TrueBliss beauty Megan Alatini definitely rang in 2024 with style! The songstress thought she was going to a sunset picnic at Waiheke's Mudbrick Vineyard on New Year's Day, but when a plane flew past with a banner that read, "Megs, you should marry me 1 day," she realised her partner Natalie McDade had also planned the perfect proposal.
"I get emotional just thinking about it," the mum-of-three tells Woman's Day. "Nat pulled out all the stops – a plane, a musician playing our favourite songs and a videographer. It was just so wonderfully romantic and I get to spend the rest of my days with her! I still feel like someone is going to pinch me and tell me it was all a dream. Of course, if I'd known a proposal was coming, I would've got my hair, makeup and nails done!"
An extremely nervous Natalie presented Megan with a stunning emerald-cut diamond ring and was relieved when the Celebrity Treasure Island star said yes.
"I knew from early on in our relationship that Megan was going to be my person," says Natalie. "I've been telling her, 'You should marry me one day,' for a while now. She always replies, 'You should ask me nicely.' She deserved the best proposal and I think I pulled it off.
"Of course, I didn't realise I'd have to buy another ring for the wedding! I'm going to have to work extra-hard to pay for the next one. I've already told Meg she's not gonna be wearing my Tesla on her finger!"
The besotted couple have been friends for about 18 years, but they lost touch when Megan, 47, moved to Japan for her ex-husband Pita Alatini's rugby career. However, they reconnected after lockdown restrictions lifted in 2021, when Natalie, also 47, and Megan's sister Monique worked together at an MIQ facility.
"We met up for a long lunch with my sissy and were just so happy to see each other," recalls Megan. "So the friendship was rekindled, but there was a whole different connection this time."
Despite long being an ally of Aotearoa's rainbow community, the star admits she was initially confused about her attraction.
"I started feeling certain things that are beyond what I would call a normal friendship," shares Megan. "I was really drawn to this gorgeous human for her intellect, her crazy wit and her beautiful heart. But because I'd never been down that road in terms of a same-sex partner, I was really questioning myself. It made me want to run far, far away – and I did, thanks to Treasure Island!"
Laughing, Megan continues, "I had no idea our friendship was going to turn into a love story, but I've always said that you've got to follow your heart, be brave, take risks and be real. I can't tell others to be authentic and live their truths if I don't!"
Natalie says she wasn't worried that Megan hadn't been in a relationship with a woman before. "I knew I was Meg's first rodeo. I'm not into labels, though. I just think you fall in love with who you fall in love with."
Megan believes their friendship was a great foundation for romance and the couple have since gone from strength to strength.
"Nat absolutely rocks my world," she enthuses. "Our partnership is just so intense, so dynamic and so electric. I feel so spoilt and lucky. We just bring out the best in each other. There have been stumbling blocks as we navigate personal changes, but those challenges have brought in a better understanding. We've got to know each other on a deeper level.
"Nat's an incredible mum and that's a huge part of what I love about her. She's got five kids, and the relationship that she has with them collectively and individually is amazing. I feel so lucky because I'm the same. The kids all get along great and that's so important to me."
Natalie's children range in age from nine to 21 and she's enormously proud of them. She chuckles, "They're IVF babies – I always tell them they're very loved and very expensive! They were chosen."
Asked what she loves most about Megan, Natalie replies, "First of all, she's beautiful. She's also so smart. Our values align and we operate so well together. When I watch her at work, I'm in awe of what she does."
Hearing this, Megan grins. "I thought you were going to say my sexual prowess!" she jokes. "But you're keeping it clean – that's OK!"
Megan is grateful that all of her family and friends have been incredibly supportive of her new relationship. Yes, that includes Pita, she smiles.
"Of course, he joked first off. He was like, 'Was I that bad, I turned you gay?' But he's one of my best friends and one of the first people I told. We co-parent amazingly, and him and Nat get on really well – the thing they have in common is an awesome sense of humour. They're always mocking me."
Although South African-born Megan had a religious upbringing, she says her folks are very accepting and her brother Sebastian has been openly gay for a long time.
"My mum in particular has always been very enlightened. She was one of the first to say to Nat, 'Alright, what's going on here? Nana Barbs isn't stupid! I can see the sparkle!'"
Natalie – who is of Niuean, Samoan, Scottish and Irish descent – says her parents have always supported her.
"My mum and dad are really open-minded, which is lucky because some people don't have that and it can change the course of their lives. When I came out to my parents, they just said, 'We love you for who you are.'"
The pair will soon face a big challenge when senior sergeant Natalie heads to Papua New Guinea for a year to work as a peacekeeper under the New Zealand Police and the UN.
"It's a senior advisory position and I'm really excited about it," says Natalie. "But it's not a place that you can take people because it's compound living. I know I'm going to miss Meg, so we're downloading all the apps so we can set up some virtual dates, visits home and breaks abroad."
Megan adds, "I'm already incredibly anxious and sad! It's definitely not ideal. But early on in our courtship, Nat shared with me that it was a dream of hers to do international peacekeeping and deployments, and I'd never stand in the way of anyone's goals. I also find it super-attractive how driven and community-minded she is! She gets to come back three or four times, so we're definitely going to make the most of those trips."
Being away for most of 2024, Natalie will also miss a lot of the celebrations planned for TrueBliss's 25th anniversary.
"It's such a shame because we've got so much cool stuff planned," enthuses Megan. "I don't know whether it's because it's been 25 years, but we've had so many comeback requests from the fans. And us girls don't need any excuses to get together and sing – whether it's off the back of a meat truck, which we have done in Dunedin, or in the biggest stadiums, we know that we love each other, we love what we do and we're bloody good at it.
"Quarter of a century on, we won't be wearing the same outfits and we definitely can't do all of the same dance moves, but we can still rock it. There's going to be some exciting news soon. Watch this space!"
As for the future, Natalie and Megan are looking forward to being together after Nat's deployment, and they're excited about planning the wedding. Megan grins, "People always ask me about why I talk so openly about my relationships, but I've been in the public eye for so long, and I'm asked about my life and love all the time.
"In a world where people are too shy to talk about love and broken relationships, I just want to speak my truth, and encourage people to take a risk and be true to themselves because I can wholeheartedly say that this is one of the best experiences I've been in when it comes to matters of the heart."
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