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Jim Hickey’s YouTube star

Jim Hickey’s youngest daughter has inherited her dad’s camera-ready attitude.
Jim Hickey

Most weeknights, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders tune in to watch the country’s most sprightly TV weatherman forecast the days ahead. But while Jim Hickey’s usually spot on with his analysis, he could never have predicted that his youngest daughter would also become a broadcasting sensation.

With more than 45,000 subscribers on YouTube, Sally Hickey (20), who video blogs under the name Sally Jo, has found unexpected stardom with her online make-up tutorials. Even her energetic father has a hard time keeping up!

“When Sally and I are out and about, she gets recognised more often than me!” confesses Jim (65).

Sally shows off her make-up skills.

Sally started out as a teenager creating make-up tutorials in her New Plymouth bedroom. From those humble beginnings, she moved her operation to a student flat in Auckland, and in just a year, the Sally Jo YouTube channel has become a self-sufficient money-making brand that is now attracting attention from around the globe. And as her success grows, Sally, who is studying towards a communications degree, credits her famous father for helping her stay grounded.

“He’s very good at giving me advice, particularly about what it’s like being in the public eye.”

Sally says growing up, she visited Jim’s workplace TVNZ a lot, “but I spent my time in the make-up room! I always admired how driven TV journalists were and they inspired me [to study communications] but I didn’t know that I wanted it to be my career. I always wanted to do something in cosmetics.”

Softly-spoken Sally created her YouTube account when she was at Spotswood College, primarily to share funny animal videos. Obsessed with make-up, she worked part-time at a supermarket, and used her hard-earned savings to buy the latest products.

“I noticed Americans were uploading regularly to their own channels, but no-one from New Zealand was doing it. So I decided to upload my own make-up videos. It started out as a hobby but I got thousands of views and people requesting more make-up looks, so it grew,” explains Sally.

When she reached 11,000 subscribers in 2013, Sally, who dedicates 15 hours a week to the “job”, was approached by the US agency Collective Digital Studio. They signed Sally and connected her with cosmetic brands, ensuring she generates revenue through marketing and advertising.

At first, Jim was far from on board. “I spent a lot of time trying to discourage her because I feared it would inhibit her university studies. But, as Sally’s following grew exponentially, I started to think, ‘This could be my retirement plan!’”

Jim with youngest daughter Sally.

Like Jim, Sally’s always thinking of ways to combine business opportunities with personal passions. Jim pilots small planes in his spare time and in July opened his second airport café, Airspresso, at Queenstown Airport. The venue draws on New Zealand aviation history and adds to his growing portfolio, which includes the Airspresso he first opened at New Plymouth Airport.

And smart Sally is already thinking long-term about her own portfolio. She plans to move to Wellington to be closer to her boyfriend, Tama, and focus on making her channel a full-time business. One day, she would like to develop her own make-up range too.

As Sally prepares to fully fly the coop, Jim admits it’s heart-wrenching to watch his “baby” leave home.

“It’s tough,” he says. “Dads are very protective of their girls – I tear up occasionally at it because I love her. Sally’s smart, ambitious, gentle and determined. I will miss her terribly, but it’s her time.”

Jim admits it’s heart-wrenching to watch his “baby” leave home.

The youngest of Jim’s four children – Becky (42), a nurse living in Sydney, Jamie (40), a chief customs officer in Tauranga, and Emma (38), a mum of two also in Sydney – Sally has never caused her parents any angst, says Jim.

“She’s been trouble-free motoring all the way,” he smiles proudly. “She’s such a graceful young woman. She always sets high standards and achieves them, which blows me away.”

Sally credits her dad for that. “Whenever people come up to Dad and ask him how he can be so normal while working in TV, he says, ‘You have to be yourself – you can’t pretend!’”

As if on cue, Jim glances up at a grey cloud cautioning “there will probably be a rain shower soon!” Forever the weatherman, Jim loves his job, but confesses his television days are numbered.

“I think I’ll retire soon,” he reveals. “I’m pretty old – the oldest presenter in television! I honestly think the sun is beginning to set for me.”

But Jim needn’t worry about remaining active in his retirement. Sally has offered him a rather bespoke role.

“I’ve said to Dad that if I ever get to 100,000 subscribers, he can do my make-up,” teases Sally. “And he agreed! Dad doing my make-up would be very, very funny.”

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