After appearing on Celebrity Treasure Island NZ last year, reality TV star Lily McManus and Kiwi actress Jodie Rimmer walked away with more than a Fijian tan and an aversion to white rice. The dynamic duo left the island as best friends.
And now the vivacious BFFs are back on telly together, with mum-of-two Jodie narrating Lily's latest starring role on The Bachelorette NZ on TVNZ 2.
Chatting to Woman's Day during a rollicking photo shoot at Ponsonby's Blue Breeze Inn, which involves cocktails and plenty of hilarious banter, the pair can't help but finish each other's sentences, shrieking with laughter and sharing the same unconventional humour.
"We met on Celebrity Treasure Island and after about a day I was like, 'Oh my gosh! I'm you in 20 years,'" grins Lily, 23, who was runner-up on the Zac Franich series of The Bachelor NZ.
"Jodie's brain works the same as mine, and seeing all the life experience she has and how she's such a great woman makes me think I'll be stoked to end up like her."
Former Shortland Street star Jodie, 45, is quick to note their age gap, joking, "Let's say in 10 years!"
While the Auckland-based women would be the life of any party, surviving the day's photo shoot on a few hours' sleep after a night out together, there's far more to their friendship than a heap of fun. They share a deep bond that pushes Jodie to tears as she talks about watching Lily evolve on the hit show.
"Lily is a really special person and I'm thrilled she's done The Bachelorette because New Zealand gets to see how cool she is and the breadth of her character," gushes Jodie.
"Lily gives a thousand per cent to this journey and is so brave and vulnerable."
Dabbing her eyes and joking about being premenstrual, Jodie continues, "I'm feeling quite emotional talking about it because I love Lily so much.
"She has a really strong moral compass and people might not know that because she's such a shambles and is reckless and all of these great things.
"But she shows in a really respectful and loving way how to break up with people beautifully, and how to make friends."
Lily, who dated fellow The Bachelor Winter Games contestant Courtney Dober before it ended in 2018, has equal adoration for Jodie, who she opened up to in Fiji away from the cameras.
"Jodie is so empowering to other women, which I love about her," enthuses Lily.
"She's never the type to bring another woman down. We really bonded at night-time on Treasure Island when I was losing my melons about a past relationship.
"I hadn't felt comfortable enough to talk about my break-up before then. But as soon as I met Jodie, she struck me as somebody who was so intelligent and wise, and would get it."
Jodie had some helpful advice. "With your first love, you're wondering if you can ever feel like that again, or find that person again," tells Lily.
"Jodie sat me down and said, 'You're 22 and men come and go, you're going to have many other relationships and each one will get better because you know yourself more and what you want. And she's so right, one relationship isn't your be-all or end-all – and if it ends, it's usually for the better."
Despite their positivity, Jodie admits she and Lily battle some heavy emotions at times.
"I've been through a lot of darkness, as has Lily, and I'm happy to talk about my mental health and the fact I'm on antidepressants," the actress shares.
"My life is so much harder when I'm not, but that gives me experience and stuff to draw from in my acting too. People just need to know that it's OK if things feel overwhelming sometimes."
It's Jodie's honesty and openness that caused Lily to trust her. "I feel like to accept advice, someone needs to have enough life experience to give it," asserts Lily. "And that's Jodie, a really strong and independent woman and a great mother.
"She's not your typical 45-year-old bulls**t Pilates mum. She hasn't let life wear her down and it's really nice to be around someone who is as excited about being alive as I am."
Turning to Jodie, she declares, "You know too many of my secrets now, so if we were ever not friends anymore, I'd have to kill you!"
Jodie's sons Xavier, nine, and Theo, seven, are equally smitten with their mum's Bachelorette pal, who she dubs a role model for young girls, explaining, "I've had messages from my kids' friends who adore Lily. We don't usually see women like this on TV and it was a brave, huge risk for her to take.
"How Lily handles herself on the show, with all the different conflict and issues that arrive, blows my mind. I've watched her really grow and I'm so proud."
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