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Paul Henry’s sassy new sidekick

Meet Paul Henry's sassy new sidekick for his breakfast show. The controversial broadcaster has recruited someone very close to home for the new role.
Paul Henry & Bella

Brace yourself New Zealand, because Paul Henry is back – and he’s not alone! From April 7, there will be a morning double dose of Henrys as Paul makes his much-anticipated comeback – alongside his youngest daughter, make-up artist Bella. And, if the morning that the Weekly spent with this pair of livewires is anything to go by, we’re in for one hell of a ride. Although there’s obviously a great deal of affection and respect between the pair, they also love ribbing each other. Shots are fired back and forth in an endless banter that is easy, hilarious and, occasionally, abrasive. Has someone alerted the human resources department?

“I don’t think TV3 has an HR department,” says Paul with a wry smile. “And I think it’s just as well because I’ve only come into strife with HR departments in the past. I have found no solace in any HR department in my career whatsoever, so I am impressed that they haven’t even bothered with one.” The polarising broadcaster will be aiming to dominate our screens, as well as our airwaves, as he embarks on a challenge he describes as “essentially a world first”. Paul will be fronting MediaWorks’ new breakfast offering – called, simply, Paul Henry – which will be simultaneously broadcast on RadioLIVE and TV3. Paul is at pains to point out that it won’t be a TV show simulcast on radio, or a radio show filmed for TV, but a unique show that works equally well on both.

Paul (54) says another major difference from anything he’s done in the past, will, of course, be the fact he is working with family. Bella (22) will perform dual roles on the show, operating as a make-up artist and as one of the on-screen personalities. The set-up means her make-up chair will be based within the studio, so she’ll be called upon by Paul for her opinion at any time.

Bella knows just how to give her dad Paul Henry the brown glow that he loves.

Daunting? Not for Bella. In fact, she says she’s not the least bit nervous. “We pretty much have the same personality. He knows what he does that annoys me. I guess if it gets really bad, I could get another person to do his make-up. But he likes me to do it because he likes to be very brown, and that’s one thing I can do for him.”

Paul says it’s certainly not just the “one thing” she can do and raves about how proud he is of Bella, who’s earning a reputation at TV3 for being a very hard worker. “I just wish he wouldn’t call me ‘darling’ at work,” she says, groaning. “I’m, like, ‘NO’, when he does that because I don’t tell people he’s my father. I’ve worked hard and I don’t want people to think I just got the job because of him.” Bella completed her training at The Makeup School in Auckland and has been working at a salon while juggling shifts at TV3. Paul says although she has a strong work ethic and is “very, very good” at her job, it’s her personality that’s going to be turning heads on the show.

“What I love about Bella is that she has this extraordinary enthusiasm for things, even things she passionately dislikes,” he says, erupting into his trademark giggle. “She has a passionate view on things she knows absolutely nothing about and I love that. There’s a bit of [former Prime Minister] Mike Moore in her in that sense – he’d answer a complicated question about something he knew very little about, instantly. You could ask him a question in a language he had never heard before and he would have a good answer. Bella has that skill too.” Paul agrees he and Bella are similar and says they both deal with criticism the same way. “My view is always,’What’s the worst that can happen?'” he grins. “Seriously, it’s just the media.”

But the media certainly hasn’t been kind to Bella in the past, particularly after she appeared on the Australian version of the reality TV show Beauty and the Geek, for which she was slated by the Aussie media. “I got really upset after that,” she admits.

“But since then, I’ve learned that I don’t really care what others think.” She agrees she has a tough hide, like her dad, but when he’s out of earshot, she admits rather quietly that she’s probably not quite as resilient as he thinks. “I try and make him proud, so I like to be tough in front of him,” she says. “I’ll tell him everything is okay because I don’t want him to stress.”

When Paul returns to the room, the pair is instantly back to trading loving insults and Bella can’t help but get another dig in. “Dad’s someone I look up to, but there’s also someone inside of him that makes me want to get a sledgehammer and slowly kill – a slow, painful death.” Without missing a beat, her dad shoots back, “Wouldn’t it be hard to kill someone slowly with a sledgehammer, though, Bella?” The youngest of Paul’s three daughters, Bella – who is single because she “just wouldn’t have time” for a boyfriend, let alone cope with the worry about what her dad might do to him – is flatting, but used to live with Paul.

Paul Henry is looking forward to his new role on TV 3 and hopes the HR department will give him a wide berth!

He tells how all three of his daughters have lived with him – and that’s when their individual personalities have become most apparent to him. “Sophie, my middle child, is extraordinarily contained and then Lucy, my eldest, who just moved to Melbourne, she lies somewhere in the middle,” he explains. “But Bella, she’s the most obvious occupant of the house. People will sometimes ask, ‘Is Sophie home? Does she still live here?’ But no-one has ever asked that of Bella. She consumes your every waking – and most of your sleeping – moments when she is living in the house.”

Bella says she sometimes misses living with her father. “She misses living somewhere for free!” interjects Paul, but Bella says the appeal of living in Dad’s secluded north Auckland home and having a bit of peace and quiet appeals to her. “I loved escaping. But it was hard because of his obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD]. He’d come in while I was cooking and act as if he was trying to hang out with me, but really he was thinking, ‘Is she going to flick her spoon and get a bit of oil out of that pan and will it land on the bench and will she wipe it away?'” Paul erupts in laughter at the picture his daughter is painting. “Well, she is the opposite of OCD – she’s my mirror opposite.”

“No, I am a little bit OCD, but in messier ways,” she hits back, as Paul dissolves into laughter again. “Did you get that? She’s messy OCD. That’s fantastic.” Despite their playful spats – or perhaps because of them – they get on fabulously. And the bond is never more obvious than when they’re travelling together, which they like to do often. “We travel well together because we both love plans. Yes, there’s rest time, but it’s structured rest time and you can’t waste your holiday planning to make plans… Or just lying down!” says Bella. Paul nods. “We have to know that every day on holiday, we’re achieving, achieving, achieving!”

Paul Henry expects his daughter Bella will bring a level of absurdity and fun to his new show.

They do allow some room for spontaneity, though, which is just as well because Bella has a knack of running into celebrities – literally. One of Paul’s favourite stories is when she became “entangled” in Paris Hilton in a rundown Beverly Hills gas station. “We saw the paparazzi camped out so we walked in,” explains Paul. “Bella was behind me and it was this terrible small place with a long queue of people, plus an English gentleman who I assumed was famous. I turned to Bella, to see if she recognised him, and thought she did because she was hyperventilating.

“It was then I realised Bella had become entangled in Paris Hilton, her dog in a basket and her scarf. That’s just the kind of thing that happens to Bella.” It’s just the kind of absurdity he’s looking forward to bringing to the show. Although, if he’s honest, there’s one thing he’s really not looking forward to: the early starts. “If someone tells you they love working early in the morning, they’re lying,” he says. Bella, who 10 minutes earlier has declared she loves early starts – “I don’t even need coffee!” – confirms she’s fine in the morning. “Well, she’s lying,” retorts Paul, turning to his daughter. “You are. Hey, you’re wearing that jumper I bought you, aren’t you?”

“No, you didn’t! This is my $20 jumper I got down from $200? Remember?”

“Yes, I remember,” says Paul. “I gave you the $20!”

Bella rolls her eyes. “No, I worked hard for that $20!”

“Well, I think you’ll find I brought you life, Bella, so I can say that about anything. Those legs? I got you those too.”

Yes, New Zealand, it’s time to prepare yourselves. The Henrys are coming and mornings are never going to be the same.

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