Herald on Sunday
The Block NZ: Past winners’ tips for the new teams
The big moment is almost here, and The Block NZ fans are counting down the hours until their favourite show returns. OneRoof asked past contestants how this year’s teams will be feeling right now, and what advice they have for the nervous newbies.
Emmett Vallender, who with Sam Cable took the top prize in The Block NZ 2016, says that above all else, the experience is a shock to the system, no matter what your level of previous skills. “In reality, the whole show is a baptism by fire, from designing a room with judges you’d never met before throwing mud at you, to sleep deprivation and painting until the sun comes up,” he says.
“It’s all a hell of a ride that no one should turn down because it does a good job of building resilience and adaptability.”
2018 winner Amy Moore says that she too wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
“It completely changed my life. I would probably still be a beauty therapist now, but instead I’m running my own homewares store and doing what I always dreamed of.”
The whole experience of doing the reality show felt like a dream. “I think it really hit us when the producer sat us down and said that in five weeks time, we’d be more famous than the All Blacks – and it was true, we sort of were.”
Moore says that she and her team-mate Stu Watts had maturity on their side, not to mention a long, shared history as a couple and were sometimes able to cope with the relentless pressure a little more easily than some of the younger teams. “But when we finally got home, I crashed completely because all that momentum and the adrenalin that had fuelled us was gone!”
Her advice to this year’s contestants is to be prepared to be recognised and to accept that some people will say unkind things. “That’s just the way it is,” she says, adding that the critics aren’t all New Zealanders.
“Our series of The Block NZ is currently airing in the USA, The Netherlands and Belgium and viewers in those countries don’t hold back with their opinions either.”
She says these days Watts is recognised more often than she is.
“I think it really hit us when the producer sat us down and said that in five weeks time, we’d be more famous than the All Blacks – and it was true, we sort of were.”
“He’s still got the same cap, the same clothes and of course, the same mullet. I tease him, saying he’s become a real attention junkie,” she says.
In 2013, Alice and Caleb Pearson won season two of the show with their ultra-smart villa renovation in Auckland’s Belmont, taking home $261,000 in prize money after their house sold for $1.126m.
“With the property market the way it is now, I can’t begin to imagine how this year’s houses will do,” says Alice. She and Caleb applied for The Block because they were – and are – genuinely passionate about building and decorating. “It was far more full-on than we’d ever dreamed, but we learnt a lot – both about ourselves, and about what it takes to renovate successfully.”
Like Moore, Alice warns that keyboard trolls can be very unkind. “Oddly enough, the worst of it was Kiwi women being horrible about the females on The Block NZ.”
She says that developing a thick skin is essential and points out that not everybody is nasty, by any means. “Lots of people said lovely things each time a new room was revealed.”
She adds, “I don’t think the 2021 contestants will have realised quite how much they’re opening themselves up though, or that they’re going to be operating in a strange sort of bubble, where they can’t go and tell their mum or auntie what went wrong at The Block NZ that day. Everything has to be totally secret and confidential.”
Alice says that because the teams are concentrating so hard on their own houses, they often have little idea what their competitors are up to. “Caleb and I used to watch the show each night to find out!”
Eight years on, she and her husband run Pearson + Projects, and aren’t recognised quite so often. “Let’s face it, we look older, and we have children now. Sometimes people know our faces but can’t quite place us. They’ll ask if we went to school or played sport together, and we just smile!”
- The Block NZ premieres on June 14 June at 7.30pm and continues on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7.30pm on Three