Firstly, to those reading this – big hugs, the message she used to sign off on every email. Over the course of a month, I had the absolute pleasure of having emoji-heavy chats with none other than New Zealand’s perennial sweetheart, and treasured icon of our youth, Suzy Cato. After multiple emails and mismatched schedules, as I am a mere student with poor time management and Ms. Cato is an unsurpassed career woman, we finally managed to get an interview going, and I just hope you’ll love her as much as I did. I wish I could show the full extent of just how sweet her responses have been, but rest assured that she uses emojis just as enthusiastically as every other 51 year old white woman. It makes me feel like there are some universal constants out there.
Simple things first. How often do you get approached by people saying they were big fans? What reactions stand out in your mind?
All the time and I love it! More often than not I get approached by those that are teens or older, who used to watch me when they were little. But increasingly, I’m being recognised by DWTS fans of all ages and young tamariki who’s teachers have found my Suzy’s World eps online, or on DVD in the school’s resource room! ? There are also those that now watch You & Me and Suzy’s World online via their parent’s search for childhood memories
Are you really as nice as you appear to be?
HAHAHA It depends on what side of bed I get out of, how much sleep I’ve had the night before… to be honest, overall I’m a pretty positive and optimistic person. But… I am human and I do have “bad hair days” etc.
I just can’t imagine someone having a conversation with you and coming away with ‘Oh, that bitch. I pray her glasses fall in the toilet.’ You seem so perpetually down to earth!
Please never think that about me, even if I was a bit bitchy – I only have the one pair of glasses and I would be in the loo without them! Life’s too short to be grumpy for too long. And besides, you can’t release a song like “Sprinkle a Little Sunshine” with Kath Bee, and not believe every word of it!
You’re a nostalgic figure to so many of my generation, but we sometimes forget just how long ago your shows really were. Does it feel weird seeing old clips that are approaching two decades in age, if not older?
Shhhhh don’t tell anyone or they’ll work out how old I am ? I’ve been immersed in kids telly since 1990. Occasionally, I feel my age (51, thanks for asking ?) and sometimes I feel much older – but my focus has been about kids for so long that sometimes I feel like my 14 year old is more mature than I am. It certainly doesn’t feel like the programmes were made that long ago!!!
I remember a whole lot of neon Kozmik jumpers and denim overalls from the episodes, so I did my research, and fucking hell, Suze. Do you have anything left from that era, or was it lit on fire long ago? No one would blame you.
Hahaha. No, I don’t have any of the original Kozmik gear but I was recently given an oversized sweatshirt by a friend! Those sweatshirts were such a big part of the 90s and are seen as being a staple of the You & Me wardrobe – and a perfect example of the big kid in all of us. I sourced my own wardrobe for Suzy’s World – as Exec Producer of your own show you get to tell yourself how high to jump, it’s quite nice. ?
What is your proudest moment from having worked with and for children over the years? Is there a particular moment that makes you think ‘Yeah, I was able to do good’?
I am sooo proud and honoured to have been a part of all of it!!! I’ve only ever been a part of a huge team; for all of the programmes I’ve been a part of, the presenter is all that the audience usually gets to see, but without the writers, editors, camera/sound/lighting team – let alone the directors and producers – none of this would have come to be. I think we’re all proud of what we’ve been a part of. As a parent, my babies are my proudest production. I grow amazing babies!!!
Now for the fun stuff. You have a reputation as a friend to children, one who can remember their faces across years and be sure to treat them with kindness. Have there been any kids you fucking hated? Be honest. They’re probably not reading this.
Hahahaha! Nooooooo! Most kids were on their best behaviour when I got to meet them anyway. And it’s not the child that’s the issue, it’s the behaviour and there can be lots of reasons for the behaviour being exhibited – overexcitement is one of them. If any of the kids I met acted out, it was often because they were out of their comfort zone, overexcited, maybe even a bit scared to meet someone out of the TV. Or maybe they were overtired (I get a bit that way when I’m overexcited or overtired too! ?). (Editor’s note: She’s so lying.)
How fun was ‘Dominatrix Suzy’ on DWTS? Was it easy getting into the mindset of Miss Cato If You’re Nasty?
All of DWTS was fun. It was scary, it pushed me out of my comfort zone, it hurt – but it was still fun. 90% of You & Me and Suzy’s World was getting dressed up to play a role to explain something, or to tell a story – the wardrobe options were just a bit different for DWTS… just a bit! I hadn’t really thought about the dominatrix side of that outfit. We worked on the “haughty queen”. Although I did learn later the tape they used for the pony was “Sex Tape”. Ye gods and little fishes!!!!
Does it fill you with pride to know that because of the show, ‘Suzy Cato milf’ and ‘Suzy Cato hot’ were popular Google search terms in NZ for a brief while? If it helps, they probably weren’t thinking of the denim overalls. Probably.
Hahahaha! I once asked my husband what a milf was, as someone claimed I was one a few years ago!!! Lordy!!! Because those programmes were made for toddlers, pre-schoolers or primary school-aged kids, I never gave much thought [as] to what I looked like. The clothing was big and baggy for You & Me. I had to be a bit more hip and cool (lol, as if kids in the ‘00s used those terms!!) for Suzy’s World. DWTS though was a completely different matter – lordy! And I looooved it!
Does it hurt to know that David Seymour is a better dancer than you? I’ve had an extended conversation over dinner with the man – I don’t know if I’d be able to recover from the knowledge that he has more rhythm than I do.
