There have been tears, tantrums, triumphs and tragedy – and now it’s almost over.
With only four acts left on The X Factor NZ, which is whittled down to three this week, the pressure is immense as the semifinalists battle it out to secure a place in the grand final. The Weekly caught up with the top contestants to
find out what drives and inspires them, and what really goes on when the cameras aren’t filming.
Jackie Thomas (22), Greymouth
She’s the girl next door and one of the hot favourites to win, but when the 22-year-old looks back on her time before entering the competition, she can’t believe she’s the same person.
With her wide smile, goofy sense of humour and incredible voice, Jackie has undergone a huge personal transformation since the TV3 show began – and she’s more proud of that than her performances on stage.
“It’s been a big life lesson for me. I feel like I can do this now. I have confidence in my voice and confidence in myself.”
Greymouth’s golden gal, who credits her smalltown upbringing and “incredible” family for her down-to-earth attitude, believes auditioning
for The X Factor NZ was meant to be, but is refusing to let fate determine the outcome.
“I want to win,” she says.
“I want to do it for me, my family and New Zealand. I’m such a proud Kiwi. This is the greatest country on Earth and I love the community feel the entire nation has.”
But while Jackie, whose iwi is Ngãpuhi, has a newfound confidence in her voice, she’s still uncomfortable with people calling her beautiful.
“That’s just weird to me,” she says, shrinking back in her chair and screwing up her nose.
“Beauty isn’t all this,” pointing to her freshly made-up face and stylish new clothes.”
“It’s the stuff inside. I’m from a small town, you know, and my family raised me right. That’s what’s really important.”
Q: Beer or wine?
Q: Pizza or salad?
A: Oh, pizza, easy.
Q: Sun or Snow?
A: Sun. I’ve never been in the snow, apart from seeing it on the side of the road once. But that doesn’t count, does it?
Whenua Patuwai (18),Christchurch
A year ago, the Cantabrian says he was:
“Sitting at home on the couch, watching TV, eating lots of food and gaining heaps of weight”.
On what he calls a “down buzz”, Whenua struggled to get motivated to do anything – a far cry from the man who’s now determined to put in as much hard work as he needs, to make it to the big time.
“Last week [when he was in the bottom two with fellow Christchurch resident Cassie Henderson] was the wake-up call I needed,” he says.
“Now I’ve got the hunger and the drive I’ve needed from day one.”
Whenua has struggled with criticism over the past few weeks – especially from judge Melanie Blatt, who has previously described the 18-year-old as “boring” and lacking in personality.
“It’s tough to hear that every week, especially when you don’t know how to fix it,” he says.
“I’m a pretty shy guy, but when you get to know me, I’m the funniest person you will ever meet!”
Growing up with a dad in the army meant Whenua learnt discipline and respect from a young age – and while he’s grateful for his down-to-earth nature, it’s also “pretty tough”.
“Dad was so used to the army life, he sort of brought it home. It was good, but it was different. You’d wake up in the morning and have to fold your clothes a certain way, make the bed a certain way.”
While Whenua’s missing his large family (he’s got six brothers and two sisters), he’s “in it to win it”.
“I’m just going to be myself. That’s what Ruby [Frost, his mentor] has taught me, and that’s the biggest thing I’ll take away from this competition.”
Q: Union or league?
A: League hard. Go the Warriors!
Q: Sun or snow?
A: Snow, definitely. I’m a cold type of guy.
Q: Britney or Christina?
A: Christina. Britney’s too much for me!
Benny Tipene (23) Palmerston North
When most twenty-somethings want to thank their mum, a nice card with a Lotto ticket inside usually does the job.
But when Benny stepped out on the stage in front of hundreds of thousands of Kiwis during The X Factor New Zealand Music Month episode, he knew that was the right moment to say thank you to his mum Annette.
“Mum had breast and cervical cancer,” he explains.
“It was quite a tough time for the whole family, so I wanted to dedicate Not Given Lightly to her, and make sure she knew how much I love her. She was really happy”.
“I didn’t feel embarrassed or anything. It was nice to give something back.”
With the end in sight, Benny’s determined to give everything he has to the competition – and wants to thank the people from his hometown for their support.
