No I’m not a fob who can’t spell MTV. If you don’t know what MTB stands for, you will by close of business! I moved from Auckland to Sydney to start at MTV exactly one month ago. I’m becoming a bit of a broken record with my entries about fresh starts/relocating but I have to say that out of all the new chapters in my life, THIS is the one I feel has the word ‘Destiny’ entrenched in it in every which way possible.
I gave myself 5 days to get myself set up and settled in before my first day of work [really fortunate to have my buddy Tim hook me up with his lovely family till I found a spot of my own]. I’m OCD when it comes to pretty much everything so I had my bank accounts, Tax File Number, Medicare card and driver licence all sussed the day after I landed.
Love the MTV team! Each individual is an innovator in his or her respective field and they’re providing me with a solid foundation to grow in a space where I’m right out of my comfort zone. It’s a challenge I’m more than up for!
Only been to Sydney once prior to the move and that was almost 10 years ago. I thought I wouldn’t know anyone but I quickly began to reconnect with other young New Zealanders from my past doing their thing in entertainment here [they’re all Samoan too!]
Monster of Hip Hop and current Young New Zealander of the Year, Parris Goebel, put on a mean show as part of her Australian tour. I rattle on about her and ReQuest all the time so I’ll just say look out for her in the upcoming “Step Up” movie.
Old workout buddy Nick Afoa [who, along with Tim, got sold off at my farewell party/date auction in 2010] is now playing Simba in “The Lion King” – my favourite Broadway show! Seen it three times [once in Sydney and twice in New York].
Watched Sam Tagataese [or Taggateezy as the Australian commentators pronounce it!] smash it out on the field, playing in his seventh year in the NRL [the top level of rugby league] – we encountered each other at Wellington train station in our high school days while I share a family connection with his beautiful wife, Ana.
Opera singer, Marlena Devoe, flew in from London for a competition too! She advanced to the finals taking place in September. We were at uni together and mixed in some of the same social circles but I also know two of her siblings quite well – I was at law school with her eldest sister Shannah while her younger brother James was one of my students when I worked for the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Marly perform in New York, Auckland and now Sydney!
All these reunions in such a short time frame have helped me to see that I belong here in this scene. It doesn’t stop there though! If you know me, you know I’m a TLC stan. I’ve followed their careers from the jump. Their image, their sound, their personalities – they quickly became my favourite artists growing up to the point I flew to Japan just to see them in concert! With a bit of stalking and wit, I got backstage and eventually got to know them personally. What are the chances they’d be performing in Sydney right as I start?
The most uncanny and unreal experience of them all is my first professional interview. To convey the full significance of it, I have to take it right back to my grandparents. That’s how big of a deal it is for not just me but for my family’s history.
My grandparents, Miti [who my brother Miki is named after] and Elena, started their family in Samoa with their first-born, my Aunty Teresa. My grandfather had also taken his nephew, Petelo [or Peter], under his wing and acted as a father figure to him.
Granddad’s older brother had a booming plumbing business in Parnell, Auckland in the late 1940s. He was among the first wave of Samoan pioneers to migrate to New Zealand. As was common with immigrants in those days, Granddad travelled to Auckland on his own to save up enough to send for his family [my Mum was the baby – the last sibling to be born in Samoa before they all journeyed to New Zealand on the Tofua].
Like hundreds of island families, the move was in search of greater opportunities. Not only did my grandparents work tirelessly to raise 8 children and give them every edge they could, they also supported their extended families in Samoa and sponsored many to come over and follow in their footsteps.
My Mum and her siblings have lived extraordinary lives. They faced tremendous hardships of being raised in a discriminatory society but they all came out on top and have given my generation the tools to navigate a world where we’re the minority.
Now for my Uncle Peter! Who would’ve known back then that training on the mats down at the local YMCA was a young, athletic Samoan who would use his charm and good looks to become a world famous star?! Ever the life of the party, my uncle entertained thousands internationally in the wrestling ring and paved the way for a major wrestling dynasty in the WWE. He single handedly put Samoa on the map!
