Body & Fitness

More FM’s Jay-Jay Feeney talks body image, mental health and learning to be comfortable in her own company

''I’m trying really hard to talk myself into that positive frame of mind, telling myself that I can.''
Jay-Jay Feeney

As of late, Jay-Jay Feeney has quite literally been flying solo.

A brief delve into her Instagram feed boasts snaps of the popular radio presenter in Hawaii, Arizona, Thailand and Malaysia, and she’s done many of these trips alone.

Is it possible that Good Health has a life-changing Eat, Pray, Love story on our hands? That she has discovered her soul in some far off corner of the world? Jay-Jay bursts into laughter when asked that question.

“Oh-my-god, no!” she exclaims, with a big grin on her face.

“That is so not me. I wish I was like that, I do. I wish I was into that stuff, but I’m just not.”

The woman who sits across from me is, however, incredibly down-to-earth, talking candidly about her body image and mental health struggles, relationships and being alone, before jokingly strutting around the lounge modelling each new outfit throughout the shoot.

From jet-setting her way around the globe, to moving cities in New Zealand and embarking on new chapters in her career and relationships, it has no doubt been a year of growth, bravery and self-discovery.

The past few months have by no means been easy for the Kiwi broadcaster.

After reporting a case of alleged indecent assault by a taxi driver two years ago, the court trial finally came to a close with a not-guilty verdict, leaving Jay-Jay reeling.

“I’m struggling to deal with the verdict. I just could not believe it. I felt like they had enough evidence and that I could really stand up for myself.”

And she certainly isn’t the only one who has felt impacted by the outcome.

“The thing is,” she says, “hundreds, maybe thousands of people have messaged me and they all want to see a change.”

Although the court case has been a long and drawn-out ordeal, the past few years have also been a time of freedom and courage for Jay-Jay.

Since parting ways with radio co-host and husband Dom Harvey in 2017, Jay-Jay joined More FM’s drive show alongside Jason Gunn and then Paul ‘Flynny’ Flynn, and the 45-year-old has been filling her passport with stamps after missing out on a big OE in her younger years.

“Now that I’m not with Dom, now that I’m single…” she says hesitantly, laughing as she says the words aloud, “I pick places that I want to visit alone.”

“A lot of people are terrified to travel on their own. I did have that fear, because I thought, ‘Am I going to be lonely? Am I going to feel scared or unmotivated?’

“I think most people are scared and anxious to be alone in some way, and I am at times, but why are you scared to be alone? You really have to ask yourself that question.”

Her solo adventures thus far have seen her touch down in Los Angeles, London and Vancouver, as well as numerous tropical islands and bustling cities in Asia.

Despite her love of retreats and having just been to Bali – the ultimate melting pot of all things wellness and spirituality – just the mention of the word yoga has her laughing.

“I’m so not flexible and I can never get the hang of the breathing! It’s just not me,” she grins.

“We all have different ways of relaxing, but yoga definitely isn’t mine.”

Jay-Jay hosts the More FM drive show alongside Paul ‘Flynny’ Flynn and Jason Gunn.

For someone who has such a vivacious personality and a contagious energy, the room is suddenly a lot quieter when the topic of mental health comes up.

With her history of depression, looking after her headspace is something that always comes first, no matter where she is in the world.

“Everything always comes down to your mental health, so for me, I’m always working on that more than anything else. I can feel it when it’s going down, and luckily I can crawl back up a little bit easier than I used to,” she shares.

When I ask what that feels like, she lets out a deep breath, mulling it over.

“It’s kind of like a weight. Everything just feels heavy and pointless and tiring, but it has nothing to do with how much sleep you have had. It’s almost like grief, you can’t just snap out of it.

“I’m going through a bit of that now, but I’m trying really hard to talk myself into that positive frame of mind, telling myself that I can do

this because I have done it before, but it doesn’t happen overnight. You just have to battle through it, work at it yourself and go through the process.”

