Tamati Coffey is a new man. Almost 10 months after the New Zealand’s Got Talent presenter left our shores in self-imposed exile following the hardest year of his life, Tamati is back, and about to embark on a new journey into the unknown – and he couldn’t be more excited.
“The second half of last year was the most intense, full-on time I have ever known. I was barely holding it together. By the time Tim [Tamati’s civil partner] and I left, I was having to dig pretty deep,” admits Tamati, who turns 34 later
“Juggling having to get up at 3.30am every morning for Breakfast with New Zealand’s Got Talent, having surgery on my nose, Tim was having a back operation, construction on the house had started – and I was a fill-in for Marae Investigates, as well as presenting Saturday Breakfast every week. It takes a lot to wipe the 100-watt smile off my face, but that was a crazy, demanding time to say the least. I had lost the happy, normal person I know I genuinely am. It was time for a big, long holiday.”
So, for seven months, the popular presenter went off-grid. Joined by Tim, the star travelled anywhere his heart desired. After beginning their trip with Tamati’s parents in England, the freedom-loving couple sampled life in a host of countries around the world.
They visited the deserts of Gran Canaria, partied in Beirut, got inadvertently involved in a riot in Turkey (in which Tamati was caught in the crossfire when police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds), drove a Mustang down the Florida highway, and made great friends in Tel Aviv.
“We saw amazing sights, had unforgettable experiences, met lovely people – and some awful people – and I learned a valuable life lesson along the way, which is to take life a bit less seriously,” says Tamati.
“I did a lot of thinking. Seeing so much has made me feel like I’ve learned a lot, about myself and how I want to be. I actually have a lot more experience and confidence since I first started Breakfast in 2007. It’s now my decision how I live, where I go, and what I do.”
As Tamati gears up for the first episode of the new season of New Zealand’s Got Talent, he is clearly in great shape. He has lost weight – a side-effect of sleeping and relaxing more, and stressing less, he insists.
“I haven't stood on the scales in a long time. I don’t need to – it’s more about how I feel.”
There’s a new sparkle in his eye. He’s bursting with ideas and looks great – something Tamati puts down to his new outlook on life.
“The past year took a toll on my poor body, for sure,” he admits.
“I’m one of those people who eats when I’m stressed, and I did a lot of that before we went away. Now, I’m not stressed, so there’s no need to do that any more.”
But Tamati isn’t just making big calls about his physical shape; he and Tim are making big life changes, too – one of the biggest being Tim’s decision to quit teaching.
“Tim’s a brilliant teacher, but because he’s with me, it’s impossible for him to start with a blank canvas,” explains Tamati.
“As soon as he walks into a school, everyone knows his sexual orientation and who his partner is – it’s so much more awkward than it needs to be. Even teachers don’t talk to him for a year, then sidle up at the school social to say they know he’s with me. We aren’t in any way ashamed of who we are, but if you’re working with kids, it’s pretty hard to have it all out there. We thought a lot about it when we were away, and it’s time for him to do something different.”
So, the former teacher is taking a new direction – and, by default, so is Tamati.
“We thought about what we care about,” he explains. “I saw some great advice that said, ‘If you don’t know what your passions are, look at your bank statements to see what you spend your money on, and look at what you watch on TV.’
We’ve always been really keen on renovation shows, such as Grand Designs, Homes Under the Hammer and Mitre 10 Dream Home, and we realised we wanted to start looking at property investment.”
In true Tamati fashion, he’s plunged in headfirst, and the pair have already bought their first place, in Rotorua.
“Buying and doing up properties was going to be Tim’s baby, but I got sucked in – now I’m fully along for the ride,” laughs Tamati, with his trademark smile.
“We’ve found ourselves a great team of experts. We’re attending seminars to learn more about it, and have an amazing property mentor, who made us write down our dreams on paper, so we can start working towards our first goal. It was actually really confronting, doing that. While we all have dreams we want to work towards, actually writing them down and showing them to someone who is going to help you lay concrete plans to make them happen is a big step. But this is the new Tamati – the well-slept Tamati. I’m ready to take on new challenges.”
And it hasn’t stopped there. Last month, Tamati also started his own media company, T2.
“I know a lot about television – and I think I’d like to make some of my own,” he shrugs. “It’s something I love, just like renovating and working on New Zealand’s Got Talent."
“It’s about the saying, ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ That’s my new life. It doesn’t feel like work, because I love it.”
But, of course, as well as his renovation projects, investment portfolio – he still can’t resist a grin at that, “It sounds so grown up!” – and television production company, there’s the small matter of hosting the second series of New Zealand’s Got Talent.
“I’m loving being back with the team again – Rachel [Hunter] and I get on brilliantly,” he says.
“She’s soft and quirky, but really fiery with it; and she’s beautiful, while still being nurturing and spiritual.”
They get on so well, in fact, Tamati’s even taken up talent-show judge Rachel’s favourite exercise – Bikram yoga, a hot exercise class designed to promote strength, flexibility and wellbeing.
“It’s pretty hard. Every time I start, I just want to run away. The first time I did it, I threw up three times!” he admits.
“I love it now, though. And the bonding time with Rachel – she is really, really good, but is always trying to catch my eye in class, which makes me laugh! I didn’t know fellow judge Cris [Judd] before I met him this year, but I gather he used to be a yoga teacher, so my plan is to also get him working with us.”
For Tamati, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life – and he’s feeling good!
“I’ve had time away,” he explains. “Time to think about what I want to do, what stamp I want to leave on the world. Travelling as we did was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have some fun and refocus. And it’s worked. I’m back. And it’s on!”
Photos: Todd Eyre • Styling: Natasha Guttenbeil. Tamati’s shirt & Tie from Witchery man, pants from Hallensteins. Tamati’s coat & jersey from Witchery man, Jeans & scarf from Jeans west. Tamati’s suit from Hallensteins.With thanks to Treetops Lodge, Rotorua