One hour in the hands of a makeup artist every day, a wardrobe full of designer clothes – for some women that would be a dream life; for Susie Nordqvist it’s simply life.
Today she’s the face of Three’s new afternoon news programme, Newshub Live at 4pm, she’s a media personality in her own right and being recognised on the street is just part of the deal.
She’s also a wife, mother of one-year-old Arlo and, while by most standards her life is a glamorous one, at heart Susie says, she’s never moved too far from her rural roots.
The Westerfield farm girl dreamed of being an air hostess then decided she didn’t like flying, changed tack and wanted to follow her mum into teaching, but decided patience wasn’t one of her virtues. Eventually she settled on a career in journalism and that’s taken her to the top in the media world.
She doesn’t believe she was ever tipped for fame as a youngster.
“I suppose I’ve come from small beginnings really.
There were just 27 kids at Westerfield School and when I went to college (Ashburton College) I was a pretty average student,” she said.
Initially she thought about a career in broadcasting, but found she was too young.
Print media was the next choice and the prospect of a course that ran for just one year appealed.
That year was spent at Aoraki Polytech.
Susie started down the traditional print media path – a job at the Timaru Herald writing advertising features, followed by a stint at the Ashburton Guardian and then the Southland Times as a reporter.
With the world beckoning, she opted for a short-term contract writing online news for the Press before packing her bags, boarding a plane and going off the media radar for two years.
Those years were profitable ones in terms of life experience and they came with the bonus of meeting her future husband, Graham Wright.
He’s from Northern Ireland and when her visa had expired they headed for New Zealand.
Auckland provided Graham with job opportunities and by default that became the couple’s home.
“I love it here, but I have to return to Ashburton occasionally for a quieter pace,” Susie said.
They were married at Terrace Downs five years ago in November – in the snow.
“That wasn’t what we quite expected, but it was magical, beautiful,” she said.
Returning home also meant it was time to get serious about work.
She secured a job at the New Zealand Herald intending to re-establish herself in print media. Fate intervened.
“When I was working at the Herald I went down to Christchurch to cover the earthquakes.
“One of the camera guys asked me to get on screen and tell the story through my eyes. TV saw this and liked it.
“They approached me and said ‘come and work for us’.”
That job offer dramatically changed Susie’s life in many ways, not least her sleeping patterns.
She became part of the breakfast show team and that meant getting up at 3am.
Initially that was a shock, but it quickly becomes the norm when you’re doing it day after day, she said.
The first time on screen as a television reporter was terrifying, Susie said.
“I was covering a protest outside the High Court and if my legs hadn’t felt like jelly I’d have run a mile. Now I just tell myself I’m chatting to someone in their living room.”
If she’s emotionally affected by a news story she has no hesitation in letting this show, it helps viewers connect and it shows you’re human, she said.
“Stories about kids dying in war zones really get to me. It just makes me want to go home and give my baby a cuddle.”
She might be fresh back from maternity leave, but her break from news was short; she’s been filling in since Arlo was nine weeks old as a reporter and occasional news anchor for Three.
With her maternity leave ending, the offer as presenter for the afternoon news programme was an unexpected windfall, Susie said.
It’s a job that brings the ultimate in challenges – not only does she source, write and edit stories, she works as producer and fronts the show. It’s a job where you need to be the complete package, she said.
“In today’s media environment you need all the skills. It’s good, it keeps me on my toes.”
Doing everything from sourcing stories, writing stories and presenting these on air creates a real sense of ownership, Susie said.
In a job where there’s no such thing as an ordinary day, two constants are makeup and wardrobe.
Makeup means one hour where Susie has to sit and let the experts loose on her face.
Wardrobe means choosing from a large range of garments that the design team believe is right for the show.
“We’ve each got a wardrobe that we rotate through.
“I’m not fussy, I don’t mind wearing High Street clothes, but if they buy something and I don’t like it I certainly won’t wear it.”
And contrary to the myth that television presenters are required to fit a certain very slim body mould, Susie said there is no pressure to conform.
She admits that she’s lucky.
Weight has never been an issue.
The 4pm news show is still new (it launched last week) but Susie says she loves its format.
“It’s more-fast paced than 6pm news. It’s bang, bang. We get through a lot of news in the first 10 minutes.
“Every day is different. This is always exciting. You don’t know what a day will bring.”
Television is always a bit of a smoke-and-mirrors business because viewers see only what’s on screen; they have no idea of the work that’s gone on for several hours before screening time, she said.
When the cameras stop rolling Susie heads back to the dressing room, scrubs off her makeup, puts on her street clothes, leaves the office, hops on the bus and heads for home.
As a television presenter, it’s inevitable she’s recognised on the street, but takes that in her stride.
“Sometimes when you’re reporting live on the street, people are taking photos of you, but I’m probably a bit blind to being recognised.
“I think people are being super friendly to me when they smile, but it’s lovely that people are watching you on television and that they can see that I’m a real person, not just a news reader.”
She knows she’s lucky.
She’s worked hard, had some good breaks and right now has landed a job that meshes well with her lifestyle.
“This job is perfect for where I am in my life now, it’s 9 to 3, Monday to Friday.”
Like many mums, Susie juggles work and motherhood and admits that she couldn’t do what she does without Graham’s support.
“Our house is like a military operation in the mornings, Arlo goes to daycare and there were definitely tears from both of us on his first day.”
For Arlo, the television mum is all a bit confusing.
“He toddles up to the screen, touches it and smiles. It’s very cute.”
Right now, Susie is not looking too far into the future; she’s happy with life as it is.
Yes, she’s keen to travel again, but not with a toddler on board.
She’s non-committal about adding to her family, saying she’s simply enjoying the happy mix of work and motherhood that’s hers today.
There’s little time for hobbies and interests outside of her work and family and weekends are jealously guarded as precious family time.
She practices yoga – occasionally – and while she was once an accomplished singer, that’s been parked for the moment.
Her life today might be a long way from the Westerfield farm and she might present a glamorous face to the world, but underneath Susie says she’s changed very little.
“I’m still the same person from Ashburton.
“Coming home keeps me grounded and I manage to do that a couple of times a year, but not as often as I’d like.”
Right now, however, there’s plenty to be grateful for, she said.
By Sue Newman © The Ashburton Guardian - 10 April 2017