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

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‘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.”

Open book

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’

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