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Jay-Jay Feeney and Paul Flynn: our perfect friendship

After helping each other through a challenging year, the radio stars reveal they're each other's perfect match

By Leena Tailor
When Jay-Jay Feeney and Paul "Flynny" Flynn first met, the two were working for rival stations and never guessed they would end up in what they call "the best radio partnership" of their entire careers.
Nor did the More FM drive hosts imagine they would become besties who enjoy summer barbecues and weekends away – with frequent hugs, shared wines and comforting words that have seen them through an often-dreadful 12 months.
On top of the pandemic throwing their lives into a spin in 2020, Flynny struggled with anxiety, faced financial worries and watched his child battle a health condition, while Jay-Jay endured a crushing break-up, family drama, depression and a health setback, which at one point saw her crumpled on the studio floor with her head in her hands.
It was a stark contrast to a year ago, when Jay-Jay, 46, spent the summer road-tripping around New Zealand with her Algerian-based boyfriend Minou. Seeing 2020 as "full of promise", she had planned to reunite with Minou, 29, in his homeland.
"But COVID made it challenging to continue a long-distance relationship," she says frankly. "No one knows where the end is, so how long do I wait? I put my life on hold and that's frustrating when you like someone so much. It hurts. "I called it off because what's the point? I'm not getting any younger, so I can't sit around waiting for COVID to end.
He's got heaps of time, so I set him free, but he's taken it extremely hard." Jay-Jay doesn't rule out the two reconciling, but she's enjoying singledom and not looking for anything new – especially after dabbling in dating apps, a "degrading" experience full of "rude" prospects.
After announcing the end of her 18-year relationship to former co-host Dominic Harvey in 2017, Jay-Jay met Minou online. She says both men made her feel cherished.
"Minou adores me and Dom adored me, so I need someone who adores me. Someone's who's not interested in anyone else and is my number-one fan. That's hard to find."
Luckily for Jay-Jay, she has Flynny!
"Flynny adores me. If I'm having a bad day, he'll hug me and go, 'It's OK, mate.' He's reliable, trustworthy and we're there for each other daily. It's been a hard year for both of us, so we take turns supporting each other – but we have cried at the same time!"
Indeed, Flynny, 41, also faced a challenging year as one of his kids fought an ongoing health issue. "It's absolutely heartbreaking because before that, one of my other children was ill until he was eight," says Flynny, who has four kids, Jack, 15, Leo, 12, Mickey, nine, and Alex, five, with wife Natalie.
"It's exhausting and takes up a lot of space in your head. You just want to make them better, but you can't. It was very intense for 18 months
and whenever I was stressed, Jay-Jay reassured me and gave me hugs."
Meanwhile, Flynny's marriage celebrant business took a hit when we went into lockdown, contributing to mounting financial worries and causing his anxiety to flare up. He started experiencing the mental health condition 10 years ago, recalling his heartbeat felt like "Mike Tyson was inside my chest punching".
He explains, "When I get anxiety, I get bad bouts for four to six months and it dominates my life, but I hadn't had it for a couple of years, then during lockdown, I started feeling it. The first sign's always that I can't sleep properly."
Now that he recognises the signs, Flynny's proactive about tackling the condition, most effectively by running, eating well and hanging with his kids. "They always cheer me up."
He continues, "Exercise and doing the show are the two things that make me forget my worries, and Jay-Jay's amazing because she understands. We've supported each other through mental health struggles. We'll hug it out and have a chat. I can always tell if she's going through a rough time and she knows instantly if I'm not feeling great."
Adds Jay-Jay, "Flynny's super-energetic and is always cracking jokes, so when he comes in and isn't instantly doing that, I know something's up. It doesn't happen often because he's good at putting it to one side, whereas I wear my heart on my sleeve."
Jay-Jay has been open about her struggles with depression, which resurfaced over the past 12 months, in which time she dealt with intense stress from family issues, a friend passing away and moving house –on top of her break-up.
She also suffers trauma from a 2017 incident, where she alleged she was groped by a taxi driver. The driver faced one charge of indecent assault and was found not guilty.
"Some days, even though I'm feeling good, I have this underlying depression I can always feel," she tells. "It sets off every now and then, and
I can go to this dark place. The court case with the taxi driver sometimes rears its ugly head and affects me. But I'm a great avoider now. I avoid situations that will set me off or cause heavy stress. That can mean simply staying home."
Like Flynny, Jay-Jay has learned what to do when she feels an episode coming on. Reasoning with herself and going into the More FM office helps. "I look forward to work and Flynny cheers me up no matter how down in the dumps I am!
Flynny also picked up the slack when Jay-Jay suffered a debilitating vestibular migraine, which involved ongoing vertigo. Unable to get out of bed for days, she took a week off while experiencing nausea and dizziness.
"It's so stressful because you worry, 'How long will it last?' Every day I'd wake up and it was still there. Eventually, I could get out of bed for short periods, then I'd feel dizzy again. It was a month before I felt 100 percent.
"One day, I came to work and I was dizzy, unwell and could barely stand up, so then I was sitting on the studio floor, with my head in my hands, thinking, 'How will I work?' I was a mess. Flynny was amazing."
Before their radio pairing, Flynny had long wanted to work with Jay-Jay, confessing he slid into her Facebook messages "while pissed one night". The two got chatting before he joined More in May 2019. "I've never felt so in-tune with a co-host," he says.
Jay-Jay adds that Flynny has given her the most enjoyable job "in all my years in radio", explaining, "Often, you have problems with co-hosts because there's so many egos, so I've never had a totally perfect partnership."
Even with Dom? Jay-Jay laughs, "Dom's so hard to work with! But because I was married to him, I could just say, 'Don't be a dork!' Whereas often you don't feel like you can be 100 percent honest with people because they're sensitive or have big egos. Flynny has neither."
Jay-Jay and pup Kanye
While Jay-Jay has found her on-air soulmate in Flynny, she remains close to Dom, with the exes talking daily. When she flew home from More FM Jingle Bail – which saw her and Flynny locked in a cell in the middle of a Christchurch mall to raise money for deserving kids – he'd dropped off flowers and a note reading, "Well done." She also returns from trips to find fresh milk and bread.
"He's that kind of guy," she smiles. "The only thing he niggles at me about is money because we still have joint money. We're the weirdest split-up married couple! But Dom's always there for me and he's had rough times where he came to me for support too. It's true love, forever and ever – like we promised!"
With the support of Dom and Flynny, Jay-Jay's putting 2020 behind her, but remaining cautious about the New Year. "COVID's still here and we're going to get the long-term effects, but everyone's going into 2021 positively and hopefully that positive energy spreads."
"I just hope COVID-19 gets the hell out of here," adds Flynny. "I want myself and my kids to be happy and healthy – and Jay-Jay too!"

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