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Anika Moa: A mighty wind

The sweary, rude, fabulous tornado that is Anika Moa tells it like it is.

Anika Moa: terrified of her talk show failing. Photo/Simon Young
Anika Moa: terrified of her talk show failing. Photo/Simon Young

It’s Wednesday, so the singer-songwriter and about-to-be-mega-famous telly star Anika Moa is hung over. She doesn’t really drink any more, except for her one drinking day a week, which happened to be Tuesday this week. She doesn’t really eat cake any more, either. Shall we have cake? “Shit yeah!”

She is unexpectedly, at least initially, a bit subdued. This may be because of the hangover or because she hasn’t yet eaten “three-sevenths” of her cake – which is her idea of having your cake and not eating it, too. She’s on a health kick, hence the not drinking and the not eating cake. She has also given up smoking, except when “I’m pissed. But everyone does that.” She does health kicks the way she does everything: the Anika Moa way. She makes up the rules as she goes along, quite possibly by the minute.

The real reason she may be slightly quiet – and this is relative – is that she is, she says, in her inimitable way, “shitting my pants” about her new talk show, All Talk with Anika Moa on Maori TV. She’s in a bit of a stew about learning to read an autocue. She’s going to have her first lesson after seeing me.

She wants to know how it would work if she went “off script”. I wouldn’t have a clue. But what does she mean if she goes off-script? She’s been going off-script her entire life.

With her fiancée, former TV3 reporter Natasha Utting. Photo/Getty Images
With her fiancée, former TV3 reporter Natasha Utting. Photo/Getty Images

You do not, generally speaking, want your interviewees to be subdued, but I’m counting my blessings. An interview with Anika Moa in full-on-Anika-Moa mode would be like trying to interview a tornado. My blessings prove temporary. Good luck to her talk-show guests is all I can say. My advice? Wear something windproof. And if you want to get in a word or two, don’t swear.

She swears more than anyone I’ve ever met and is far ruder than anyone I’m ever likely to meet again. I wonder how she thinks she’ll get away with the swearing and the rude bits on Maori TV, because it’s not a matter of toning herself down. That, beyond a personality transplant, is not a possibility.

Will she be able to be rude? “I hope so! If they don’t bleep me too much.” Then again: “Probably not. It’s Maori TV for f---’s sake.” She was amazingly rude on her interview series – which mostly consisted of her being rude and talking about how famous she is and what a fabulous big lesbian she is – on the Herald’s website. She memorably, unfortunately for those of us who are prudes, gave the Bachelor, Art Green, a lesson on what lesbians do in bed. She used hand gestures to demonstrate.

Nobody, by the way, was more surprised than she was when, at 21, she fell in love with a woman. She was “boy crazy” and had never even fancied a girl from afar. I say, “What’s the point of being gay?” That was later, and to pay her back for calling me a swag of rude names. “Oh,” she says, “I’ll give you a few tips on that! What’s the point!”

I’m not about to let her give me any tips, so I say, hastily, “Have you got an enormous ego?”

“Yes. And no. Ha! Yes! No, of course I don’t. What a foolish question.”

She likes being rude and she loves swearing and she doesn’t see why she shouldn’t be rude or swear. But why does she want to be rude? I thought she might have developed this as a shtick, a way of shocking people. But why would she want to shock people? That’s getting way too analytical. “I was brought up with my mum saying f--- and c--- every five seconds. So why can’t I say f--- and c---?” Er, because some people are offended by those words. “I don’t care if they’re offended. Walk away! It’s part of my show.” You’d have to try pretty hard to really be offended by her. She has no malice, no meanness, in her. She’s a sweetie pie, albeit a sweetie pie with a filthy mouth.

So good luck to her producers, too. She likes to talk, mock grandly, about “my producers”, one of whom is her fiancée, former Campbell Live reporter Natasha Utting, who has said that her partner has “no filter”.

No kidding. If Moa has one of her erotic dreams, about Lorde, say, she tells people all about it. She tells Utting all about it. This is no big deal. “I dream about everyone sexually. Don’t worry about it. You’ll be in my dream tonight.” Really? “No.”

Has she booked Lorde for her show? “F--- no. I can’t get her. She won’t answer emails. Who cares?”

Yeah. Who cares? Lorde isn’t even her type. “I know she’s not my type, but she’s nice and young and she’s got perky little tits.” She likes big boobs. “How do you know?” I know because she once said so in an interview. “I’m a liar! I’m a liar! And also Natasha’s got … you know.” I don’t know. “I’m not even going to talk about her any more. She’ll be so embarrassed.”

