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Wednesday 08 April 2009


Tamati Coffey: "I'm glad to help Rainbow Youth"

Posted in: Television
By Matt Akersten - 31st March 2009

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Dancefloor talent: Tamati Coffey
A bit of fancy footwork on live telly is going a long way to support New Zealand's most high-profile LGBT youth network.

The girls and guys at Rainbow Youth are thrilled to have been chosen by out gay TV weather presenter Tamati Coffey with his dancing partner and coach Samantha Hitchcock as their charity for TVOne's latest season of Dancing with the Stars - and the excitement is mounting as the pair impress the judges and the voting public alike.

"I wanted to choose a charity that worked with young people, and wanted them to tackle issues that I think are big issues with youth, such as bullying, youth suicide and homophobia," Tamati tells GayNZ.com.

"Rainbow Youth deals with all of these issues and a whole lot more. I'm glad to have them as my charity."

Tamati 'came out' publically in a recent issue of the NZ Women's Weekly, telling the magazine that he told his friends and family he was gay when he was just 15.

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Ready for a spin: Tamati Coffey and Samantha Hitchcock
"It was a pretty challenging time," he now admits. "It was a shock for mum and dad, but I remember mum saying really clearly, "if I don't love you, I'll lose you and I don't want to lose you". Life pretty much started for me after that."

But now that he's in the TV spotlight, was his decision to be open about his homosexuality a difficult one? "Nah," he replies, "it wasn't something I had to think about a lot because everybody already knew. I've never hidden it."

Tamati had his first regular experiences in front of the cameras as a co-host of energetic kids' weekend show What Now?, but now he's up early each weekday to report the weather on TVOne's Breakfast show. "I love getting people on TV," he tells us. "There are so many characters around the country with so many stories to tell and I just love being part of that. Breakfast TV allows me to have as much fun as one big kid can handle."

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The mighty power of lippy and eyeliner helped Tamati's Tango (photos: TVNZ)
Does he have any tips for young people out there who might be keen to follow in his footsteps and be a TV presenter? "My main advice is to not aim to be a TV presenter, be something else. Be a dancer, be a journalist, be a sports person and then if you're good enough, television will find you."

We only had a few moments to chat with Tamati in his short break between Dancing with the Stars rehearsals. It's a grueling schedule - long days of dancing following breakfast telly appearances which begin before the sun comes up. But his hard work is paying off - the judges and voting public are liking his moves! But how does he think he's doing? "So far so good," he smiles.

"Rehearsals are tough and demanding, but the product looks great which makes the rehearsals all worth it. The competition is half way through and we are still in so anything is possible - we just need votes!"

Hmmm… what were those voting numbers again, Jason?

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Tamati's appearances on Dancing with the Stars don't just make money for Rainbow Youth - it also gives the LGBT young people's organisation a much higher profile. We're told inquiries coming into Rainbow Youth Centre on K' Road are at record high levels.

"Rainbow Youth is benefiting greatly from both the exposure and funds raised through being chosen as a charity for the show," Tom Hamilton, Executive Director of Rainbow Youth tells us.

"Our members, facilitators, volunteers and staff are really excited. Rainbow Youth is a not for profit organisation and we are working hard to maintain our service in this current economic climate. We'd like to extend our sincere thanks to both Tamati and Samantha. We wish them the best of luck on the show."

Tamati Coffey and Samantha Hitchcock are well on their way to the Dancing with the Stars finale in a few weeks… fingers crossed! Catch the show each Tuesday night at 8:30pm on TVOne.


Matt Akersten - 31st March 2009