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Celebrity Treasure Island: Losing finalist Turia Schmidt-Peke hopes new doors will open

Riria Dalton-Reedy

Celebrity Treasure Island: Losing finalist says the right person won

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Turia Schmidt-Peke may not have won Celebrity Treasure Island but that doesn’t take away from what was a “life-changing” experience.

Actress, TV personality and host Schmidt-Peke (Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Hauā, Ngāti Hāmoa) was a top-three finalist alongside comedians James Mustapic and Courtney Dawson.

She is generous in her praise of Mustapic - revealed on Thursday night as the winner - and says the right person won.

“No one deserves it more than James,” she says. ”I think he had so much personal growth over the show out of everyone.”

For Schmidt-Peke, the experience was life-changing. She grew up without many Pakeha friends, so being around non-Māori was a new experience. As was ditching technology, and living simply amongst nature.

”It was life-changing in terms of branching out socially and just getting to know everyone. To be one with nature, that was life-changing.”

Schmidt-Peke says the close bonds formed among contestants and the slow-paced lifestyle added to the success of the experience.

Courtney Dawson, James Mustapic and Turia Schmidt-Peke were the final three on Celebrity Treasure Island. Photo / TVNZ

Among the cast was renowned artist and activist Tame Iti, who Schmidt-Peke describes as a national treasure.

During his short stint on the show, Iti brought fire to the series, often chanting or doing karakia, something not yet seen on Celebrity Treasure Island screens.

”It’s crazy how much that man has done in his lifetime. New Zealand had the perception of him and I think he changed a lot of people’s minds after the show.”

She says Iti’s participation was inspiring.

“He’s 71 now and he’s done it. I was there to raise Pacific and Māori profiles but to have him here, I think, gave me extra confidence. I kind of followed in his footsteps.”

Best known for her role as Geo in the bilingual drama series Ahikāroa, Schmidt-Peke says she had no acting experience beforehand, but her fluency in te reo helped her secure the role.

”[Te reo Māori] has been the thing that has opened a lot of doors,” she says.

After making the final three of Celebrity Treasure Island, Schmidt-Peke hopes to keep adding to her acting portfolio.

“There’s so much more I want to do and so many kinds of characters I want to play,” she says.

”I’m just hoping [Celebrity] Treasure Island opens more doors because I’m always keen to keep busy.”

She also looks forward to producing Pukana next year, one of the longest-running reo Maori children’s shows.

“I am very passionate about [producing] and that was one of the reasons why I got into media. So I want to carry that torch”.

The actress is set to film the sixth season of Ahikāroa, Aotearoa’s longest-running bilingual drama series.

She says the show’s authenticity is what’s helped it last the distance.

Over the past five seasons, the show has touched on social issues such as gangs, drug abuse, suicide and sexual abuse.

”I like to believe that we shoot it in a tasteful way,” she says. ”It’s not so intense and in your face, it’s very artistic how we do it.”

Schmidt-Peke will also co-host Brain Busters - Te Reo Māori which premieres on Monday on Whakaata Māori and MĀORI+.

The long-running game show has existed for several seasons, but the new episodes have been crafted fully in te reo Māori, where talented rangatahi (youth) will put their general knowledge to the test.

“I think it’s so cool to see [rangatahi] and their confidence and, you know, every generation gets a bit more woke.”

Schmidt-Peke acknowledges her friends, whanau and community for their support in nurturing her.

“I think that’s why I’m confident to just go through life because I know I have so many people I can fall back on, and I think that is a superpower. Just knowing who you are and where you come from.”

Hero image: Turia Schmidt-Peke says her Celebrity Treasure Island experience was life-changing. Photo / TVNZ

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