Celebrity Treasure Island's James Mustapic brings home the treasure!

The comedian earned over $100K for his charity Gender Minorities Aotearoa.

By Amy Prebble
Celebrity Treasure Island star James Mustapic is flat-out shocked he beat the likes of league legend Steve Price or media golden girl Matilda Green to win the show.
"It's crazy!" he exclaims, sitting on the grass behind the Auckland villa he shares with a group of flatmates. "I thought I would go home really early. Every single day, I thought I would be going home. I don't know how to put it into words. It's very special. I feel really lucky!"
James, 27, is chatting to Woman's Day in the backyard, where the flat's cat Manny is basking in the sunshine, so his flatties don't get wind of his monumental success before it's on the telly.
Although the comedian, who charmed viewers with a mix of wry observations and self-deprecating quips, is clearly elated with the win, James admits he does feel a little bit bad for pipping his fellow finalists, Courtney Dawson and Turia Schmidt-Peke, at the post.
"It really was a dream top three. When we got to that yurt thing, we all decided to sleep in a little room that had single bunk beds for our final night instead of being in the big double beds in different places. We were like, 'Let's just have one more night together'.
We were giggling, eating and having a bit of a gossip – it was so much fun!"
The top three contenders had an even amount of clues to unlock the treasure, so it was really was anyone's game.
"Every season it's: 'Will a woman win?'" says James. "And to be honest, at the start of the day, I was like, 'You know what? I really don't care who wins.' But then, as the day went on, I wanted to win. I love the show so much. Ultimately, I had to put all my effort in because you can't not try to win!"
James didn't have the easiest childhood – his father hasn't been in his life since he was young and he struggled to fit in at his all-boys' school in Dunedin, so the television victory is "quite validating".
"It feels weird to say it because so many people will be like, 'It's a reality show – who gives a s**t?'" says James. "
But I'm quite an anxious person. I felt really scared going in that I would struggle to talk to people and make friends. Winning was so lovely and just a reminder that I am capable of things!"
In total, he's earned $107,500 for Gender Minorities Aotearoa, a small charity run by trans people for trans people. "That amount is not too shabby!" smiles James. "I have a friend who works with queer charities and he recommended I go for them because the money would go a long way."
The two-time Billy T Award nominee has graced our screens before – he was the writer and star of Abandonment Issues, a hilarious series in which James tracks down Kiwi celebs who made an impression on him as a child.
And there is more television coming up – he's fronting a new show, Queer Academy, which explores issues affecting LGBTQIA+ communities, written and directed by Re:News journalist Liam van Eeden. "It's excellent stuff," says James. "We cover STIs, fashion, coming out, choosing your own family... Everything!"
James also has another passion project in the works – a new show where he attempts to find a partner for his beloved mum Janet, 61.
"We did speed dating and a psychic compatibility reading. We even created a reality game show set on a beach with five men competing to win her love. Basically, I put her through a lot of hell and she was a really good sport!"
He does have an older sister, Jenny, 29, but he hasn't involved her in any of his comedy. "She lives in London, otherwise I probably would have asked her. Although she is a bit more quiet and shy, so I don't think it's really her dream to be an entertainer."
Although he outmanoeuvred his fellow comedians Laura Daniel and Eli Matthewson, who were part of a "Sagittarius alliance", he says all is forgiven and he hasn't been blacklisted from the Kiwi comedy scene.
"We're actually potentially looking at getting Sagittarius tattoos together!" marvels James, who doesn't sport any ink at the moment.
"Plus, we're going to be performing in an Auckland show with all the comedians who've done the show in the past, including Chris Parker, Guy Montgomery, Brynley Stent and maybe even Bree Tomasel, to raise money for Laura's charity Shine, since she didn't get to raise any money for them."
Currently single, James is unsure whether his new celebrity status will make him more attractive to prospective partners.
He deadpans, "Maybe people will be like, 'I'm going to match him because I've seen him on TV'. Then I'll be able to win them over with a bit of Musty charm. One can only hope!"
Queer Academy premieres on Re:News and TVNZ+ on 14 November.
James Mustapic: Doing My Best tours Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin from 10 November. For dates and tickets, visit humanitix.com.

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