hook’s 1980s hit Sexy Eyes.

‘‘He’d take the piss out of them, but he knew how to with­out be­ing of­fen­sive.’’

Ten years later he’s in the lat­est Po­lice re­cruit­ment video, led a charge to get Ma¯ ori vot­ers to the polling booths, has a line of eye­wear and, most re­cently, his own mu­sic video.

His whim­si­cal charisma has led him on a jour­ney he hopes will never end.

Cribb, from Feild­ing, is a New Zealand in­ter­net sen­sa­tion, in­spir­ing the masses with his catchy phrases, such as ‘there he is’, ‘do the mahi, get the treats’ and ‘give it your breast’.

His unique dance moves are also be­ing im­i­tated ev­ery­where.

He doesn’t know where they came from. He’s used his pop­u­lar ‘Wai­irua wave’ to greet peo­ple since he was a child, but it was al­tered dur­ing his six years work­ing with Child, Youth and Fam­ily to pay re­spect to a friend there who lost her fin­ger in a ‘‘hor­rific’’ dog at­tack.

He be­gan to tuck his in­dex fin­ger, which is when it re­ally started to take off on­line.

It’s be­come a full­time ca­reer for Cribb, who gave up his job as a youth worker to pur­sue the dream. Grow­ing up in North­land in a small town called Kaikohe Cribb never thought as a 5-yearold at Tau­toro School he would be

in a po­si­tion to in­spire young Ma¯ ori.

He moved to Feild­ing, aged 10, where he went to Feild­ing In­ter­me­di­ate and Palmer­ston North Boys’ High School. Cribb says he was al­ways the class clown, which of­ten earned a few telling offs from mum.

‘‘The generic school re­port said ‘good, great kid, but lacks a bit of at­ten­tion span’, just too much talk­ing. You’d get home and mum would say ‘oh what. Come on’.’’

It was in Manawatu¯ that Cribb met Aaron ‘Nug­gie’ Smith, the man largely re­spon­si­ble for his rise to so­cial me­dia promi­nence. The two were about the only Ma¯ori boys to play twi­light cricket in Feild­ing, Cribb says.

Be­fore long, video clips of his ec­cen­tric dance moves and unique man­ner­isms were be­ing mimicked by Smith and other High­landers mates.

‘‘It found its way into the All Blacks and, from that point, it just blew up,’’ Cribb says. And so the move­ment grew. But it was his ob­ses­sion to in­spire youth while work­ing for Child Youth and Fam­ily that set him on the path.

As he worked with vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren for six years, his only job re­quire­ment was to put smiles on faces. He used hu­mour to get re­served chil­dren to open up and he wasn’t afraid to make a fool of him­self to do it.

‘‘I went in there with some morale boost­ing if you will,’’ he says. ‘‘They come in with their guard up. There’s some pretty hor­rific stuff and you read about what they’ve been through, but you give them 100 per cent of your heart and they open up.’’

He re­turns for a few ‘‘ver­bal jabs’’ when­ever his sched­ule al­lows, which keeps him grounded.

Lo­max isn’t sur­prised his for­mer pro­tege ended up help­ing other peo­ple.

‘‘I knew him as Wil­lie Cribb, not Wai­irua. He’s a gen­uine per­son, he’s got a bit of in­tegrity, and that’s why it didn’t sur­prise me.

‘‘He’s got a real good heart about him - to help young peo­ple. The so­cial me­dia thing was good be­cause it gave him a bit of a plat­form and now he wants to do some­thing with it.’’

That de­sire led Cribb to get young Ma¯ ori vot­ers to the polling booths at Septem­ber’s elec­tion. Ma¯ ori be­tween the ages of 18 and 29 have the low­est voter turn-out in the coun­try, and he ad­mits be­ing in that same boat. His par­ents still have to drag him there to get him to vote.

It made him the per­fect face to front a play­ful cam­paign for the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion.

‘‘I don’t know if it worked, but I think the num­bers were slightly up, so that’s some­thing,’’ Cribb says.

It never hurts to be nice and use man­ners, Cribb says.

He of­ten comes across dis­heart­ened check­out op­er­a­tors scan­ning items at the su­per­mar­ket. ‘‘She’ll say ‘hi’ and I’ll give them a ‘hey how are ya, how’s your day’ and they’ll stand up and think ‘wow’.

‘‘It doesn’t hurt to talk for a cou­ple of sec­onds. I’ve been taught by my par­ents to ac­knowl­edge ev­ery­one.

‘‘A lot of peo­ple go ‘Oh, why do you act like that’. I was just hear­ing my mates yes­ter­day and they were say­ing ‘Oh, you haven’t changed a bit. That’s how you’ve al­ways been’.

‘‘Ev­ery­one I meet, I just give 100. That’s all there is to it.

‘‘That’s just how I am. Love a good joke. Love peo­ple laugh­ing. You’ve just got to be your­self and some peo­ple are go­ing to like it and some peo­ple aren’t, but the worst thing you can do is try too hard.’’

DAVID UN­WIN/STUFF

Wil­lie Cribb’s play­ful charisma has led him on a jour­ney he never wants to end.

MUR­RAY WIL­SON/STUFF

Game of Thrones star Joe Na­u­fahu and Wil­liam ‘Wai­irua’ Cribb, at Feild­ing’s Ru­ral Day.

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