In between it all my Mum turned 21 while Uncle Peter and his wife, Aunty Ofelia [my Grandma’s best friend which is how they met], was passing through town. My Mum always calls me spoilt yet there she was, going on a holiday to Samoa for her birthday courtesy of her celebrity cousin. She was present when he received his pe’a and matai title [chiefly tattoo and status].
Tragedy struck when Uncle Peter passed away in Hawai’i at the age of 45. The news devastated my grandfather and he too passed away later that year. I never got to meet my uncle or my granddad but their memory and legacy live on through my family.
Fast-forward 30 years and I’m in the US on Fulbright, an esteemed academic scholarship and my Uncle Peter’s grandson, Dwayne Johnson, is entertaining MILLIONS [topping the Forbes list as the highest grossing actor of 2013]. My Mum asked his Mum, my Aunty Ata, to keep an eye on me while I studied so far away from home. That she did!
Growing up in New Zealand, we seldom met but during my time stateside I developed a wonderful relationship with my character of an aunt and my family grew down in Florida to include an amazing mix of Cubans and Spaniards.
I touched upon my family’s achievements briefly in a previous entry when I had no intention of being in the entertainment business but the more I was exposed to it through them, the more I was inspired to explore it.
In saying that though, I have never asked my relatives for any favours in that department [or any department for that matter]. Not even an autograph [you have no idea how many people have asked me to get something signed or get a shout out, my Mum would SHOOT me if I did]. They have an unbelievable number of requests from people all over, I’m not about to add to that. My focus is always on having a good time! That’s what my family does best – fun and drama. We’re all experts. I’m a people person and I have a keen interest in creating genuine bonds with those I meet. I’m a firm believer in the power of networks and life being about who you know but there are boundaries in every relationship and my Mum made sure we were raised to know what those are. If something beneficial is gonna come out from a connection, let it grow organically. Don’t force something that’s not natural and don’t let the only time you contact someone be when you want something. Know what’s appropriate in your links [in other words, don’t ask me for shit, jokes]. I think it’s because I’ve never sought anything more than the company and affection of my family that they’ve taken such great care of me and sending huge waves of support in my new venture.
Made family history this week! Both my US and New Zealand brethren are buzzing. The last time I saw Dwayne was in Budapest. We were on the set of “Hercules” and he was in full costume. The entertainment industry wasn’t on the cards for me at that stage. When we said our goodbyes, he told me how proud he was of me.
9 months later, I’m an MTV Presenter, we’re on the carpet together and I’m interviewing him [or at least attempting to!] for the same film before its release and he’s telling me again how proud he is while we’re filming. It’s my first interview EVER and it’s my very own cousin and one of the biggest names in Hollywood – if that’s not fate, I don’t know what is!
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s a seasoned pro renowned for going IN on people so he had fun with me. As nervous as I was, he made it an enjoyable and unforgettable experience. I couldn’t even get through my questions! I’d start off with “what do you think…” then get interrupted by “did you know he has a law degree?! Tell them! And you’re a great dancer!” In press junkets you’re lucky to get 5 minutes with a guest, especially with someone as big as D [TV3 News had flown over from New Zealand especially for that little space with him]. When our time was wrapping up DJ said to the crew “no this is family, keep it rolling”. He is the definition of a class act. By the end of our talk, I was so overwhelmed by his words, I was close to tears. Most of it got edited out but they bloody left in my bumbling sign off where I’m almost crying.
Everyone knows how proud I am of all my family. From Dwayne all the way down to my little niece Otila. To cross paths like this marks a really special occasion for all of us.
This is all still surreal for me! The timing of it all further confirms that someone’s looking over me and this is where I’m meant to be. I’ve always been obsessed with music/TV/movies, writing and talking about them and for some reason I’ve had this propensity to bump into well known people. Now it’s my career.
Mum and Aunty Ata share the sentiment that my Uncle Peter is smiling down on us. I have some great people around me and I’ve had some great people come before me – all of them contributing to my story. I love it and I’m very thankful!
MTV. MTB. Meant to be. Corny as hell but couldn’t be more fitting.