Career

Why Pippa Wetzell wouldn't return to Breakfast TV

She's found her perfect fit.

By Donna Fleming
What is it they say about out of the mouths of babes?
Pippa Wetzell's kids aren't small any more – daughters Brodie and Cameron are 12 and nine, and son Taj has just turned eight – but they are inclined to tell it like it is, especially Cameron, or Cammie as she's known.
When she spots her mum being made up for the Weekly's shoot, her first reaction is, "You look really nice."
Then she blurts out, "You don't normally look this nice."
Pippa just laughs. She concedes Cammie is right – for the last month or so the Fair Go host has gone back to basics, wearing shorts and T-shirts, and not a single scrap of make-up.
But that's what holidays are all about and Pippa has loved trading her polished TV presenter image for a more laid-back look while enjoying the summer break with her husband, lawyer Torrin Crowther, and their kids.
Watch: Pippa Wetzell answers our quickfire questions. Story continues below.
They had three wonderful weeks on a boat in the Bay of Islands and another relaxing week at the beach in the Coromandel.
"We've been very lucky to have a long break in such beautiful parts of the country," she says.
This week, she's back on our screens fronting the hugely popular Fair Go and will be looking immaculate once more.
But Pippa admits there is a good chance she might still be suffering from "boat brain".
"It is hard to get back into the swing of things when you've been away from it for a while. But it won't take long. When you do a weekly show like Fair Go, you have to hit the ground running."
Luckily for Pippa (42), going back to work is not a chore because she loves her job.
Now in her seventh year with the consumer affairs show, she says it's a perfect fit for her.
She cares about injustice and people being treated badly, and is proud that the show can make a difference.
It definitely has its challenges, though, including when stories the team has worked hard on fall over and don't make it to air.
"Sometimes you end up in a situation where the story just doesn't stack up anymore – perhaps new information comes to light – and it can't run. That decision to pull it has to be made and it's horrible because you've put hours of work into it.
"We have all had that happen and I don't know why, but often someone will get a run of it. It happened to me when I was quite new to the show – I had about five or six stories fall over. It was just one of those things."
A bonus of the job is the people she gets to work with.
"It is such a cool team, a really good mix of people. We're all good mates – we do things like going out for lunch together and it's lovely actually.
"I just love working with Hadyn [Jones]. He is awesome – every Monday morning (the day the show is filmed), he comes into the make-up room and makes me a cup of tea. He's very sweet."
The job also works well because the hours – and the long summer break – give her the work/life balance she needs as a mum of three.
"I've always wanted to be involved in my kids' lives as much as I can be and that's not always possible with some jobs. This [job] works out really well with family life."
With her fellow Fair Go presenter Hadyn, who she describes as "awesome". Image:Getty Images
Brodie was only six months old when she was offered the plum position as Paul Henry's co-host on Breakfast in 2007 and she hesitated to say yes because it would take her away from her daughter in the mornings.
Supported by Torrin, who pointed out what a great opportunity it was, she took the job and loved it, but it wasn't something she could sustain long-term.
"I did it for three years and it was a great job, but you feel this sense of jet lag all the time," she explains.
"Getting up before 3am is not the really hard bit – it has its moments, but it's the sacrifices you make throughout the rest of your life, the things you miss out on because you have to go to bed early.
"You do worry about what it's doing to your health. Although I have to say, [current Breakfast presenter] Hayley [Holt] looks like the healthiest person on TV – she just glows, that girl."
Pippa loved her time on Breakfast with Paul Henry but doesn't miss the early starts.
On occasion Pippa has filled in on Breakfast since leaving, and although she's happy to step in, being back on the early morning couch is not something she hankers after.
"When I have done it recently I've been absolutely shattered. You think once you have finished you've got hours and hours to do stuff, but I basically cannot do anything for the rest of the day.
"And with the kids being older, the hours are actually worse than when they were younger because at least they went to bed early then. If I fill in these days, I have to go to bed before them."
Thanks to the more civilised hours she keeps with Fair Go, she gets to do things like drive Brodie, Cammie and Taj to their after-school activities. And this year, that looks set to be a full-
time job in itself.
"I have just had to draw up a schedule mapping out all their activities and it is just crazy busy," says Pippa.
Brodie does contemporary dance, ballet and acro (dance using gymnastic-style moves), while Cammie's into acro, jazz and contemporary dance. Both girls play netball in winter and Brodie also wants to take up water polo. Meanwhile, Taj plays water polo, tennis, basketball and rugby, and also does urban/hip hop dance.
Pippa takes a deep breath after reeling off the list of her kids' activities, and says, "I've never wanted to be one of those parents who overloaded their kids so they never had time after school to just muck around, and in the past I have held back, especially with Taj, who wasn't doing much other than being dragged around to all of his sisters' activities.
"But last year, I said he could start doing what he really wanted to do. It's a balancing act and if it got too much they'd have to cut back. For Brodie, doing water polo might mean she can't do her pointe class for ballet, but it is showing her that in life you have to make decisions and realise you can't do everything.
"But they do love doing these things and they make good friends, and once they hit their teenage years, I think it's good for them to have lots on their plates so they are too busy to get up to anything they shouldn't."
With her daughter Brodie at last year's NZ TV Awards
While boredom and kids – especially teenagers – can be a dangerous mix, there are times when Pippa likes to test her kids' boredom threshold. It's something she did on holiday.
"I like giving them the chance to hit rock bottom with their boredom and then find their way out of it. It's funny what will amuse them. When we were on the boat, the kids went ashore one day, and spent ages on a beach finding pebbles and stones in all these incredible colours. They were there for hours and would have stayed longer; in fact, they were devastated when we said we had to go. They had a great time and all it took was a few stones."
Being on a boat meant internet access was restricted and for about half of their time away, the family wasn't even in cell phone range.
"It was nice to have a proper holiday and just switch off. You do wonder what is happening in the world, but it is good to have a break from everything."
Something else she gained from being away from work and out of her every-day routine was the chance to get a fresh perspective on customer service – a subject that is a staple on Fair Go.
"Maybe it was because I was in a different environment, but I had more of a sense of being a consumer and I was more aware of customer service. And I have to say, I had so many positive experiences. We had a few things go wrong on the boat that we had to get people to come and fix, and everyone was so helpful and friendly and good at their job.
"It was the same last year when we rebuilt our house. We had a few things that went badly, like the stone for the front steps arriving cracked. But the company was great about it."
She doesn't think she gets special treatment because of her Fair Go connection.
"I just think there are a lot of people out there who are accommodating and will put things right if they go wrong. I do hear about a lot of the bad stuff because of my work and you don't often hear about the good things, so it is nice to know that there are people out there doing a great job."

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