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The Hui host D’Angelo Martin’s journey to sobriety

The Hui reporter hopes to be a role model for his boy
Kellie Blizard

Growing up in the Far North town of Kaitāia, award-winning television journalist and The Hui reporter D’Angelo Martin resolved not to raise his kids the same way he had been brought up.

“I grew up in a household where there was a fair bit of drinking, which was normal in Kaitāia,” says the TV star, who’s of Te Rarawa descent. “Kids came home from school to a house full of uncles, aunties and people from the neighbourhood, all of them having a party.”

D’Angelo, 24, is quick to point out that wasn’t the case every day, and his parents were also very hard-working and loving.

“Dad worked at the local timber mill and Mum was a kaiako [teacher] at Āniwaniwa Kohanga Reo, and she still is, but that’s just what childhood was like for a lot of whānau in Northland.”

From a young age, D’Angelo also realised how easy it would be to repeat that cycle, which is why he decided that when he became a father, he would not raise his tamariki with a strong drinking culture.

Cut to 2023, and D’Angelo and his partner Hailie, 23, are raising their young son in a harmonious, nurturing home, where four-year-old Kuaka is clearly flourishing, with the clever wee lad already speaking three languages, te reo Māori, English and his mother’s native tongue, Vietnamese.

Hailie and D’Angelo’s clever kid speaks three languages.

Hailie’s own backstory is also a tale of courage and determination. Born in Vietnam, Hailie was just 14 when she announced to her parents that she was going to study in New Zealand.

“I wanted to start my adventures, so in Year 10, I applied for a scholarship to Logan Park High School in Dunedin and off I went.”

Then halfway though Year 13, when she turned 17, Hailie moved to Auckland to study culinary arts. Arriving in a new city with no family or friends was a bold move, but Hailie knew it was time to spread her wings. Lucky for Hailie, D’Angelo had also moved to Tāmaki Makaurau, to study performing arts, which is how the pair crossed paths.

“Hailie was already following me online,” tells D’Angelo, adding that the follow evolved into chats and DMs, which in turn led to a real-life date.

Six years later, they’re proud parents, but D’Angelo is frank about life being tough sometimes. When he suddenly and unexpectedly lost one of his best friends in 2021, that really helped galvanise his decision to live a sober life.

“Kahi [Harawira] and I had always planned to get our ta moko puhoro [traditional tattoos] together, with Kahi’s sister doing it for us. And while Kahi didn’t make it, I had my legs done two years ago, while in a state of mourning.”

D’Angelo recalls feeling deeply depressed after the death of his friend. “Kahi was such a bubbly person with so much potential, so getting the ta moko was my chance to let some of that mamae [pain] out.”

With the ta moko completed, D’Angelo’s friends bought beer to mark the occasion, but having passed through such incredible pain barriers on the tattooist’s table, D’Angelo decided he was done with booze for good.

When he is praised for having maturity beyond his years, D’Angelo’s all modesty. “There are definitely still challenges. Hailie and I are still growing up. Having Kuaka has given us both a greater purpose, and by being good parents and good role models today, we are influencing his life forever.”

D’Angelo is also keen to point out that while he’s happy to be a positive role model for rangitahi, he doesn’t judge others.

“People have to make their own decisions, but if you do have the chance to reflect, to look at your environment and the things you do, then think about how those things might impact your kids or others around you. There is a lot to be gained.”

Looking to the future, aside from planning their wedding for the end of 2024, D’Angelo and Hailie are also navigating well-meaning suggestions from family that Kuaka might like a sibling.

“We have many years of prams ahead of us, but I also work full-time as a chef,” says Hailie. “I’m doing a Pilates instructing course and I want to do body building next year.”

D’Angelo adds, “We’re both quite ambitious and although I love my job as a journalist, I also want to pursue acting and spend some time behind the camera, creating my own content. And even when times get tough and the mahi [work] is hard, Kuaka will be our beacon.”

The Hui airs on Three, newshub.co.nz, Whakaata Māori & Facebook.

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