Performer embodies city's best qualities
Manawatu Standard Person of the Year
It was the year Palmerston North musician Benny Tipene became a household name.
In the age of television talent shows built around the intoxicating notion that obscure, everyday people can be catapulted to international celebrity, that's not the achievement it once was.
Household names come and go with each series or different incarnation of the seemingly indefatigable reality TV format.
Stars fall as quickly as they rise and, perversely, the descent is often more entertaining for the public than the ascent.
Tipene placed third in this year's season of X Factor, his star reaching its zenith mercifully just short of the expectation and exposure that is invariably the undoing of the winner. The tallest poppies are the first to be hacked down.
Tipene was something of a fish out of water, anyway, notable for something few other contestants possess on such shows - genuine musical ability.
His debut single, Walking on Water, debuted at No 1 on the New Zealand charts in July, and he has quickly stepped out of the X Factor shadow to pursue a career as a credible musician in his own right. His star is still ascending, it seems.
But it wasn't what he has achieved, but the style with which he has achieved it, that has led to his selection as the Manawatu Standard's Person of the Year for 2013.
Tipene has been an outstanding ambassador for Palmerston North, extolling the virtues of his hometown with pride at every opportunity. He has put a young, cool and charismatic face on the city, quietly yet forcefully challenging the misconceptions of those inclined to bag it.
In many ways Tipene personifies what this place it all about. He's authentic, humble, and his values are firmly rooted in family, friends, and the people and places that have shaped him.
He has challenged the stereotype of Palmerston North as a boring, staid provincial centre, showing the country that this is a dynamic, creative place, rich in arts, culture and opportunity.
Who knows what the future holds for Tipene. He is now in Auckland trying to make it in a competitive, unpredictable industry that very few people enjoy enduring success in, especially in New Zealand. One senses he knows as well as anyone that his star could easily fade, but he has the confidence and courage to give it a real crack. He's not going to die wondering.
Whatever happens from here on in for him, Benny Tipene has done this region incredibly proud, and this region's newspaper is proud to name him as our Person of the Year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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