You could forgive Nadine Chalmers-Ross if she looks a little tired. It’s been a whirlwind year for the newly engaged TVNZ presenter, who has started an exciting new role, taking over the reins of Breakfast while Ali Pugh goes on maternity leave. It means 3am starts, and although the 29-year-old has had a taste of them in her current gig, reading the news for the show three days a week, it’s going to be a test.
And she’ll require some extra time to pick her outfit, although not for the reasons you might think. Nadine – or “the porcelain kid” as her co-stars Rawdon Christie and Sam Wallace like to call her – has been a bit slower in the morning after breaking her collarbone while out training for the Auckland Half Marathon.
“Sadly, I think that’s going to be one of the most challenging things about the new role – just getting dressed in the morning!” she laughs, rubbing her right arm, which she has been keeping in a sling for the last month while not on air.
It’s her fourth break in just four years, which her TV “brothers” Rawdon and Sam like to remind her of, constantly.
“Sam can go do these dangerous, high-speed things and fall off a bike and be fine. Me, I trip over a tree root while running and I break something!” she exclaims.
Their ribbing meant she even checked in for a bone scan to ensure it wasn’t a sign of something more serious.
“Turns out I’m just unlucky, or a complete klutz!” she laughs.
But despite their brotherly behaviour – which occasionally sees practical joker Rawdon jump out of TVNZ corridors to give her a fright at 4am – Nadine says the transition to presenting the show will be that much easier being surrounded by people who know her so well.
“It really is like a family on the show,” she enthuses. “We get on so well and it’s nice to be doing this in such a warm, supportive environment.”
She says the fixed hours may even allow her to spend more time with her fiancé, film and television producer Dan Higgins (30), who popped the question back in April. Nadine will continue to fill in for people on other shows, but while she juggles work, there’s one thing she won’t be spending much time worrying about – planning her wedding.
“That’s the thing,” she exclaims happily. “I’m not doing it – Dan is!”
Yes, Nadine says that her partner of four years is the best wedding planner around as he’s a “details man” who is great at negotiating, working to budgets and meeting deadlines.
“I know this isn’t how it normally works, but he’s the right person to do it,” she insists. “So we’ve decided I’ll write a wish list and he’ll execute it. I’ll dress myself, of course – and the bridesmaids – but the rest will be up to him.”
And she’s confident Dan will organise a wedding that fits them perfectly. “He’s got great taste and he organised an amazing proposal at home. He understands what I like and he knows me extraordinarily well, so I feel sure he’s going to do a great job.”
And, Nadine laughs, he’s also likely to ban her from anything remotely dangerous leading up to the big day.
“The first break was my right wrist while putting out the recycling, then a femur, and then I told Dan I was going snowboarding in Wanaka,” she says. “He told me I had to wear a wrist guard, which I did, but I still managed to snap my left wrist and needed it re-set! So yes, I think there will be a ban on any adventure in the months before we tie the knot!”
What she sees as an ever bigger challenge in the upcoming months is staying away from potentially dangerous words – particularly in the form of online blogs and forums. She admits it’s hard to stop herself reading what others have written about her.
“The temptation is there because I want to see what people are saying. And while there may be 10 nice things, it will be that one negative thing that I’ll hold on to. I’m going to have to work out whose opinion really matters to me. TV is a confidence game and I have to protect myself a bit because I don’t want to feel uptight, worrying if I’m pleasing everyone – that’s impossible.”
It’s something she hasn’t been subjected to often, but she has had her fair share of negative comments, and watched even the most loved personalities around her being subjected to it. At the same time, she says she’s looking forward to sharing more of her personality with viewers – something she’s been mostly unable to do in her previous roles, including a long stint on Business.
She has jumped around TVNZ in recent years in a number of capacities, but says becoming the network’s jack of all trades is definitely working to her advantage.
“I did a story on Steve Tew, the CEO of the New Zealand Rugby Union, recently and we talked about my career and he said, ‘You’re like one of my utility players – you’d be going to the Rugby World Cup because you can fit into any of the positions!’ I’m not a big sports person, but I liked the analogy – the more you can do, the more useful you are, and it’s great to be busy in this business. This one is going to be a more revealing role, but I’m excited – early starts and all!”
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