Singing down the phone, Ali Pugh is doing her best rendition of The Weeknd’s hit single I Feel it Coming.
“I love that song,” she says, before switching into Daydream by Mariah Carey. “But I love the older stuff like that too. You know, the songs from your heyday, when you went to the clubs.”
With that, the broadcaster breaks into her trademark giggles and for a few seconds, all you can hear is her peals of laughter. These days, hitting up clubs does seem rather laughable to the mum-of-one, TVNZ reporter and new co-host of The Hits Christchurch’s breakfast show. Rather than the dance floor, now it’s on radio where she’s getting her eclectic hit of music and it’s a role the 30-year-old is loving.
However, a slightly weary Ali admits it’s difficult fitting in her time on the airwaves, her full-time TVNZ job and looking after Thea, who’s now 18 months old.
“It’s flat tack,” she tells. “Being on the radio wasn’t something I ever thought I’d do – I mean, gosh, the last time we spoke, I wasn’t even sure when I wanted to go back to work after having Thea! But it was a great opportunity to try something new and to expand my skill set, and it seemed like a lot of fun. Plus, I love the music. I really do like my classics. I must be an old soul!”
Ali’s certainly cramminga lot into her days. Up at five in the morning, leaving Thea with her fiancé Jo, she heads to Riccarton for her radio show, which she co-hosts alongside Dave Fitzgerald. After three hours on air, she hightails it to TVNZ in the city, where she does a full day of reporting.
“Then I’m home at seven, when it’s dinner, bath and bed – for everybody!” she laughs.
There’s no denying it’s a long day for the former Breakfast host, but it’s broken up by the lunchtime arrival of her mum Helen, who brings Thea into the newsroom to visit Ali.
“Otherwise, it would be 13 or 14 hours without seeing my baby,” Ali explains.
“So we go and have lunch together – we’ll walk down the road, and get sushi and smoothies. It means I don’t feel like I’m going too long without seeing her. And she knows everyone in the office now. She walks around very confidently, saying hi and bye to everyone.”
Three months into her new normal, Ali reckons she’s got a handle on her demanding schedule, but the first few days were “tricky”.
“It was quite hard getting used to it and it didn’t help that Jo was away for those initial days,” she tells. “He’s in Dave Dobbyn’s band and they were touring around the country. I had a couple of nights where Thea was awake and unsettled, so that’s a bit overwhelming when you know you have not one but two jobs to go to. But it got easier when Jo was back from being a rock star!”
A valiant attempt at being organised, introducing “wine-free weeknights” and the support of her family have all helped, as has encouragement from radio veteran Dave.
“He’s totally got my back,” she says. “He’s really patient with me and I’m learning so much. Even when Jo was away, he would listen online and send cute little texts with his feedback.”
Ali joins a growing number of past and present TVNZ faces behind the radio microphone, with Toni Street and Sam Wallace both hosting the same breakfast show in Auckland. The trio have swapped messages and notes about their new experiences, which, Ali tells, aren’t dissimilar to breakfast TV.
“Although on TV, you tend to feel quite exposed, so you’re a little more guarded. But with radio, it’s just you behind a mic, so you end up talking a lot about your own life. It’s quite personalised.”
Even Ali admits she’s surprised with just how much she’s been willing to take on, especially when it comes to balancing her time with her beloved wee girl.
“But you know, it’s funny,” she muses. “When you have your newborn, you can’t imagine ever leaving them. But since I came back to work earlier in the year, I actually love it. I forgot how much I loved working. Jo and I thought that if we can make it work, then now’s the time to do it, so that’s what I’m doing.”
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