The Apprentice’s Vanessa Goodson’s journey from dropout to living the dream

After leaving school with no qualifications, the reality TV star struggled – but now she’s enjoying “the bougie life”!
Sally Tagg, Tom Hollow

The Apprentice Aotearoa contestant Vanessa Goodson is embracing every minute of her newfound celebrity, but it isn’t just the recognition she’s getting from fans on the street that’s making the long-lashed, luxury-loving event stylist feel like a superstar.

“The best thing has been watching the show with my daughters – I’m finally the cool parent!” laughs the bubbly entrepreneur, 30, who lives in West Auckland with her partner Kerry and their four girls.

“Me running my own business wasn’t even a thing to them, but seeing Mum on TV made their lives.”

Vanessa’s blended family – she has daughter Mila Rose, nine, from a previous relationship, while Kerry has two teenage daughters, Isabella and Gabrielle, and together they have five-year-old Madeline – has been her driving force through the rollercoaster of launching her own events company.

With partner Kerry and girls Mila (left) and Madeline. “Seeing Mum on TV made their lives,” says Vanessa.

Since it began in 2016, OMG Ness Styling has shot to success, with Vanessa creating Instagram-worthy gatherings for celebrities like All Blacks legend Beauden Barrett and global dance sensation Parris Goebel – both pinch-me moments for a woman who didn’t finish college.

“I just didn’t enjoy school,” Vanessa tells Woman’s Day. “I didn’t realise I was a creative at that point. I just thought I wasn’t good at it. I really wanted to be a flight attendant – my mum’s from the Philippines and I used to travel there growing up, so I loved being on a plane. With my parents’ support, I left school, applied for Qantas and landed my dream job at 18.”

Her goal was to be a long-haul flight attendant, but just after applying for the competitive position, Vanessa fell pregnant with Mila.

She says, “That was a big surprise since I had only been seeing her dad for about four months. Qantas offered me the long-haul role, but I knew there was no way I could leave my daughter. The lifestyle just wasn’t going to work, so I gave up my dream.”

Vanessa’s in her element on The Apprentice.

Meanwhile, the struggles of new parenthood were taking their toll on Vanessa and Mila’s father, rapper Nathan King, aka “Derty Sesh”, the son of comedian Mike King.

“It was hard because we didn’t really know each other when we had her,” she sighs.

“It taught me a lot about myself. We just had different mindsets. He wanted us to travel with him so he could do his music, but I wanted to stay home, raise a baby and work. I didn’t understand his passion and he was so busy, but there was no money coming in.”

When their relationship ended, Nathan and Vanessa worked out a co-parenting arrangement so Vanessa could get back in the air. “It was the most empowering thing, being back at the job I loved and earning my own money,” she recalls. “I love being a stay-at-home mum, but I’m happier when I’m working because I get the balance. I know it’s not for everybody, but that’s what works for me.”

Vanessa’s got the perfect support at home. “All the the struggles were lessons,” she says.

Four years later, at the age of 25 and now happily living with partner Kerry, Vanessa found herself expecting her second child Madeline. “Before I went away on maternity leave, I knew I was done flying,” admits Vanessa.

“I wasn’t enjoying it as much and I didn’t like leaving the kids. I thought, ‘What could I do if I leave this job that would bring in the same amount of money?’ Because I love the money thing – I love shopping! There were all these voices in my head saying, ‘What can you do? You haven’t done any study. You dropped out of school!’ But at the same time, I was dreaming of all the possibilities.

“Then halfway through my maternity leave, I was planning Mila’s fifth birthday and I got into a real creative zone. I was thriving, going on Pinterest, putting together ideas and mood boards while I was breastfeeding in the middle of the night. I threw the bougiest little party – and I did it all on a Kmart budget! My friends were like, ‘Oh, my God, people would pay you to do something like this for their kids!'”

So Vanessa started reaching out to local influencers, asking to style some of their children’s parties and introducing the international trend of balloon garlands to New Zealand. She grins, “My business just went crazy – it blew up really fast… literally! It was overwhelming.”

Even with Kerry leaving his job to look after the kids and free Vanessa up to concentrate on OMG Ness full-time, the new businessowner still often found herself feeling underwater. Once her anxiety got so bad, she drove to the doctor thinking it was a heart attack.

‘I love the money thing – and I love shopping!’

“I didn’t know anything about business – I was just winging it,” tells Vanessa. “I did a job with a big corporate client where the invoice was $10,000 and I had to come up with the money to pay for everything

I needed to style the event up-front. I had no money for rent that month.

“Eventually, I did get paid, but by then, my landlord was over it and we got asked to leave our house. We weren’t evicted, but because I was so busy, I didn’t see his email and by the time I got a text from him saying, ‘Please be out by Sunday,’ we had seven days to pack up and go. I couldn’t believe I’d let that happen.

“That was a huge lesson for me – I was too nice and I wasn’t firm with deposits, so we all ended up suffering. I didn’t ever want to let that happen again. But even through all of that, I love that I never gave up. I knew all the struggles we were going through were lessons. There was always something in me telling me it was gonna fall into place.”

These days, with a personal assistant to take care of admin and Kerry helping behind the scenes, Vanessa’s business is flourishing, with plans underway to expand into a lifestyle brand. Winning the $50,000 investment from The Apprentice will certainly help with that, but the best part of being on the TVNZ 1 reality series is setting an example for her girls.

“I always thought being a boss meant that you had to be in an office or at a bank – I didn’t know that you could just find your thing and make a business out of it,” Vanessa smiles. “Now I’m watching myself on The Apprentice with my daughters, it’s such an amazing feeling to be able to show them, ‘Look, Mum went through the struggle, but now we’re here, living the bougie life!’ It’s beautiful.”

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