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Comedian Bubbah’s ‘I’m single & embarrassing!’

Despite dishing out dating advice in her new show, the Kiwi comic loves her own company
Michelle Hyslop

When legendary singer Tina Turner died last year, some Kiwis mistakenly thought Tina from Turners, the fictional TV salesperson who really loves cars, had headed to the great car-yard in the sky. But Tina from Turners, aka actress Sieni Leo’o Olo, is very much alive – and she’s busy!

The 27-year-old, nicknamed Bubbah as a child, is bringing her comedic magic to the small screen with a second series of bite-sized show I Got You.

The seven-minute episodes – designed to be watched on Instagram, TikTok and RNZ’s youth platform Tahi – feature Bubbah as Mac, a hapless 20-something who starts a side hustle as a matchmaker and relationship advisor.

“Mac’s family is having financial issues, so she decides to create a business giving dating advice to the Pasifika community, despite not having any relationship experience herself,” laughs Bubbah.

“Mac sets herself up in the family’s garage and thinks she’s helping others with advice on what to do on a first date, inventing an imaginary girlfriend to get parents off a client’s back and writing a song to help woo a boyfriend. Of course, it all goes horribly wrong!”

Not only does Bubbah appear in both seasons, but she also helped write them, along with director Stallone Vaiaogo-Ioasa.

“Stallone really took a chance on me and mentored me,” says Bubbah, who also recently starred on the fourth season of Taskmaster NZ. “It was such a great opportunity to tell our own stories and to write about and for my community.”

Would Tina approve of Bubbah’s hot wheels?!

Ask Bubbah how much of herself is in the character of Mac and she’ll laugh.

“Mac is really clumsy and embarrassing – and I’m exactly the same. Yesterday, for example, I was winding up the window of the car and I got my head stuck in the window! I do that kind of thing all the time.”

Mac also shares the same fashion sense as Bubbah, preferring mismatched colours and prints.

“Honestly, I really don’t care what I wear! Nothing ever goes together because I’ll just put on whatever’s clean and there at the time. I have four sisters who constantly say to me, ‘You’re not going out in that, are you?’”

The first series of I Got You, which was released early last year, was well received by fans, who would often approach Bubbah in the street to tell her where Mac was going wrong.

“Strangers would come up to me and say, ‘Mac needs a boyfriend,’ or, ‘Get her a boyfriend now!’ People really relate to Mac because she’s an open book. Plus, she’s like one of their cousins.”

Fans will see Mac become more confident in this second series, which launched on Valentine’s Day.

“Mac really comes into her own. She’s still sassy and things don’t always go to plan, but she’s able to move out of the garage and even look for love.”

When it comes to her own love life, Bubbah stops short of drawing parallels with Mac, except to say that she’s happily single.

“When I can find a man who will walk my dog, and make me and my dog breakfast, then I’ll allow a relationship!”

Bubbah’s three-year-old rottweiler Friday, who shares her South Auckland home, takes up a lot of her time when she’s not working. “We like to be couch potatoes, hanging out and watching TV.”

One thing they won’t be watching, though, is I Got You.

“I don’t own a smartphone, so I can’t see it! I went off social media two years ago, which I’m loving, and then my smartphone broke, so there was no reason to get another one. Instead, I bought an old brick-style phone, which isn’t capable of showing videos.”

It’s been a busy few years for Bubbah, who got a taste for live performance when she sang at her local Samoan church as a child.

Against her parents’ wishes – “They wanted me to follow a career path with a more stable income” – Bubbah connected with Auckland’s Massive Theatre Company, known for creating new works with actors, directors and writers.

“That was years ago, but I’m still part of the company because it’s where I found my voice and learned how to tell a story.”

That experience also gave Bubbah a leg up on the stand-up circuit, including a spot at the International Comedy Festival and, later, a starring role in the TV show Duckrockers.

Since appearing on Taskmaster alongside Dai Henwood and Melanie Bracewell, Bubbah has also featured on Alice Snedden’s Bad News, plus she’s got several exciting projects in the pipeline.

“Sadly, I can’t tell you about any of them yet! What I can say is that I’m in talks to start an internship writing on Shortland Street, which will be massive. I was supposed to do that last year, but then a whole lot of projects came my way and I couldn’t make it work. But this year, I’m pretty excited to get stuck into that.”

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