Alex Casey binge-watches The Ladies of NZ, the online webseries and offering to the radio survey gods by ZM.
Sometimes I get really worried that, through some freak natural disaster, all of humanity is destroyed and all that remains of our existence are radio broadcasts from survey time, picked up by much more intelligent life as they ping through the galaxy. What will they think of us? That we were a bunch of dick pic-wielding (George FM), binge drinking (Hauraki), cash grabbing (The Edge) hedonists who committed mass global suicide at the announcement of Polly and Grant’s separation (The Hits).
Or, that we were all fancy women who lived at the Crowne Plaza and lived exclusively off espresso martinis and generous bowls of potato crisps. That’s what The Ladies of NZ suggests at least, ZM’s number eight wire foray into a well-recognised international reality format. After their initial title The Real Housewives of NZ received a charmingly Kiwi-battler cease-and-desist letter from the US producers of the franchise, The Ladies of NZ was born.
Choosing four bold personalities from across the country (two from central Auckland), the online video series promises to “lay on some glam, let the ladies mingle and their stories unfold.” The talent plucked includes Mary, an Auckland socialite, well-known transgender advocate and once the kind-of-stalker of Simon Dallow:
Kahlia, a mother from Palmerston North who comes from a farming background and “doesn’t like eating weird things”:
Leah, a celebrity nail stylist from Auckland who has touched Katy Perry’s nails and therefore is far too famous for this:
Chantelle, the 21 year-old from Rangiora who owns a boutique fashion store and is the queen of negging:
Let’s cut the crap and get straight to the mechanical bull, please. No introductions, no setup, just opening titles and straight into the robotic belly of the beast. Question: does anyone ever ride a mechanical bull outside of reality television or shoddy counterfeit ripoffs? It’s a real tree falling in the woods situation. Leah Light is terrified, and rightly so. False talons are not a great wine match to a mechanical bull.
Someone from something called “Flossie” comes to visit the ladies at Degree bar whilst they sip a chilled-out vino. They get 200 Flossie dollars to use on the app. Leah is stoked with it, Kahlia looks like someone has just explained quantum mechanics to her in Cantonese.
The ladies take turns shaking their espresso martinis and somewhere out there, Art Green grows his wings. Nearly this whole thing is a montage, by the way, like a Sergei Eisenstein film but somehow more boring. But the cracks are starting to show, thank goodness. Mary thinks Chantelle is ditzy and is “starting to fuck her off”. She takes a seat elsewhere instead of “ripping her a new one.” Wise.
They take a helicopter to Waiheke, where Chantelle muses about her crazy levels of confidence for someone so young. Mary still thinks Chantelle is “doongy”. Is that a fine word to say?
The ladies tackle a high ropes course, like classic Kiwi ladies so often do. I love getting the gals around to bejewel our caribeners and traverse the mighty pylons of Sylvia Park. The Ladies of ZM is basically school camp, but you get drunk at the end and people give you heaps of free stuff. Nonetheless, Mary is shrieking and swearing A LOT.
Back to Degree bar, Mary and Chantelle are squabbling again over Chantelle’s bad joke. I wish I knew the joke, and whether or not it was as offensive as Mary saying “doongy” all the time. There’s a lot riding on these two for drama – Kahlia is pining for the green green grass of Palmy and Leah is very busy being a successful businesswoman who is, again, too famous to be on here.
The night ends, as all good ones do, at a drag bar. But Chantelle has gone for less Priscilla and more The Crying Game. And by that I mean: she is crying. She’s claustrophobic, apparently, and needs to be taken back home to The Crowne Plaza. So much open space at The Crowne Plaza. Such luxury-sized beds and XXL bath tubs. It’s a claustrophobic’s dream, and thankfully, as we’re told, only $185 for a getaway weekend deal. Pretty good.
Today we visit a farm, where Chantelle promptly gets a dot of mud on her pristine white jeans. She could have been angry, but got distracted pretty quickly due to the introduction of cow udders to the equation. “Have you ever been milked?” she asks Leah. Leah confirms that she has not ever been milked.