I’m sure Utting is used to it and anyway, what rot. She talks about Utting for about half our interview. She adores her. I should interview her, she says. I don’t need to. I now know more about Utting (and her breasts) than I do about most people I’ve interviewed. We’re in a cafe and so now everybody else in the cafe also knows about Utting’s breasts and that she’s a fairly lousy cleaner. She cleans around things, the slattern. “She’s an average cleaner. I’m a psycho cleaner. I don’t have OCD, but I do like cleaning.”

Is she quite sure she isn’t OCD? “No! I don’t have OCD. But I like cleaning a lot.”

When Utting gave birth to their baby, Soren, in 2014, Moa filmed the birth. “Because it was hilarious. She said, ‘Please don’t film me.’ Too late, babe! It’s all there.”

Anika Moa’s ex-wife, burlesque dancer Azaria Universe (Angela Fyfe). Photo/Getty Images
Anika Moa’s ex-wife, burlesque dancer Azaria Universe (Angela Fyfe). Photo/Getty Images

Honestly, she’s awful. Imagine living with her. “I’m crazy and I change my mind every … No, but the thing about it is that Natasha can now watch herself give birth … She loves it. And little Soren’s got his head poking out. Ha, ha.”

Moa loves babies – she has twins, Barry and Taane, with her former partner, burlesque artist Azaria Universe – and claims she’s desperate to give birth, but that her partners have been older than her and so have said, “‘Me first.’ It’s not fair.”

She changes her mind every two seconds. “Plus, maybe I don’t want kids. I’m a Gemini.” She loves babies. “I just don’t like it when they start talking, ’cause then they talk back.” Also, “I’ve got a TV show, so I can’t”, she says.

She’s such a fame whore. “Thank you.” She loves famous people. “If I’m honest, yes. They’re interesting.” Really, she says, she likes to interview famous people: “So that I can touch them. Lots. For me, I don’t care about fame. I don’t care about fortune.” Is she sure? “I am absolutely positive.” Has she examined this? “I just know. Shut up. Stop trying to be like a counsellor! But famous people are funny and some of them are dumb and some of them are amazing. And I just like getting personal with people and knowing what’s in their heart – in a real gay way.”

I have no idea what that means. Neither does she. “Oh, ’cause I’m a dick. I want to know everything everyone’s feeling.” That’s nothing to do with a gay way, that’s just nosiness.

“Stop saying that word in public!” she bellows, in public. “You’re a gay hater! Just met Michele Hewitson. She’s a gay hater. Met with Michele: racist. And hates gays. Also Jews.”

She says, later, soothingly, that it’s okay that I’m a racist because she’s one, too. She doesn’t go for Maori women. “Oh, they’re too wild for me. You know what Maori girls are like. They’re crazy.” There couldn’t be two of her in one relationship. “No. No. Never.”

She’s a performer. An interview is a performance, but there is no sense with her that she’s putting it on for me, or anyone. I think she emerged this way, that she came into the world shouting and swearing and making rude jokes. She doesn’t just wear her heart on her sleeve, she wears her entire being on her sleeve, which, incidentally, had a huge rip in it. She doesn’t care. It’s her favourite top. Now she’s about to be a famous TV star, she should sew that up. “I don’t know how. I don’t care.” You can take or leave her and her torn sleeve and her tattoos.

She has a lot of tattoos. The ones on her arms are her whakapapa. “There’s a long story here. It starts with my family, Mum and Dad, to my first partner … I haven’t got any of my male partners. They’re just dumb, you know. It’s cheesy and clichéd.”

She doesn’t really think this. Utting is there: her face with the body of a bird. “Yeah. She’s my bird.” She pulls her top down to show me the matching ladies. A blonde atop a tiger; a brunette atop a lion. Both ladies are topless. “Nice little titties, eh?” Now that is rude. “Thank you.”

Honestly, she can’t go on TV with tattooed naked ladies sticking out of her, er, chest! “What are you? My mum? Is this the 1960s? Have I just travelled back to the 1960s? They’re not that rude. They’re just naked women. What a prude! You’re such a judgmental bitch!”

She says, “You could say that I’m like Mother Teresa. In a way.” That really does render me speechless. She cackles like mad. “I can see your eyes just going, ‘Shut up. You egotistical bitch!’”

Actually, I was thinking of those naked ladies, atop the big cats. But, yes, all right. It’s best, or less exhausting at least, to agree with her. So, setting aside the tattoos, she is in every other conceivable way exactly like Mother Teresa.

