The year is almost over: which Kiwis emerged victorious?
2017: what a year it has been for our small, strange country.
Drake went to Pita Pit; Mike McRoberts became single; Andrew Little got very excited about playing table tennis only to quit his job three weeks later; I, very belatedly, became an extremely enthusiastic Weezer fan; And all the while we quivered silently beneath the ever-looming cloud of international chaos, praying to be spared.
Yes, it was a wild one alright, and we can all be proud of ourselves for making it through. But who among us braced themselves against the bitter winds of this rotten year to make it their own? Which of our fellow compatriots came and conquered? What lucky souls can look back on the past 12 months and say “yeah that was ok, I guess”?
There are only 10. Here they are.
10. KJ Apa
Everyone loves a makeover success story and KJ Apa’s ascent to glory via ginger dye job is easily one of the best. Having made his start on Shortland Street, KJ made unprecedented acting strides this year when he was cast as Archie (the Archie) on teen drama Riverdale.
While I gave up on Riverdale with literally one episode of the first season left to go of because I had had it up to here with Archie’s stupid music career or whatever that show is about, I gather it remains very popular and continue to enjoy watching him bloom and grow like a funny red flower.
9. Chloe Swarbrick
Remember last year when Chloe Swarbrick was just a mysterious 22 year old running for Auckland Mayor? Ho ho ho, how the people scoffed. Well the joke’s on them and just a few months later at the tender age of 23 she’s the youngest MP in 42 years and wildly popular with the demographic known as ‘the millennials’.
Along with fellow new Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, Swarbrick perfectly encapsulates a new breed of politician who is at once a content creator, social media manager, social justice activist and local celebrity - a combo that could, at this point, still go either way! Say what you will though, the kids - and their woke, woke dads - can’t get enough.
8. Steven Adams
He may only be 24 but by now Steven Adams is as iconic of, and integral to, my love of New Zealand as, say, a delicious cake made entirely of meringue or an ornamental wooden bee toy.
Whether he was hanging out with Helen Clark, surviving weird airplane phenomena, giving the best interviews anyone has ever given, or doing a cracking job in the basketball, Steven Adams represented New Zealand on the world stage in 2017 in the best way possible: by being absolutely bloody lovely and having a super time while doing it. God speed ye Steven.
7. Patrick Gower
2017 gave Patrick Gower a lot of what he loves most: standing in front of infographics and shouting hyperbolic adjectives about polls. And, in return, he gave us the most dramatic and devastating election year imaginable. Some guy also got a big scary tattoo of him, which I suspect he also enjoyed.
While the news this week that Paddy would be stepping down from his role as NewsHub political editor rocked us all to the core (What the hell happened to take him away from the job that so clearly fills him with terrifying joy??), one could not argue that he is going out on a high.
6. Max Key
With his father out of Parliament for the first time in nearly a decade, 2017 looked set to be a bit of a stinker for Parnell’s favourite enfant terrible Max Key, who seemed like he might be reaching the end of his 15 minutes of intoxicating local fame.
But if this year proved anything, it's that Max Key is not a quitter.
He gave a rare, illuminating interview (“I am surrounded by a fake world”) accompanied by some very fetching photographs; He hosted a series of terrifying vlogs; He released a revealing new music; He held a VIP meet and greet attended almost solely by journalists; He graduated and got his first job; His beloved papa Key was knighted; He released some very tempting merch; He pondered releasing an Eminem diss track; and last, but not least, he was lucky enough to spend time with this lovely fluffy kitten.
If 2017 has taught us anything it is this: Max Key cannot be stopped.
5. Hilary Barry
Hilary Barry is probably the best person in New Zealand so it gives me great pleasure to say it looks like she had a lovely year.
She threatened co-host Jack Tame with a riding crop; She praised Women’s Day for not airbrushing her wrinkles; She had the best Halloween costume; She cheerily trolled Gareth Morgan; and, most recently, she revelled in receiving what she interpreted as a penis cake.
When I die I want to be reincarnated as Hilary Barry.
4. Matilda Rice
Ahh, Matilda, my friend, my foe, how you have flourished in 2017.
While Matilda and I may not have seen eye to eye with regards to the minutiae of living a lazy life, there is much to admire in the way the one-time Bachelor star has created one of New Zealand’s most canny lifestyle brands.
After many moons riding high on relatable yet beautiful Instagram glory, the release this year of Rice’s book The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Living a Beautiful Life - which I gather sold very well - saw her take things to a whole new level. Add to that her recent engagement to the paleo prince himself Art Green, their recent adoption of two very nice fluffy cats and a gig hosting TVNZ’s ...interesting… new show Heartbreak Island, 2017 was pretty bloody good time for old mate Matootles.
As you by now probably know, this year Lorde made her much anticipated comeback with her second album Melodrama and everyone liked it and felt happy and pleased that she didn’t break under the crippling pressure of an entire country’s hopes and dreams.
She also: toured the world, narrowly evaded the Taylor Swift autoimmune disease scandal, turned the magical age of 21, tried to talk us all into liking Jack Antonoff, won a bunch of local music awards, hugged the Prime Minister, and got nominated for the album of the year Grammy. So y’know, not bad.
2. Taika Waititi
With the release of the almost unanimously adored Thor: Ragnarok, 2017 was the year we finally had to share movie director, genius, and national traitor Taika Waititi with the rest of the world who, predictably, also loved him - even the notoriously picky lady who keeps firing directors from Star Wars movies.
Was it his adorable outfits? Was it his sardonic Kiwi humour? Was it that he managed to cut through the ever-worsening superhero franchise fatigue with an actually good movie?
Whatever it was we can but hope he keeps doing it!
1. Clarke Gayford
It’s been a good year for Clarke Gayford. Maybe the best year anyone's ever had. Months ago just a humble TV host - turned radio DJ - turned host of New Zealand’s number one fishing show, Gayford is now defacto spouse and official cheerleader to the most important woman in the country. And he's loving it!
In the year that it became particularly apparent that politicians make up a scary proportion of our local celebrity culture, Gayford is in an ideal position: already known to the public from his prior TV and radio work (and previous, very intriguing relationships with Hollie Smith and Shavaughn Ruakere) and apparently only really interested in fish sports and supporting his nice partner, he is the cheerfully benign politics-adjacent figure we’ve all been waiting for.
Yet somehow, even with his newfound public profile, regular and revealing social media use and an inexplicable comment piece about what it’s like to be New Zealand’s ‘first gent’ (“surreal”, “life-changing”, “bananas”), he is more of a mystery to me than ever. All I know is he seems nice, happy and extremely pleased for his girlfriend.
The year is almost over, and Clarke Gayford won it.