On the drive home, the ladies play ‘Never Have I Ever’. “Never have I ever shat my pants in public,” says Leah. Mary confirms through scream laughs that she has not only “shat” but has “sharted”. She’s laughing a lot. Too much. I’m a little scared it’s going to happen again.
Kahlia gets a phone call from the folk at ZM. She gets a free massage pampering thing, and has to choose one person to take. She takes Leah, because who wouldn’t want to be owed free nails for the rest of your life? Chantelle and Mary are left to join the housekeeping at the Crowne Plaza, where the linen is beautiful and the dressing gowns are plush.
The ladies reconvene later in the evening over 100 massive bowls of chips and many bottles of wine. They are talking body image issues, and it’s some surprisingly real talk. “I’ve watched you the whole time – when you look at yourself in the mirror you go to the worst place,” Mary tells Leah. “Let me put it in perspective for you. My exterior is a boy, my interior is a girl. I would love to have a body like yours, but I can’t.” Did the Ladies of NZ just dowse us in $200 of Flossie-sponsored sincerity? I need a lie down at the Crowne.
“In fashion you don’t have tits,” Chantelle preaches, angrily trying to button up her shirt after a rough morning at boot camp. “It’s about being a walking clothes hanger.” Healthy advice. Straight to Leah Light Nail Salon where Fletch and Vaughan have turned up to get their nails done. Hilarious, nothing funnier than a man doing a silly girl thing!
Back to the chip corner of sincerity, Leah Light is talking about how she doesn’t need a man. Shit I love the chip corner, but PRAY TELL what the hell is going on at Degree bar? The ladies cruise down to find out. Changing the music to Celine Dion, Leah is visibly moved. She got married to Celine Dion and went into labour BOTH TIMES to of the songs Celine Dion. A weird revelation, but a revelation nonetheless.
The ladies have to decide which one of them will go to a fashion show that night, so they make their pledges live on air. They all want Kahlia to go. “I go every year,” says Mary, the ultimate selfless brag-neg. With Palmerston’s Princess off to the fashion ball, the rest of them head back for some more unpaid labour at the Crowne Plaza. Mary is screaming with laughter because her housekeeping trousers are too tight. Never mind the man in the mirror, I’m sure that’s fine.
Over to the Skytower, because why not, the ladies are lining up to do the Skywalk. Leah Light has vertigo – and not the U2 kind OR the Hitchcock kind. She wants to be amazing role model for her children and for “people who are scared of stuff”, but she just can’t Hackett. I don’t blame you Leah, it’s much higher than your dizzying instagram following. Tension bubbles over into other areas, and Leah accuses Mary of being disrespectful to the lovely, accommodating, pleasant staff at the Crowne Plaza. She would never say such a thing, surely. Not of the Crowne.
Kahlia makes it to the fashion show, and refuses to look in the goodie bag because she’s playing it cool. As someone who has at least 2-3 stress dreams about goodie bags a week – I can’t handle that sort of behaviour at all.
We are here, at the end of the road. But it wouldn’t be a Ladies of NZ finale without wheeling in Kerry Marie the psychic to make everyone cry over their thick cut fries at a bar in the middle of the day:
“It basically proves life after death,” the psychic says. I’m suspicious. She hasn’t even touched her chips. Dinner that night is at Daikoku, but not if bloody Vaughan’s bloody parallel parking has anything to do with it! After dinner, there’s only one place left to go: Degree bar. Nirvana. The mecca of all things Lady-hood.
One last shindig, with Mary doubling as MC, shows us how far the Ladies of NZ have come. Or at least how drunk they are. “Its been amazing” says Mary. “It’s such a high and such a low,” screams Kahlia. “I’ve realised I’m more tolerant than I actually realise… I’m a good person,” slurs Leah, her nails admitting themselves into the ER for fluids. Either they are drunk, or I am really drunk, but it actually feels a little emotional. Through all the chippies, shart-talk and semi-offensive slang, we might just have a group of friends on our hands.
Luckily, I know where to go to find my dear lady friends again – and that’s the Crowne Plaza.
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