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The Edge’s Sharyn Casey reveals how her co-host Jayden King has improved her mental health

'It's like an arranged marriage!'
Michelle Hyslop

When Sharyn Casey first saw Jayden King entertaining co-workers in the office kitchen in 2019, she was instantly struck by his cheery demeanour and good looks.

Little did she realise that “Hot Jesus”, as he became nicknamed, would not only become her co-host on The Edge, but also that the 24-year-old “walking sunshine” would support her through mental health struggles that culminated in her dissolving into tears during a staff meeting.

“I get really bad anxiety and depression,” Sharyn, 35, confesses to Woman’s Day.

“I beat myself up and can get pessimistic, while Jayden doesn’t possess a negative bone in his body, so he’s taught me to be more positive.”

Positivity became vital in 2020, a year in which Sharyn’s anxiety flared up as her wellness routine went out the window during the first lockdown. Nights became particularly difficult as she went to bed sometimes “feeling like I was going to have a heart attack”.

The second lockdown was even harder as her dog Warren G became so ill, he almost died. Sharyn felt overwhelmed, but she soldiered on, thinking she should be coping since she’s the senior host on Edge Afternoons. She even walked on stage to host an event just one minute after experiencing a panic attack.

Polaroiding listeners! Sharyn reckons Jayden’s more popular than her.

Her pain eventually surfaced during a prep meeting. “They asked, ‘Who’s got an idea?’ and I crumbled, hit my head on the desk and cried. All the balls I were juggling were falling to the ground. I couldn’t even keep one up because I was trying to be a good mum, a good radio announcer, a good wife… and look after myself.”

For Jayden – who joined radio hoping to use the platform to raise awareness of issues like mental health and bullying – it was important to give Sharyn space and encouragement.

“I said I was there for her and that she should take as much time off as she needs,” he tells.

Taking time to reset, rest and get Warren G better helped Sharyn get well. The Dancing With The Stars NZ host also saw her therapist.

Sharyn’s got it licked! Trying to “do it all” was taking a toll on the radio and TV star.

Beating Bullies

As the pair chat over tasty Giapo ice creams during our photo shoot at flash new hotel QT Auckland, Sharyn insists she feels “awesome” and that bestie Jayden continues supporting her on down days.

“He’s become someone I know won’t ever make me feel judged or ashamed,” she smiles. “If I say, ‘I’m having a s**t day,’ he’s more gentle and positive – and he knows I probably won’t cope with him giving me an impromptu lap dance!”

Jayden’s been using his moves to entertain others since he was around seven and started “dancing my socks off” at an Anika Moa concert, where he was filmed by other gig-goers. He continued to command an audience via speech competitions, kapa haka and school bands, and became convinced he should be on Game Of Thrones, but he quit acting after a cameo in Netflix’s The New Legends Of Monkey.

Working in hospitality and completing a diploma in radio, Jayden landed an internship at The Rock, where he was named “Hype Man” for boosting staff morale, echoing Sharyn’s sentiments about

his uplifting nature.

But it was another quality that won Sharyn over when it came to The Edge’s Quit Your Day Job competition, which crowned Jayden her new co-host, replacing Jono Pryor and Ben Boyce. Having won the same contest in 2006, Sharyn says her judging panel believed Jayden would tick off a key attribute – being up for dinner and sake at her favourite Japanese restaurant, Nishiki, followed by karaoke.

“It’s the arranged marriage without the good stuff!’

“I had tried to get other co-hosts to come, but Jayden came in his first week,” she grins. “It was like a bonding session. We sang Avril Lavigne, Whitney Houston, Robbie Williams and Celine Dion.”

Adds Jayden, “We also went to a Liam Gallagher concert in our first week.”

Their friendship has been key to a successful radio partnership, something Sharyn likens to an arranged marriage. “You get put with this person and go through the same things as when you’re dating – the honeymoon period, finding annoying things they do, bickering and saying, ‘We need to communicate better!'”

“It’s the arranged marriage without the good stuff!” laughs Jayden. Reflecting on his first year in the job, he says Sharyn’s helped him embrace social media and deal with the occasional negativity.

“One person said my voice sounds like someone scratching a blackboard,” Jayden tells. “People will send a text, then forget about it, but you’ll have it on your mind for days.”

Sharyn’s more accustomed to life in the public eye, but the past year has been more gruelling as she’s faced more haters. “There’s always one person that wears it more. In my first drive show, that was Guy [Williams] because he was polarising,” she explains. “With Jono and Ben, Jono probably got the most.

After 10 months together, the co-hosts can’t imagine life without each other.

“Jayden’s like a lovable labrador, so it’s hard to be mean to him and listeners know me well enough now to give me more crap. It’s been a massive adjustment because for the first time, I’m the one they say mean s**t to first!”

One time, multiple listeners accused her of being mean to Jayden, which “upset me to the point I didn’t want to go on air”. She was also called “fat” after experiencing a miscarriage.

“When I hosted Dancing, people only commented on what I looked like, so they’d say, ‘Is she pregnant? She looks fat.’ I replied to one person,’No, actually I just had a miscarriage. It’s hormonal.’ They were horrified. Nine out of 10 times, people take it back.”

Becoming a man

While the pair have supported each other through mental health struggles, a pandemic and haters, Sharyn’s also helped Jayden through “adulting”. Describing herself as Jayden’s mum/sister, she took his icky shoes home to wash, and introduced him to dry shampoo and changing his sheets instead of vacuuming them!

“I love his girlfriend and I was like, ‘You can’t let a princess like Grace sleep on these sheets!'” Sharyn laughs. “Now he owns two pairs. I went to his flat and his room was immaculate. Proud!”

From co-hosting awards shows to karaoke, Jayden’s the perfect sidekick for Sharyn.

Jayden says Grace, who works in digital marketing, is getting used to him taking notes on his phone whenever he has ideas for radio content. However, he’s realised some stories he shouldn’t share with listeners.

“We’ve been together five years and there’s some things I’ve said on air that she’s made me pay for!” he admits. “I’ve learned to draw boundaries, but usually it’s fine. She’s our biggest fan and listens daily.”

Sharyn adds, “Even though she hates going on air, she’ll always come on and deliver the goods. She has great energy.”

Jayden is just as fond of Sharyn’s husband, The Rock morning host Bryce Casey, the father of her boy Tyson, who turned three last week. Sharyn says, “My son idolises Jayden. At 5pm, we FaceTime while he’s having dinner and he’s always like, ‘Where’s Jayden?'”

And just like Sharyn’s a proud mum to Tyson, she couldn’t be prouder of Jayden after wrapping his first year on radio. “The stuff he’s done in 10 months, people could only dream of doing in 10 years,” she enthuses. “His first TV job was hosting the Aotearoa Music Awards, which is an honour you usually do once you’ve been in the biz a while – and he didn’t make one mistake.”

Adding that she and her colleagues now speak more te reo thanks to the influence of Jayden, who’s Ma¯ori, Sharyn adds, “He’s grown so much, but he remains the walking sunshine he was a year ago. And he’s grown into a man – cleaning his room, changing sheets and washing his hair more in the past year than he has his entire life!”

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