THE YEAR THAT
Television personality, sportswoman and Green Party candidate Hayley Holt, 37, tells Paul Little about a significant year in her life
It was 1998. I would have been 17, turning 18 in July, and I was in seventh form, so it was meant to be my last year at Epsom Girls’ Grammar. Instead, I ended up going to the UK — to Blackpool and the biggest dancing competition in the world. Blackpool is the mecca of ballroom dancing. I spent a month in England training and having lessons from some amazing teachers. We’d had to pay for it. I went with Mum and my dancing partner and we stayed with dancing Kiwis.
And I went to the US Open in Miami as well. It was very disruptive. When I came back to school, I had fallen so far behind that I was not that eager to try to catch up. I had a meeting with the dean, Mum and Dad. I was able to leave school and go to uni because of my sixth form marks. I think Mum wanted me to do another year, because I was too immature, but I showed her.
Or maybe I didn’t. Because I went to uni and started a BA in history, but towards the end of the year my brother came into my room and said: “We’re both at uni now, which means we can get student work visas for the US. Let’s go to Colorado and spend three months snowboarding.”
I jumped at the chance. I was 18 and pretty young in the head but an adult in terms of the law, so Mum couldn’t stop me going.
By the end of the year I’d rung Mum and said: “I’m giving up uni and I’m also giving up ballroom dancing and I’m going to be a snowboarder.”
Snowboarding was so much freedom for an 18-year-old. You’re making your own rules and with people who are a bit rebellious and anti-establishment. Ever since I was 7 I had been doing something after school all the time — dancing three days a week, swimming and horse riding. It was very privileged but very busy.
At the start of that year, I was just a typical schoolkid. I thought life was laid out in front of me and I would walk through it. By the end of the year I realised I could make my own decisions and change the course of my life.
Mum was devastated because she loved dancing and worried because I had left uni. My dancing partner was devastated when I gave up. We had done so well in Blackpool that, if we had gone back, there would have been a special star beside our name and we could have gone straight into the semifinals. My decision took that opportunity away from my partner, which I regret but also don’t regret.
I did go back to university a couple of years later and I’m there again now, studying politics and history, doing a paper a semester.
But everything from that year has paid off — if I hadn’t snowboarded, I wouldn’t have done The Crowd Goes Wild and if I hadn’t danced, I wouldn’t have done Dancing with the Stars.
At the start of that year, I was just a typical schoolkid. I thought life was laid out in front of me. By the end of the year I realised I could make my own decisions and change the course of my life.