Breakfast co-host Hayley Holt on leaving politics and making the hard choices
It’s been a year of big changes for Hayley Holt, who stepped aside from politics to take on the high-pressure role of Breakfast host – putting her opinions, and decisions, firmly in the spotlight. Zoe Walker Ahwa meets the 37-year-old and discovers a woma
‘I’M A DO FIRST, WORRY ABOUT IT LATER PERSON’
I“I’m a take it as it comes kind of girl. I walk through the doors that open, and grab the opportunities when they come,” says Hayley Holt, the former snowboarder and professional ballroom dancer-turned-sports presenter, reality show judge, radio host, politician-turned-breakfast host. “I’m a do first, worry about it later person – which has got me in trouble in the past! But it’s also opened up amazing opportunities. I couldn’t tell you where it’s going to lead.” If you were looking for a complex woman on mainstream TV, you’d struggle to find a better example than Hayley. The 37-year-old began a new phase of her multi-faceted career in January as the new Breakfast co-host with Jack Tame – replacing the formidable Hilary Barry in one of the highest profile and most sought after roles on TV. For Hayley, who had turned her attention to politics, it was an unexpected but dream job, “a gift”.
More than skin deep
A t face value, Hayley is the epitome of the bubbly attractive TVNZ blonde, but in person, the 37-year-old seems much deeper – and cooler – than the stereotype. She’s talked in the past about the misconception that she’s the sporty, fun girl, whereas “behind the scenes, I’m kind of serious”. We meet after she’s wrapped filming for the morning, and she slips into a booth in the bustling TVNZ atrium with her perfectly groomed TV presenter hair. But she’s stripped off her tailored on-screen clothes and is wearing a black high-necked pinafore dress by local ethical label Kowtow – organic cotton, very on brand for this former Green Party candidate – and heavy Dr. Martens boots, and I can tell
she’s reading me as closely as I am her.
This is a woman whose childhood friends are DJ Jaimie Webster Haines, one of Auckland’s most genuinely stylish women, and Kylie McKenzie, who was an extra in the club scene in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. This is also a woman who was once a hammerhand for her dad; who loves politics, history, people and “mundane pop culture things” in equal measure.
“I feel like people think they know me, but I don’t think they do,” says Hayley. “They might be surprised at how down-toearth and slightly boganish I am. On screen, you’ve got a stylist, makeup and hair… but I’m not glamorous at all.”
T hat relatability and frankness is a big part of Hayley’s charm, and her approach to life. She’s talked openly and frequently about her relationship with alcohol; quitting and attending her first AA session in 2014 (she admitted to going three times in a week when her new Breakfast role was announced). “I’ve been told that I’m too open sometimes! But through recovery from alcohol addiction, you learn how important truth and authenticity is.
“I revel in uncomfortable truth now. I love seeing people tell their deepest
darkest fears or resentments, because that’s real. And until we get rid of the shame around talking about our bad or dark sides, or our character flaws, we’re never going to be able to fix them.”
A key life lesson has been realising that she doesn’t always have to be at the top of her game. And after almost a year at
Breakfast, she’s learnt not to worry about others’ opinions. “In this role, if you’re thinking of what others are thinking of you, it’s a highway to hell,” she says. “People have opinions, and you’re in their face for three hours every morning, so there are people out there who may not like what you say or just the cut of your jib. That was a huge lesson; it took me a while.”
Right now she describes her life as “work, sleep, eat, repeat”. The alarm goes off at 3.15am, and she’ll drive from her West Auckland home to the TVNZ studios to prepare for the day’s show, before heading into hair and makeup at 4.30am.
“I don’t think you ever adjust to the hours. I’m getting used to perpetually being in a state of sleep deprivation,” she says. “It is really impacting on my social life; I don’t really have one any more, which is unfortunate, but it’s worth it. This is basically the most exciting thing I do – come to work.”
On a mission
‘‘Y ou’re I had making a plan!” it Hayley sound jokes like when we talk about her recent career trajectory that saw her studying history and politics at the University of Auckland, entering politics before transitioning back to broadcasting. Last year she ran as a Green Party candidate in the election; part of the party’s much touted promotion of talented young women alongside Chlöe Swarbrick and Golriz Ghahraman. Despite resigning from the party when she was announced as the new Breakfast host, there was some pushback about Hayley’s liberal leanings possibly influencing her role. But have you heard of Mike Hosking, Mark Richardson or Duncan Garner? It’s 2018 and we
‘UNTIL WE GET RID OF THE SHAME AROUND TALKING ABOUT OUR BAD OR DARK SIDES, OR OUR CHARACTER FLAWS, WE’RE NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TO FIX THEM’