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Broadcaster Niva Retimanu's home truths

The radio star reveals she’s found her mojo with the help of a golden girl, plus what she’s not telling her family!

By Wendyl Nissen
NewstalkZB newsreader, author and podcast host Niva Retimanu talks about her new podcast with Beatrice Faumuina, how she keeps herself centred and her love of omelettes.
​​What is the best thing about your life at the moment?
The podcast I do with Beatrice Faumuina called Straight Up. I say that because it's been about me embarking on a new challenge and a new journey, and it means a lot to me. The podcast is about shared experiences and personal challenges. It's also about adversity and resilience, and has probably given me the most joy at the moment. It gives me a platform to accept my truth while other people accept theirs.
How did the podcast come about and how much fun are you having?
Beatrice and I are friends but we had never worked together. We're both Samoan women, so we would always catch up. We're Pacific sisters and we were always speaking to different people about things, and then we realised we were speaking to the same people like the Hurricanes and the Auckland Blues. I talk to a lot of people about mental health, and she would be talking about leadership and development. And then Miriyana Alexander at the New Zealand Herald told us she thought we had something together which would make a podcast. So, we planned the whole thing around personal challenges and we would talk to well-known people from different walks of life. Our first guest was Sonny Bill Williams, then we got Toni Street, Jenny-May Clarkson, Teeks, Lance Burdett, Raelene Castle, Buckwheat and Hollie Smith for the first series, and we were so amazed that these people wanted to talk to us. It is very emotional for us when someone is telling you about the worst moment of their life and you have to be prepared to share your moments as well. So it is an interview and a conversation, and so different to what I do in my day job on radio.
It's an emotional rollercoaster working with Beatrice. "We don't wear mascara when we do the podcast," says Niva
How do you control your emotions when you're talking to these people?
I let it go. I cried in every episode. I cry a lot. Beatrice and I both decided that we would be who we are, and we embraced that. We need to be real and authentic. As well as being good friends, we are also totally different. Initially we thought it would be a problem that we both cried all the time, but we realised that it was okay. We just don't wear mascara when we do the podcast.
Who is the person who most influenced you?
My father Faaopoopo. He died when I was in my early twenties but he gave me the self-determination to succeed. He wanted us to have options and choices. All this from a man who came over from Samoa and went straight to Invercargill, and worked in the freezing works. My parents had nothing – no education. English was a second language. And like all parents who come as immigrants from the Pacific Islands, he wanted more for us. He once said to me, "Your friends are here for a short time but your family are the ones that count." I have two brothers and one sister, and he gave all of us that drive, that determination and the work ethic to succeed. To never give up. God knows where I would have ended up if he hadn't been my father. He gave us all these survival skills and we still have them to this day.
You get up at 3am every morning for your job as newsreader on Mike Hosking Breakfast – how do you manage that?
To be honest, it is still a work in progress. I have learned to say no to a lot of things because you can't party on a weekday, so no social events for me during the week. I also nap every day and I make no excuses for it. Sometimes I'll come home from work and go to sleep at 10.15am. I'm like a baby. But I have to because I'm at work at 14 minutes past 4 in the morning and I've got to sound likeI've been up for hours.
'It is very emotional when someone is telling you about their worst moment'
You've talked about dealing with depression in the past. What do you do to keep yourself centred and healthy?
I have conversations with myself, and I give myself a stern talking to every now and again. If I'm getting into bad habits like going to two functions in a row, I know I need to get back some control. I have to do that because I'm a real people-pleaser and I end up going to things which I really don't want to go to because I don't want to let people down. So I have to keep having this conversation. It's all part of keeping me in check with depression and it's being honest with myself.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life right now?
To never be in denial. I enjoy my life if I am fully open and honest with other people. That is what the podcast has shown me. I learned so many things from the guests and that's one of the things I learned.
What is the nicest thing you've ever bought or done for yourself?
I'm not materialistic, so buying stuff isn't really me. But I do give myself pamper days just for me, not with anyone else because I don't want to hear other people talking. I talk for a living, so I just need some quiet. I like my own company, so my pamper day lasts a whole day and it will involve a massage, a facial, possibly a manicure and a pedicure, perhaps eyebrows. Whatever needs doing gets done. And then I'll buy a nice bottle of pinot noir just for myself. I'm not sharing. It's my day.
When are you happiest?
When I'm with my nephews and nieces. I don't have children but I've got seven nephews and three nieces, and I love being around them. They're not babies and are quite old now, but I love being that aunty they tell anything to and their parents won't know about it. When one of my nieces was 19 she was going through a tough time with anxiety, and I had just come out about my depression, and we bonded over that. She came and spent some time with me and now she has a life coach in her aunty. That would never have happened when I was her age because people just didn't talk about those things. I also work hard with the boys. I say, "Come on now, tell me what's going on." And then I tell them to bring their friends too to have a chat with the Agony Aunt!
'I love being that aunty they tell anything to and their parents won't know about it'
What advice would you give 15-year-old you?
Learn how to cook. My mother was a terrible cook and I just don't enjoy it. My brothers are really good cooks. I also wish that I had spent more time with my parents because when you're a teen, you just want to get away from them and be with your friends. But my parents died when I was young, so in hindsight I wish I had spent more time with them. I remember travelling with my parents to my cousin's wedding when I was 20 from Invercargill to Balclutha and I didn't want to go. But I did and I'm so pleased I did because that was one of the last times I spent with my parents. And the lovely thing is that when we were at that wedding, I waltzed with my dad for the first and only time. I will never forget that.
What qualities does a good friend need for you?
A great sense of humour. Laughter, trust and honesty. Oh, and then diplomacy with that honesty. Sometimes if someone says something and you think, "Oh, what did you just say? Okay, thank you for that, just don't come to my house ever again." I have a good key group of people who are loyal and I'm loyal to them too. I don't like pretentious people, so down to earth is good for me.
What books are on your bedside table?
Sonny Bill Williams' You Can't Stop the Sun From Shining, and Toni Street's book Lost and Found. I don't really read a lot of bios because I love the escapism of novels like a good Lee Child, that sort of thing. I like my crime and my dramas.
Have you got any streaming recommendations?
I love After Life with Ricky Gervais and I've got to be honest here, I hate him and never watched The Office. But then I watched After Life, and I laughed and I cried and I loved it. I've watched all three series, and now I'm going to write to him and see if I can get him on our podcast!
You're cooking for friends – what is your signature dish?
Omelette because I hate cooking and I'm a terrible cook. No one eats when they come to my house – they drink and they get a platter of stuff I've chopped up. I blame my mother for that. When I cook for myself, I do a basic chicken salad or whatever involves chopping things up. I just don't cook. I don't even enjoy the process like people who love to cook with a glass of wine. A lot of people will bring their own food here, but if it really comes down to having to feed someone, it's an omelette.
Tell us something we don't know about you.
I can't watch people clean their teeth, it's my pet hate. Even the thought of it makes me feel ill. Even if someone is brushing their teeth on a movie, which happens a lot, I can't watch it. I don't have anything against actually brushing teeth, I brush mine several times a day, but if someone comes out of the bathroom and starts talking to me while they are brushing their teeth, they are advised to get back in that bathroom very quickly. That's what bathrooms are for – brushing your teeth and close the door.

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