Emily and Nathan’s sweet MKR NZ victory

When Woman’s Day speaks to MKR New Zealand winners Emily Heeney and Nathan Loo, it’s not even 24 hours since the Auckland siblings discovered they’d taken out the $100,000 grand prize.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” admits Nathan, 32. “In my mind, I passed out halfway through the viewing party for that final episode and I’m going to wake up to find out we actually lost. It’s going to take months to sink in.”

“We’re in shock because we were preparing to lose,” agrees Emily, 36. She adds that the win means even more to her after her recent battle with endometrial cancer. “A couple of years ago, when I was diagnosed, I didn’t even know if I’d make my next birthday.

“To not only come out the other end, but also go on this amazing journey, is ridiculous. I wouldn’t say I’m grateful I had cancer, but it has changed the trajectory of my life. If it hadn’t happened, I’d never have applied for MKR. It’s interesting how life turns out.”

Emily says judges Manu Fieldel and Colin Fassnidge have a “cute, genuine friendship that’s beautiful to witness”.

Nathan adds, “We’ve made lemonade out of lemons!”

The musicians will spend the $100,000 celebrating with family in Malaysia, before investing the rest in their Shiok + Awe sauce business. But for Emily, the real prize has been seeing her 15-year-old daughter Manea’s pride.

“That’s the most expression I’ve ever seen on her face!” she laughs. “I went over to hug her and she was bawling her eyes out. She’s very proud and overwhelmed.

“After being away from her for so long with filming, I’m happy she can reap some of the benefits. I like that she can now see how no matter what happens in life, you have to follow your dreams.”

Meanwhile, Nathan says his turn on MKR NZ 2024 has easily eclipsed his appearances on The Bachelorette NZ and FBoy Island. He grins, “It’s good to win for once – third time’s the charm!”

As for his love life, Nathan says he’s dating “the best, most incredible and supportive woman I’ve ever met, so I didn’t need to win those other shows”.

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