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Career

Hayley Holt's spiritual awakening

"I can't even imagine having a drink or getting drunk," Hayley says of her journey to sobriety. ''I can't think of anything worse, actually!

By Sophie Neville
As she approaches her 40th birthday, Breakfast host Hayley Holt can look back safe in the knowledge she's packed a huge amount into her first four decades. She's travelled the world as a professional dancer and champion snowboarder, bravely overcome a drinking problem and even had a shot at politics before landing the coveted TVNZ 1 role two years ago.
But the down-to-earth star, who recently marked five years of sobriety, tells us it's only recently that she's started feeling like a grown-up.
"I've definitely matured this year," she says, as we catch up at TVNZ headquarters in Auckland. "I've got a proper job, which I absolutely love, and I've finally moved out of a flat and into an apartment on my own. It's the first time I've ever felt like an adult – it's a good thing, but it's also a bit scary!"
While she admits to feeling "a little shocked" about the prospect of turning 40 in July next year, she's determined to ensure she's mentally and physically in the best space possible at this stage of her life.
A huge proponent of "self-care", Hayley regularly visits a Maori spiritual healer and practises yoga and meditation.
"I've been doing a lot of work on myself," she explains. "When you have a history of an alcohol problem, there is a lot of damage that comes from that, so I'm working on making sure I heal myself as much as I can. But generally I think it's a good idea to have a bit of a spring clean on myself occasionally."
And she urges others to do the same. "Women really need to be doing this more, but the problem is we get so busy and it's the first thing to fall off the list. But if you make time for self-care, everything else around you becomes easier to cope with and handle. It's so important."
Hayley's interest in spirituality was sparked when she first started going to Alcoholics Anonymous back in 2014, and her thirst for the subject is growing by the day. As well as having romiromi (traditional Maori pressure-point massage), she spends hours talking to her healer Ruatau Perez about the spiritual world.
"I also read and read and read, and then I google some more! I love history, I love philosophy and I love ideas. I also really love being open to the possibilities of life that might be hidden to us. You shouldn't believe just what people tell you, you should believe what you feel inside. That's the crux of it – it all comes from within you."
Hayley finally believes in herself too. ''I don't care if I look stupid! It's really liberating,'' she says.
Former party-girl Hayley says that giving up the booze is the best thing she's ever done – and as the festive season approaches, her gratitude is never more keenly felt.
"I can't even imagine having a drink or getting drunk – I can't think of anything worse, actually! I still hang out with my friends, but I love being able to go home as soon as people are boozed and things start to degenerate. I love not being a part of that any more."
And while she's hugely proud of reaching five years of sobriety last month, she admits she almost missed the anniversary. "My mum rang me up to tell me!" laughs Hayley. "She said 'happy birthday!' and I had no idea what she was talking about. I'd completely forgotten. But she's really proud of me; it's cool."
Hayley clearly adores her role on Breakfast and is loving the new team – particularly John Campbell, who replaced Jack Tame earlier this year. "He's a total asset and I've just learnt so much from him. He also allows me to be me – he'll celebrate the weird and wacky things that I say because he likes the fact that I'm a bit different. He's a very generous human being."
But the former Green Party candidate is the first to admit that the gruelling early starts have taken a huge toll since she joined in January last year. Exhaustion and a nagging wooziness had become the norm, until recently when she started trialling a new system to try to get more sleep at night. Instead of preparing for the next day's show in the evenings, she's going to bed early and doing it in the mornings instead.
"I used to go to bed at about 10pm or even later, and then get up at 3.30am. But I was feeling pretty awful a lot of the time and it just wasn't healthy. So now I go to bed at about 6.30pm and my alarm goes off at 2.40am, when I head into work and do my prep there. It sounds horrible, but it means I'm getting eight hours' sleep, which is a lot better than before."
For the first few weeks of her new routine, she spent her entire weekends sleeping. But now, a month in, she's feeling better than she has in ages.
"This past weekend was amazing – I had so much more energy," she enthuses. "I went to my mum and dad's up north with a friend and reconnected with everyone. It felt great."
Maintaining a social life certainly isn't easy when you have a 6.30pm bedtime and one of Hayley's big goals is to figure out how to spend more time with her beloved friends.
"Because of my hours, I've been quite slack at keeping up with everyone. But I have some beautiful friends and when I see them it's like all my troubles are halved – it's good for the soul. So I need to find ways to do it more."
Hayley has been open in the past about her dating endeavours and the difficult emotions around whether she'll one day have children. But for now, she's content with taking things as they come.
"I'm getting bored of talking about being single," she adds with a smile. "There's just not much more to say about it!"
Living alone, though, after years of flatting has been a welcome change – her new apartment is just three minutes from work, ideal when you're getting up in the dead of night.
"It got to the point where I just desperately needed to have my own space," she says. "And it's been glorious; it's like my own little sanctuary. I do miss my lovely friends because I've become a bit of a hermit now, but I think I kind of needed that."
The gorgeous star loves living alone. "I've become a bit of a hermit, but I needed that," she says.
She's also delighted to have taken up a teenage hobby again – skateboarding! And she often takes her adored godsons along for adventures at the local skate park.
"The best bit is that now I'm an adult, I don't care if I look stupid! It's really liberating."
In a couple of weeks, Hayley will glam up for this year's TV Awards, where she'll present the People's Choice Award. As last year's winner, she says she'll never forget the feeling when she heard her name called out.
She enthuses, "It was really amazing because when I first started on Breakfast, I had major imposter syndrome. I didn't feel like I deserved to be there. But winning that award gave me a huge boost of confidence and it's just grown from there. I am so much more relaxed in my role now."
And when Breakfast wraps for the summer break, Hayley and her mum Robin are off on a trip of a lifetime to Morocco and Egypt. As well as spending time in Marrakech and Essaouira, their trip will include a Nile cruise for Christmas and a visit to Alexandria to pay their respects at her great-grandfather's war grave.
"It's pretty exciting. I can't wait to hang out with my mum and have a bit of an adventure. It'll be the perfect end to a pretty big year."

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