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Wilhelmina Shrimpton's tears: 'I felt completely lost'

The Today FM radio star reveals she ‘sobbed for hours’ after leaving her old job in TV

By Sophie Neville
It's almost a year since a heartbroken Wilhelmina Shrimpton signed off from her newsreading role on Newshub. She'd spent seven happy years at Three, cutting her teeth as a reporter before taking up the helm as presenter of the late news. Her colleagues were like family to her and the idea of leaving had never crossed the passionate journalist's mind.
"I think that's why it hit me so hard," she tells Woman's Day, reflecting on the year that's been. Wilhelmina, 31, was just one of many to leave the media company amid a tumultuous period of change after being bought by Discovery.
"I loved my job, so to leave it was one of the toughest things I've ever experienced. I remember looking around the studio after my final night on air, thinking, 'I'm not going to be able to do what I love any more,' and I felt incredibly sad. I got home and sat on the edge of my bed, surrounded by all these beautiful flowers my workmates had given me, and sobbed for hours."
But after a brief stint working in digital advertising, Wilhelmina is delighted to be back doing what she loves. She's landed a role at the newly launched radio station Today FM, co-hosting the drive show with her former Newshub colleague Lloyd Burr. She'll also be reading the news and producing her own weekly podcast The Core, investigating the issues of the day. To say she's excited would be an understatement.
Husband Mike was right by Wilhelmina's side on her last day at her dream job at Newshub. "The idea it was over was scary for me."
"This is genuinely a dream job for me and just goes to show that life has a funny way of working out sometimes," she says, her face lighting up with a huge smile. "It's a combination of all the things I love most – presenting, entertaining and good old-fashioned journalism. Ever since I got the job, I've had this crazy energy. It's pinch-myself stuff."
While she has always enjoyed delivering the news, Wilhelmina says the serious nature of the role has meant the public hasn't had the chance to get to know the real her. She can't wait for the more relaxed side of her new Today FM job, where she and Lloyd will be able to indulge in hearty banter. The pair are old mates, having first met as rookie reporters on Radio Live more than a decade ago.
"Lloyd and I can be very silly together," she laughs. "And I'm definitely ready to let my personality out. I'm so excited for people to get to know the kooky, quirky and funny side of me. I have so much more to give than what I've shown yet. Of course, there will be serious moments, but Lloyd and I will have a lot of fun together."
Joining Wilhelmina at our photoshoot is her husband Mike Sanders. The pair have just celebrated four years of marriage and it's clear they're as much in love now as they were when they exchanged vows on Waiheke Island in 2018.
Wilhelmina says she couldn't have got through the past year without Mike's support – he was there to pick her up when she was at her lowest after leaving Newshub and he shares every bit of his wife's excitement over her new role.
"It's like I've got the old Wils back," enthuses Mike, 33. "It was hard seeing her so upset, but I knew she would get back to journalism because she's incredibly passionate and hardworking. She really can
do anything when she puts her mind to it."
"He's been amazing," adds Wilhelmina. "Through all the uncertainty, he's been my rock and my absolute constant. I think he underestimates just how much I value him."
The lovebirds shared their wedding with Woman's Day four years ago.
Former advertising sales manager Mike is no stranger to job loss either after the company he worked for shut down at the start of the pandemic.
"It's been quite a hard few years for us," admits Wilhelmina. "Mike losing his job was very stressful because it came out of the blue. We were blindsided and what made it harder still was that it was in level 4 lockdown, so no one was hiring because the employment landscape was so uncertain."
Instead, Mike used the time to study for his real estate and brokering licences, keeping busy while Wilhelmina went into Three as an essential worker.
"It was such a strange time," she recalls. "I was thinking, 'Poor Mike!' but at the same time, I was getting totally slammed at work. There was so much going on, it really was two opposing ends of the scale."
It was Mike's change of direction that inspired Wilhelmina's successful podcast series The Pivot, which spotlights Kiwis who've been forced to seek out new opportunities due to COVID.
And the change just kept coming for Mike – after a short stint in commercial real estate, he went on to find a role he loves as business development manager at Marsh Insurance.
He recalls, "When I got the job, we both breathed a sigh of relief and thought, 'Ah, life can go back to normal.' But then all the uncertainty and change started happening at Wils' work, and that turned things on its head again!"
Wilhelmina says her confidence took a huge knock and there were a few months last year when she felt "completely lost".
"I know it sounds crazy, but I even asked my friends if they would still want to be friends with me now I wasn't on the news any more," she explains through a mix of tears and laughter. "They were so sweet, though. They were like, 'We love you for you, not your job!'
Her new Today FM co-host Lloyd is an old friend.
"But that's how much my career means to me. A lot of my identity and self-worth was wrapped up in being a journalist. I'm so passionate about telling stories and being part of news, and the idea that it was over was scary for me."
Mike tells us he and Wilhelmina's relationship works because they balance each other out. While she brings the energy, he is the calm one.
"She's not very good at relaxing," he says playfully. "She's a constant doer – she's always making lists, planning things… She's very high-energy and also a slave driver. We moved house recently and she had me working for four days straight to get unpacked!"
"That's true," laughs Wilhelmina. "I'm what you'd call an 'active relaxer'. I like to be busy."
After four years of marriage, the couple say people often ask them if babies are next on the agenda, but for now, they're content.
"I've worked with many inspiring women who don't become mums until their late thirties, so I don't feel the pressure," insists Wilhelmina. "We'd love a family one day, if we're lucky enough, but there are lots of things we want to do first – and I'm determined to give this job my all.
"To be setting something up from scratch and creating an entirely new vision feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's all worked out so perfectly."
  • undefined: Sophie Neville

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