“Palmy, man, it’s going nuts down there!” he says with a laugh, showing off his dazzling million-dollar smile (and it’s all natural – no braces).
“It’s so cool. I appreciate all of the support. I love that place, I love New Zealand. I’m a proud Kiwi. Palmy proud!”
While he’s missing his family, his mates, and even his ginger cat Trunks (“Yes, I have a cat, and I love him!”), he confesses to having a “bromance” going on with the show’s host, Dominic Bowden.
“Dom’s the man. I love Dom,” Benny says.
“We hang out sometimes and go to a few parties. I don’t know Auckland very well, I’m still new to the game. It’s a rat race up here!”
Q: Sun or snow?
Q: Wine or beer?
A: Beer. Ale, more specifically.
Q: Chicken or steak?
A:None, I’m a vegetarian.
Q: Broccoli or carrot?
A: Oh, broccoli. Hands down.
Moorhouse- Marley Wilcox-Nanai(17), Rory McKenna(19), Brock Ashby(19), Jason Aileone(19), christchurch
They may be the teenage heartbreakers of this year’s contestants, but there’s more to Moorhouse than their good looks, cheeky one-liners and smooth harmonies.
All too aware of the typical boyband stereotypes, Rory, Marley, Brock and Jason have strived to keep their humility throughout the show as praise has been thrown their way – and they’re quick to point out they know what’s important.
“New Zealanders don’t like arrogance,” Brock says, as the rest nod their heads.
“When Stan [Walker] told us at the beginning to make sure we stayed humble, we listened.”
“You can see a lot of people go down that path to stardom, and they totally go off course,” adds Rory.
“The most important thing for us is that we know we’re making a difference in people’s lives, so we have to use that and do it right, and be role models.”
The group, who named themselves Moorhouse after meeting on the Christchurch avenue following the earthquake on February 22, all agree the highlight from the show so far was meeting with the sick kids at Ronald McDonald House in Auckland.
“We were so privileged to do that,” Jason says.
“Yeah, totally the best moment,” Rory chips in.
“What we think is tough is nothing compared to what they go through every day. It’s good to remember that.”
“A big part of Moorhouse is resilience,” he continues.
“Music was the only thing that kept me in Christchurch after the earthquakes.”
While they’ve grown “heaps” as a group since the start of the show, all four admit they’ve got very different personalities.
“Jason’s the quiet one,” Rory says.
“The strong, silent type.”
“But when he does speak, it’s gold!” laughs Brock.
“Rory’s the joker,” adds Marley with a smile.
“And you’re the ladies man!” Rory fires back.
“Nah. Okay, if I’m a ladies man, Brock’s the man’s man.”
“What?” asks a mystified Brock, as everyone cracks up.
“I don’t know. I take that back. Brock’s the ladies man and I’m just a kid!” finishes Marley.
Q: Burgers or Pizza?
M: [Pause] Pizza. You can put anything on a pizza.
B: You can put anything in a burger!
J: Pizza burger. Sorted!
Q: Toast or muesli?
J: Wait. You can’t put butter on muesli. Toast.
M: Brock just eats oats. It’s gross.
Photos: Jae frew • hair, make-up & styling: Jules Armishaw Jackie’s top from Forever New, Jeans from Lippy, shoes from Mi Piaci, bracelets from Dotti. Jackie’s dress from Forever New. Whenua’s shirt and t-shirt from Farmers, pants from Factorie.Benny’s shirt from Hallensteins, pants from Esprit. Jason’s shirt from Just Jeans. Marley’s shirt from Hallensteins. Brock’s t-shirt from Just Jeans. Rory’s singlet from Farmers, jacket from Hallensteins.
About Kelly Bertrand
“I started at the Weekly after a two-week internship in 2011, which was part of my journalism studies. Basically, I hung around and annoyed people long enough to land a job as a staff writer, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m lucky enough to get to write stories ranging from the Kardashians through to the Queen, but my real passion is telling the stories of New Zealand’s sporting stars. Sometimes I can’t quite believe it’s my job to hang out with All Blacks and Silver Ferns! I absolutely love working at the Weekly, and feel really privileged to be part of this 83-year-old Kiwi institution. I’m also fond of Instagram, coffee and animals dressed as humans!”more of this author