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Tamati Coffey’s perfect present

The TV host celebrates his birthday – and his dream job is the ideal gift.
Tamati Coffey with two 'New Zealand's Got Talent' contestants

It’s barely been on our screens for five minutes, but already New Zealand’s Got Talent is one of the most-watched programmes on TV. And while part of the show’s charm is watching the contestants take a shot at fame and fortune, one of the people most excited to be there is host Tamati Coffey. Because not only is the role of talent-show host a dream job for the TV One weatherman, who will celebrate his 33rd birthday this week, it’s also reminded him of how hard it is to put yourself out there – a feeling he knows all too well.

“I’ve been where these contestants are now, having to stand up in front of people and show what you can do. I know how terrifying it can be and how important that one moment in your life could be – which is why this show is the perfect job for me,” says Tamati. “But it’s fantastic, I’m loving it. This isn’t work – I’m having a ball!”

The move from Breakfast to primetime TV came as a surprise to Tamati, who says the call from his bosses at TVNZ came out of the blue. “I’ve been wanting the opportunity to do something a bit bigger on TV for a while now, so this was perfect timing,” says Tamati, who will continue to present Breakfast on Saturdays and the weather on weekdays for the duration of New Zealand’s Got Talent.

Rotorua’s got talent!

The show is breaking records already – the first episode was the most-watched debut episode of a TV entertainment series for eight years, with more than 1.4 million viewers tuning in. “It’s a real buzz, finding people for New Zealanders to fall in love with,” says Tamati. “I’m so pleased people are loving the show – I can’t think of a better birthday present.”

Taking on the role of host on the smash-hit talent show is the next step in what has been a busy – and very successful – 18 months for the star. After buying and renovating his Auckland house last year, Tamati topped off 2011 by tying the knot with his partner, British teacher Tim Smith, in front of 150 guests in a glamour-filled extravaganza. But rather than being overwhelmed, Tamati is taking his place in the spotlight in his stride – something he learned to do when he was younger.

While Tamati is relaxed on screen, the popular presenter from Wellington says he hasn’t always found it easy to perform – which is what makes his role as host so perfect for him. “As a kid I was painfully timid – I never left my mum’s side,” admits Tamati, who has talked to the Weekly in the past about his childhood shyness. His mother, Rangi, sent him to drama classes to build his confidence, a move which saw him appear on Wheel of Fortune at just 16.

“When I was in school productions I’d have nightmares about losing the plot on stage,” he admits. “I never did, but it didn’t stop the irrational thoughts. Over time, I learned to just smile my nerves away.” Once he learned to control his anxiety, Tamati had a new lease of life. “Suddenly I could get up in front of an audience with no problem.”

Having battled with nerves as a teenager, Tamati knows what this young hopeful is going through

Tamati’s is the last face the contestants see before they hit the stage – and he is all too aware of the effect he has on them. “I can’t be nervous on the show – it’s the contestants who are beside themselves!” he laughs.

“Can you imagine if I got nervous too? It’d be carnage backstage!” Tamati says there are no obvious frontrunners to take out the title yet. “We’ve seen a whole load of great talent,” he smiles. “But the winning act is going to have to completely blow away the competition. Anything less than that just won’t cut it.”

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