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Celebrity Treasure Island’s Iyia Liu is still the boss

Iyia Liu talks about motherhood, body image, bullying and business

Over the years, Iyia Liu has conquered endless business hurdles, overcome a terrifying emergency C-section and felt like she got “hit by a bus” after a Brazilian butt lift, as well as experiencing racism, bullying and mental health struggles.

She might not have made it to the final after losing in an elimination challenge to Karen O’Leary, but the 29-year-old entrepreneur prides herself on making the best out of trying situations, which was exactly what she was determined to do on Celebrity Treasure Island.

“I’m a problem solver,” says the BossBabes star, who was up against celebrities including Siobhan Marshall and Karen O’Leary to win $100,000 for charity by being the last person standing in the Northland-shot reality show. “My business side’s definitely helpful – finding solutions, strategies and being super-driven. I just deal with whatever situation I’m in and make the best of it.”

Iyia’s following in the footsteps of her BossBabes co-star and bestie Edna Swart, who made the CTI final in 2021.

Bestie Edna was a goldmine of information.

And while being stuck in nature is a challenge – given Iyia hates camping, ocean swimming, bugs, birds and rain – her greatest hurdle is being apart from two-year-old daughter Summer.

Iyia and her partner Jordan Delmont welcomed Summer via a harrowing emergency Caesarean in 2020. “Her heart was slowing and I lost 40% of my blood,” Iyia recalls. “I was very dizzy for the first 24 hours of her being Earth-side. People visited me and I don’t even remember. I couldn’t even hold her until the next day.”

With Jordan and their cutie Summer.

Despite Summer’s rocky birth, she’s now a thriving little girl with a “crazy personality” – Iyia shares that she’s loud like Jordan and “very smart” like her mum. The cutie has given Iyia newfound tolerance and motivation.

“You have to be patient dealing with a screaming person and just trying to keep them alive!” she tells. “She’s also given me purpose. In the past, I’ve been a little lost, but she’s made me feel so happy and full.”

Before CTI, Iyia had never been away from Summer for more than one night but says her daughter’s in “good hands” with 29-year-old performance manager Jordan – who she met through mutual friends, then got to know over social media – and both their mothers.

And while Iyia’s loving motherhood, she admits it has tested her body image, having gained 10kg since before her pregnancy.

“It’s something you have to get used to and I didn’t for a while,” she admits. “I’ve realised that I probably can’t get down to that size again and that’s OK. I’m going to buy clothes that suit my body. I know which parts to accentuate and if there’s things I’m not as comfortable with, then I can hide them.”

Of slipping into togs on CTI, she adds, “In the past, I would’ve worn a bikini and been totally confident. This time, I bought sarongs to be a little more covered up.”

One part of her body that Iyia’s happy to strut? Her booty! During BossBabes, she travelled to Sydney for a Brazilian butt lift, which involved taking fat from her stomach and placing it into her derrière.

“Coming out of that, I felt like I got hit by a bus,” says Iyia, who has also undergone a breast augmentation. “It was the hardest procedure I’ve done, but I’m really happy with it. Even after my pregnancy, it’s stayed intact.”

Beyond CTI, Iyia continues to kill it with her business ventures, thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit she developed in her teens when she would buy clothes and resell them on TradeMe.

At 21, she invested $5000 of her savings into founding shapewear company Waist Trainer, which sold 100,000 units globally within 18 months. One of Iyia’s proudest moments involved working with Kylie Jenner, whose Instagram post featuring the brand helped the company grow further.

“The collaboration with Kylie Jenner was a career highlight,” enthuses Iyia, who has since started other companies, like Tidal Hair, and launched the Girls in Business Organisation, to help other wāhine with business aspirations. “One of the biggest risks I’ve taken was paying for the Kylie Jenner project.

It was scary thinking, ‘Am I transferring money to the right person or is this a scam?'”

Taking risks is all part of business, she says, and while it worked out with Kylie, some pursuits haven’t gone so well. Some have also taken a grave mental toll.

“One year, I had a gift-boxing company and got bad press, and that turned into a long belt of bullying from the public. That was one of the hardest parts of my life. It affected my mental health and I tried to seek help with Netsafe, mental health organisations and the police, but it’s hard to get help in that situation because it’s not a criminal case.”

While Iyia’s aware that appearing on national TV could subject her to further criticism, she saw CTI as a chance to try something new, spotlight her business and potentially raise money for Ronald McDonald House Auckland.

She’s also proud to be representing the Chinese-Kiwi community on screen. “It’s an extremely diverse cast, which is cool because when I was growing up, it was still quite racist,” she tells. “I couldn’t be proud to be Chinese because there was bullying or I just didn’t want to associate with that.

“But now I’m very proud to be Chinese and it’s awesome there’s other Chinese women in the cast.”

Celebrity Treasure Island screens Monday to Wednesday at 7.30pm on TVNZ 2.

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