She once said that she was “f---ed up. I’m one of the worst f----ups.” She says she’s not now. She’s 36 and she’s grown up, for one thing, and she has Utting, for another very big thing. Utting is the steady one. She doesn’t smoke, even when she’s drunk, and she doesn’t drink much.

“She sets me straight. She’s very good at it. She subtly helps me stay put. Not stay put as in cheating. I don’t do that. But my spirit floats everywhere and it wants to go and travel and sometimes, blah, I hate my kids, but then, yay!, I love my life. So I have to hold my thoughts in and just stay put. Otherwise I’d be everywhere. I don’t want to be everywhere.”

The singer in 2013. Photo/Simon Young
The singer in 2013. Photo/Simon Young

She’s been everywhere, done that. She might have turned out to be a mess of an adult. She had a messy sort of childhood, on paper. She’s the third of eight children – an assortment of full and half-siblings. Her English mother has been married three times. Her Maori father left the family when she was two. She saw him again when she was 11, but didn’t know he was her father. The next time she saw him was when she was 13 and walking home from school, smoking and pouting and tossing her hair.

“And this is a true story. I’m not even embellishing.” He pulled up in his car, wound the window down and said, “‘Anika! Anika!’ And I was, like, ‘What do you want? Who are you?’ And he was like, ‘I’m your father.’ He looked like Bob Marley.” She went, “Okay,” and jumped in the car. They went to a party and the car broke down and they couldn’t get back to her house and she phoned her mother who was, predictably, distraught. “He kidnapped me for two days.”

How did she know he was really her father? “He was my father. Come on. He was a gypsy like me. He’s psycho like me. He’s a great musician.”

Her father ended up living in his car on One Tree Hill. He went to prison after dropping a TV on his uncle’s head. While in prison he was diagnosed with cancer and bipolar disorder. “And I said, ‘Duh! Dad, I could have told you that.’ Ha, ha, ha.” He died in 2008, of the cancer. She loved him. He was charismatic. “Very. He loved ladies.” She is her father’s daughter. Come on.

His life sounds like a tragic story, but that’s not the way she reads it. “I don’t think it is. I think it’s a brilliant story.” He lived in his car, but he chose to live in his car, “for the pure purpose that he could spend his money on marijuana; so he didn’t have to pay rent. He hated people telling him what to do. He hated rules. He made his own rules.”

She loves her mum, too. She’s her best friend and she tells her everything so she must be shock-proof, or possibly selectively deaf, by now. There was little money. “We lived in state houses my entire life … But my mum and dad are both very inspirational to me and not because they’ve done extraordinary things but because of the life they’ve had and what they’ve had to overcome.”

She’s terrified of failure. The end of her marriage, she says, is a long and boring story and she’ll tell it another day “when we’re drinking”. She had what sounds like some kind of breakdown and went home to Christchurch and had no money and no gigs and thought that everyone hated her. She spent her time drinking her mum’s cask wine and wailing.

She’s terrified about the prospect of her talk show failing, so she doesn’t want to talk about it too much, or have anyone else talk about it until it’s proven to be a success. Then, of course, you won’t be able to shut her up. I wondered if this fear of failing has anything to do with her father, but she says, “No. It’s because there are days when you work so hard. I worked so hard on my last album and it sold nothing.” Thank goodness for her Songs for Bubbas albums, her antidote to the Wiggles. She has made two and will make a third. They sell like hot rusks.

She’s on her sort of health kick because of the talk show and she doesn’t want to look “like a big fat c--- on TV. Well, fatter. ’Cause I get so many people going, ‘Oh, she’s fat now.’ Who cares if I’m f---en fat?”

She might care a bit. She’s always going on about being fat. She says she’s always the fat one in her relationships. Utting is not fat. “It’s really annoying.” What she really minds about being fat is the thinking about being fat. “I want to throw all that shit away so I can focus … So I’ve started exercising again, eating healthy, stopped drinking, stopped smoking … Then I can focus on being the best person I can be.”

Which presumably doesn’t involve behaving herself in interviews. “Are we friends now?” she asks at the end of ours. Ahem. She has just called me a prudish racist gay-hater bitch! So, nah.

“F--- off,” she says, “you’re not my friend,” and staggers off, hunched over, pretending to be crippled with grief at my rejection. The big ham. She would actually make a fabulous friend – should you fancy being BFFs with a tornado.

ALL TALK WITH ANIKA MOA, Maori TV, Thursday, 9.30pm.

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