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Nadine Chalmers-Ross moves on: I’m now happier than ever!

The poised newsreader tells why she quit TVNZ
Nadine Chalmers-Ross

The last time we saw Nadine Chalmers-Ross, she was bidding a tearful farewell to viewers on her final day as host of TVNZ’s Breakfast show. Along with her co-host Rawdon Christie, she’d been unceremoniously moved aside to make way for new hosts Hilary Barry and Jack Tame, and she was staring down the barrel of an uncertain future.

But when she arrives for our Woman’s Day photo shoot with her beloved fiancé Dan Higgins, 31, by her side, Nadine is positively glowing. With her glossy brunette locks and killer figure, she poses up a storm and tells us that she’s loving every minute of her new life.

“I’m great!” she enthuses. “It’s funny how things work out because I really am feeling better than I have in a long time.”

As speculation raged around her, Nadine remained resolutely silent over the events that led to her leaving TVNZ. She gracefully worked out her notice, fronting the morning show with professionalism and style for 10 long weeks despite the tricky circumstances.

But over two months after her final sign-off, 30-year-old Nadine is finally ready to talk. And she tells us that while it’s been one of the toughest periods of her life, she’s emerged happier and healthier than ever.

“It’s definitely been a difficult time,” she tells us in a candid interview just hours before jetting to Europe for a much-needed holiday. “In some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago and in other ways, it’s like yesterday. It’s been a huge life change, but it’s taught me I’m a lot stronger than I thought I was.”

Nadine spent eight years on Breakfast as a business reporter, newsreader and, more recently, as co-host. Despite her daily 3am starts, she adored her high-profile job and tells us that it wasn’t until July that she had any inkling it could be in jeopardy.

“I came back from overseas and there was a frenzy of stories in the newspaper saying that Hilary and Jack would be the new hosts of Breakfast. I didn’t know what to think. No-one was

saying anything at work – we all asked questions, but nothing was confirmed. I’m sure there were reasons for that, but it wasn’t easy to deal with. The uncertainty was very stressful.”

It wasn’t until several days later that the Breakfast team was called into a meeting and the rumours were finally confirmed.

“It was awful,” she says frankly. “Of course I was upset. I mean, I absolutely loved my job and the people I worked with were like family to me. But the hardest bit was definitely the way in which I found out.”

In typical Nadine style, she refuses to speak badly of her former employer, which was widely criticised at the time for its handling of the affair. “It would’ve been nice not to learn that I was losing my job by reading about it in the paper, that’s certainly true. But at the end of the day, it was a business decision and television is an uncertain business, so there’s no need to be bitter.

“Plus, TVNZ gave me amazing opportunities, which are opening doors now, and I’m grateful for that. The industry is rife with changes at the moment and I really feel for those affected, but there is life after telly.”

After learning her fate, Nadine and film producer Dan headed to a friends’ house for pizza and wine. It was there that they came up with a plan.

“Before we left, my best friend and Dan said I had the weekend to feel sad about this, but then it was time to start afresh and make a plan for the future. And it was great advice. There was no point wallowing.”

She was tested at times, especially as information was being continually leaked to the newspapers. “It was quite unnerving. But the hardest part was having your strengths and weaknesses discussed publicly, particularly seeing polls comparing your popularity to other people. That wasn’t easy.”

However, Nadine was quick to lend her support to the new Breakfast team.

“I had an email from Jack when it all happened and he asked if we could still be friends. I told him, ‘Don’t be ridiculous – of course we’re still friends. This doesn’t change anything!’ I also met up with Hilary before I left. I wished her well and gave her a hug. And no, it wasn’t awkward! I meant everything I said.”

While Nadine was offered another role at TVNZ, she decided to walk away. “I looked at the whole media picture and decided that my best option was to explore some new options. It was the gutsiest choice but also the riskiest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never left a job without another one lined up! But I’d been at TVNZ since I was 22. I had a stud in my nose when I arrived! It was time for a change.”

And she made a deliberate decision to hold her head up high in her final weeks on air.

“People remember how you behave not just when you’re on a high, but also when things aren’t going your way. Tim Wilson [her TVNZ colleague] said to me that that bravery is grace under pressure and I thought, ‘You’re so right.’”

Throughout the drama, it was Dan’s unwavering support that helped get Nadine through. He’s long been her biggest champion and he can’t hide his pride at how his wife-to-be has coped. “The way she carried herself is a testament to her professionalism and strength,” he says. “When you see someone as talented as she is and that person isn’t being valued how you think she deserves to be, it’s hard. But we’ve got through it and she’s proved just how strong she can be.”

“Dan’s been amazing,” Nadine adds. “He’s always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself at times.”

Nadine was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the public. Even now, she receives Facebook messages from strangers asking when she’ll be returning to the show.

The day after she filmed her emotional final Breakfast show on September 16, Nadine and Dan flew out to Fiji for a much-deserved break. It wasn’t just to get over the stress of the past few months, but also to reconnect. Dan has had a busy year, with many months spent away from home as he works on film projects.

“We decided to take off and get away from it all,” Nadine explains. “It was dreamy.”

There’s no doubt that eight years of gruelling 3am starts took a toll and the couple are relishing Nadine’s new regular hours. “It’s like I’m a normal human – I can stay up past 9pm,” Nadine laughs. “We’ve been going out for dinner or to the movies. Even watching TV together is a treat.”

She adds, “You don’t realise how tiring those early starts are until you’re not doing them any more. It is really nice not feeling like that – and I’m probably much nicer to live with now.”

While Nadine had grand plans to take time out after she finished at TVNZ, she’s been inundated with offers of work. She’s still weighing up her options, but she’s been kept busy with shifts on Newstalk ZB, writing jobs and MC-ing gigs, so painting the fence and becoming a domestic goddess will have to wait!

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“I had all these plans for around the house, but I’ve hardly had time to do anything,” she tells us. “I’ve been amazed by how many opportunities have come my way. My career is now a bit like a smorgasbord or a pick-and-mix and I’m loving the variety.”

Nadine admits it’s done wonders for her confidence. “I have had to learn to back myself and that’s such an important lesson.”

No-one is less surprised than Dan, who says he always knew his talented wife-to-be would be in hot demand. “She’s my best friend, beautiful and totally amazing. You don’t get that every day!”

While Nadine misses her old job, she’s far too busy to dwell on the events of the past year. As she says her goodbyes from our Woman’s Day interview, she’s off home to pack her bags before heading away on a month-long European adventure. Leaving Dan behind to look after their dog Rico and cat Oscar, Nadine is off to see friends and family in London, Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin.

“This is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to do something like this and I can’t wait. I love history, so I’m going to go to museums and galleries, and just soak it all up.”

Then there’s the small matter of a summer wedding to look forward to! With her dress underway, bridesmaids’ gowns bought, flowers ordered, RSVPs all in, and caterers and musicians booked, it’s all starting to feel very real.

“It’s getting closer now – it’s really exciting,” Nadine beams. “I don’t think marriage will change things hugely because Dan and I are already so close and settled. But it’s definitely going to be a great party and we can’t wait!”

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