TV & Radio
When Dayna Vawdrey scored her dream job, the highly excited 21-year-old took a moment to do something surprisingly wise.
"I sat down with my mum and I just said: `Listen, if I change at all, if you see me being, you know, arrogant or anything like that,' because I just think that's so unattractive, `please let me know and I will walk away from it'."
That job was co-presenting Girl and Boy, a primetime music show on Juice TV.
TVNZ poached her after one year and ever since Vawdrey has been presenting kids' show Studio 2. The job takes her around the country, and has seen her interview worldwide teen stars such as Justin Bieber, Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens.
Smooth-talkin' Bieber threw her a little – "mid-question he just turned to me and was like, `you've got the most amazing smile,"' – but Vawdrey says she's only been truly starstruck once.
"Oh, man, I remember when I first started at TVNZ sitting in the make-up chair next to Judy Bailey. I was going, `Oh, my goodness! She's getting her make-up done right next to me. And I'm getting my make-up done!"
She fans her face with her hand and laughs.
Vawdrey has seen co-presenters come and go but has never been tempted to leave, although she's pestering Jason Gunn and her boss, Ian Taylor, to let her front a travel show.
"Whenever [Taylor] comes here I'll put little notes in his bag, like `note to self: Make travel show for Dayna'."
Today she's been given an afternoon off and we're in the sunny lounge of the Herne Bay house she shares with four flatmates. Vawdrey is curled up on the couch, hugging a cushion.
She has red polish on her toenails and "Psalm 91" tattooed in large cursive letters on her right foot.
"It's my favourite verse in the Bible. It talks about how you've got a path that you're walking and stuff can happen to you left and right, but you will be protected on the path you're walking."
In a goofy voice, she says, "yeah, I'm a Christian", and explains she found her faith when she was 16, after a "cool experience" at a Parachute music festival.
Vawdrey's also a bit of a TradeMe magpie. "I'm a shocker," she says, "Especially at night when I can't sleep."
She looks about 20, and fresh as a daisy, even though she's been up all night watching the All Whites.
She laughs when I ask her age.
"I think that will surprise people: I'm 28. I still get ID'd when I go and buy a bottle of wine at the shop."
A couple of other surprises: despite that blonde hair, Vawdrey's father is Samoan. And although she rolls her r's, she is an Aucklander born and bred – the slight accent is thanks to her mother, Lorraine, who grew up in Canada.
"I sound like I'm from Gore, or Invercargill. I get letters saying it's great to see a southern girl on TV."
Vawdrey's parents split when their daughter was about three years old. The divorce was messy, Vawdrey says – for a time she and her mum slept in a car and took food parcels – and it's clear, when she talks about other kids struggling with break-ups, that she is still deeply affected by it.
"It breaks my heart," she says quietly. "So there's a lot of things I would like to do, and programmes I would like to help set up, for kids."
She is deeply proud of her work as a World Vision ambassador and also regularly visits schools for the Halogen Foundation, talking about overcoming hardships and following dreams.
"There's people who work in kids' TV who do it for a job," she says, "but I have a real heart for the audience."
Throughout the interview Vawdrey emphasises she is a family person, that she would struggle to live overseas, or even outside of Auckland, because she would miss her core family unit – her mum, nana and three sisters (aged 16, 12 and 11) – too much.
Lorraine has been ordered not to gush but can't help it: she says her daughter is warm, real and "kick-arse when it comes to bantering... she runs rings around me, it's disgusting".
She has also taught her how resilient children can be.
"She's not been hardened. She has every reason to be cynical but she's chosen to keep herself open and soft-hearted."
So, has Lorraine ever had to take her daughter aside and remind her of that conversation seven years ago? "No, I don't think she's actually changed. The only change is that she needs a lot more private time."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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