Even though it’s common for Jay-Jay to be approached on the street by listeners and thanked for what she does in the mental health space, she humbly downplays her contribution, saying she still doesn’t feel like she has any of the answers herself.

“I know that so many people can relate, but sometimes I almost feel like I don’t have the right to talk about it when I’m not an expert; when I’ve only got my own experience. I’m not Mike King, you know?” she laughs.

One thing that has made a significant difference to her mental health is a change of pace in her career.

Leaving behind the exhausting hours of The Edge Breakfast show in exchange for the afternoon drive show on More FM has allowed the popular radio personality to recharge her batteries, both mentally and physically.

After the exciting change of station and moving to Christchurch for a year, she has now returned to Auckland again, living just up the road from ex-partner Dom.

There are still regular snaps of them together on social media, with Jay-Jay supporting him at marathon events, running into each other at the airport and silly selfies.

Reading some of the comments, it’s easy to see that many of her fans admire the unique bond that they share.

“It’s not like the usual separation where you cut all ties and move on. I see him every day, I live near him, and we still have a joint bank account and have shared custody of our dog, Kanye. So I still feel like I’m with him, but I’m not. It’s a bit of a funny one and people don’t really understand it,” she chuckles.

“I think it’s because he’s not crazy and neither am I. I mean, I’m crazy in my own way,” she adds with a cheeky smile,

“But you know, we don’t blame each other for anything. We accept our own parts to play, and just love and respect each other. I can’t imagine not being in his life.”

Having never met her father until a few years ago and being exposed to toxic relationships and a broken family while growing up, her childhood was laced with challenges.

Ultimately, however, those past experiences have profoundly shaped the strong woman that she is today and her ability to walk away from things that don’t serve her.

“It gave me a clear idea of what I didn’t want – I have definitely broken the cycle,” she affirms.

While she applauds the self-love movement, she is honest about the fact she has struggled with positive body image and keeping negative self-talk at bay since she was young.

“As a child, my mum was always really slim and she was a model when she was younger, and my brothers and sisters were slimmer. I was always the chunkier one. People would call me big-boned or thunder thighs or whatever,” she says wryly.

“But really, it’s so stupid to think that people would say that to a child.”

“I’ve got a different dad to them, and it wasn’t until I met my dad in the flesh about seven years ago that I realised where I got it from.”

When we get chatting about social media, unattainable beauty standards and the rise of cosmetic surgery, she says it worries her what young women are now exposed to.

“Everybody is beautiful. Yeah, I might not always be happy with how I look, but I would never make a change to that extreme.

“It’s great that people say we should love ourselves, and hopefully people do start believing it soon, but when we all have been brought up with these false ideals of beauty, I’m not sure if a lot of people truly believe it yet.

“You should be able to clearly see the before and after on pictures, wouldn’t that be amazing? And it really wouldn’t make much difference at all to me anyway,” she laughs. “I have absolutely nothing to hide.”

This sense of fearlessness has become somewhat of a new theme in her life, and although she might be back in Auckland again, if there’s one thing she’s got her sights set on, it’s more adventure and breaking out of her comfort zone.

Despite the countless years of wild radio stunts, she says that she would never have called herself an adventurous person before.

“I used to be very, very play-it-safe,” she says, reflecting on how much she has grown.

“I am definitely more open to things now. I am far braver.”

Jay-Jay’s top 5 tips for travelling solo

» Don’t go off the beaten track or to countries where safety is questionable.

» In a non-English speaking country, hire a local guide, even for just a couple of hours a day. They are worth their weight in gold and will teach you things no tourist book will.

» Stay at social places like backpackers or resorts. You can sit at the bar and people-watch and make friends with the bar staff. You’ll be surprised how friendly and welcoming people can be when they know you’re on your own.

» Join a tour group. Either for the whole trip, or just day tours. You’ll meet other people who are also travelling alone.

» Let someone you love have access to your location services so they know where you are at all times and check in with them regularly.

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