Treasure Island’s Jess insists ‘I’m no princess’

The South Auckland influencer is set to be a ‘quiet assassin’
Matt Klitscher

Before flying to Fiji to film Treasure Island: Fans V Faves, Jess Waru had never left New Zealand. “I got all my hair products taken off me at Customs because I didn’t know I couldn’t have them in my carry-on,” the influencer laments. “My natural hair is super-frizzy, so it’s going to be a nightmare!”

Jess admits her family teases her about being a “high-maintenance princess”, confessing, “They think I should control my beauty budget because I need my eyelashes, nails and everything done. They also think I’m entitled because I don’t like to take public transport, but I’m really just a germaphobe.”

However, don’t count out the 22-year-old South Aucklander when it comes to battling the celebrities and her fellow reality TV superfans for the top prize on Treasure Island. Jess insists, “I’m friendly, but I’ll be a quiet assassin and I’m pretty strong. My dad’s from the Far North and I love nature, so I’ll be channelling my inner Māori to be at one with the elements, even if I come out of the water challenges looking like a mess!”

Speaking of family, Jess adds that she’s dedicating her performance to her brother, who passed away from chronic asthma at just seven. “That was huge for our whānau, but I was only young,” she says. “I’m so different from all my siblings. I’m the sensitive one of the bunch. I remember asking my mum, ‘Why am I so different to these guys?’ and she said my brother was just like a boy version of me. He was a social butterfly who was so kind to everyone and would talk to anyone in the neighbourhood.”

Jess shot to social-media stardom after singing a “piss-take song” on TikTok with her sister. She laughs, “We called it ‘Aotearoa’s most talented’ and did an interview with Māori Television. Suddenly it went viral, and we saw our video being played in restaurants in Hawai’i and on planes. It was insane. People were stopping us in public to say hello and take photos.”

So she’s not worried about being in the public eye on Treasure Island. “It’s exciting and opens up new opportunities,” says Jess, although she’s a bit shy about appearing in her togs on telly. “I’m not big on showing a lot of skin, so I felt a bit exposed while I was filming in my bikini for the promotional video.”

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