Hahahaha! I love David – he’s such a great guy. But, I have to admit that I was gutted when he stayed in and I was shown the door on DWTS. I did love the whole experience of DWTS so I had hoped to go through at least a week or two more, but I’m so proud to have achieved what I did and I’m so proud of David. David was given a lot of grief over his dancing, costume choices etc, and the trolls were pretty nasty, but he coped with it all so well and showed such class in such a nasty situation that I’m glad he got to dance another week or two longer.
When you wanna let loose, what music do you put on? Any songs/tastes we might not expect?
I grew up in the far North in the ‘80s. We listened to everything from Talking Heads and Devo, and all the pop hits on RTR Countdown, to Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and ZZ Topp; and I went to my fair share of local bands that played in Whangarei. I also loved the concerts we went to during that time (Pink Floyd, David Bowie etc) The first album I ever bought was Alan Parson’s Project – Eye in the Sky – as a 15 year old (interesting choice for that age and era)
As a radio announcer in the late 80s I was more a Top 40 kinda girl, but now we listen to such a range of music with the kids – musical theatre numbers (I just went to “We Will Rock You” OMG so good!) to EDM, dubstep, trap and rap and top 40).
You were responding to the emails of an obscure student mag at 10:30pm when you first got back to me, so I don’t imagine you have that much time for hobbies of any sort. Am I wrong?
Ummmm… it’s 11pm now… a few weeks later so… no. Working for myself, I get to work the hours I want to work (usually), so I’m home after school, for dinner times and then, once the kids go to bed, I’m back in the office to catch up on the things I missed from about 3pm onwards. I’m also heavily involved in several projects. Kiwi Kids Music is one of them [www.kiwikidsmusic.co.nz]. I’m also creating a couple of big events for 2020 – the first one is Sounds Fun, which is a music event for… kids! There’s a book (or two) on the way… an EP of songs for kids and… when I’m not working on those things, there’s baking to do with my own babes, sewing projects, board games to play, movies to watch and beaches to visit. Life is good!
Any particular drink you’re partial to? A little gin? Sipping a mimosa before noon? Have you gotten shitfaced in the last year?
I do enjoy a wee refreshment. A glass or two of wine, a whiskey, a gin – not all at once – that’s never advisable 🙂 But I do enjoy a social drink. As far as getting… tanked, in the last year… no. Is it a sign of maturity? I’ve got too much on and can’t afford to be held back by a hangover! ?
Some relationships allow One Free Pass if the celebrity of their dreams were to saunter up to them and ask to hit that – forgetting that you’re married, who would that person be in your case?
Lordy! I was thrown way out of my comfort zone being in the arms of my gorgeous dance partner on DWTS, last year, to even consider “hitting” anything! I’ve been in the arms of only one man for a gazillion years (we got married in ’94) and that’s enough for me.
Alternately, is there a celebrity/famous person that has you thinking ‘Oh, if only I was a younger Suzanne….’?
Hmmmm… well there’s plenty of eye candy out there, but my glasses get all steamed up and then I can’t see them anyway! ? It’s not so much about the looks to be honest, it’s about the personality; how their smile lights their eyes, and what they’re smiling, or laughing, about. Are they kind, compassionate, caring. Do they listen as well as they talk. Tell you what – I’ll keep looking and let you know if I see anything like that, shall I? ?
We’re almost there, I promise! What do you wish you could change about New Zealand, if you had the power to do so? Anything dear to your heart?
I thought you said we were at the fun part!!! We are an amazing country – but just like almost every country, I reckon If we put kids and families first in our planning and decision-making, we would be making better decisions for our future as a whole.
What’s the plan for the next 51 years of Suzy?
OMG, can I not be immortal? Do I only have to plan for the next 51 years? More of the same, please. More fun, more laughter, more dancing, more kids (ok, not giving birth to more – I’m 51 for goodness sake), but more things to do with kids and families and big kids. More aroha, more sharing, more community, more caring!
Finally, if you could give some adult advice to the mostly-adults that will read this, what would you say?
Hey, you… Yes, you. Have you got a moment to stop and have a korero, a wee chat? I know you’re busy. I know you’ve got things to do. Life’s much faster and busier than it was when “we” were young. But, how about we just take a moment and reconnect. I’d love to share some things I’ve been thinking about, and to move forward, positively, with you – just like we did all those years ago. I’ve learnt a lot over the years and one of the things that has impressed me the most is you! You are amazing! I am so proud of you! But, you know what, I really need you to take a moment and ensure that you are looking after yourself, and that you’re acknowledging all that you’ve done and are doing and that you want to do. You are a very special friend. I’m so glad you’re a part of my life.
Arohanui – so much love, e hoa – my friend. Xoxo
Afterwards, we had a little phone chat, just briefly talking about our day and our plans for the evening/plans for my general career goals, somehow getting to the stage where she was singing the chorus to Roses by Outkast. It was cute! But while the call itself somewhat meandered and we were both a bit unprepared and preoccupied, throughout our conversations there was always the distinct feeling that echoed nearly every public comment made about her in the years since TV3 said “cya, cya later, you won’t be back again”. Namely, that she genuinely cared about what you were doing and how you were feeling, the feeling that it was a delight to simply have a chat at 5pm on a Saturday evening. She’s famous for working with children, but that empathy isn’t isolated to the youngest of us. Just because you’re no longer a child, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need a trademarked Big Hug.
Certainly New Zealand’s answer to Mr. Rogers, and a lot better looking to boot.