12 Kiwis to watch in 2012

By Kathryn Powley, Joanne Carroll, John Weekes, Susan Edmunds, Andrew Alderson

At 18, Steve Adams was named 2011 NBL Rookie of the Year. Photo / Getty
At 18, Steve Adams was named 2011 NBL Rookie of the Year. Photo / Getty

They are our brightest young stars - and like any supernovae, they must burn while they can. Because according to the Mayan Calendar, the world ends on December 21. Kathryn Powley and the Herald on Sunday pick the hottest stars of 2012.

So, the end of the world is nigh: what do you do? You can follow the lead of OpShop rock singer Jason Kerrison and hunker down with your family in your Apocalypse bunker buried in a secret location in the Far North. Sorry kids, no Christmas presents this year. And no Christmas.

Or you can choose the blaze of glory.

Today is the first day of a year that - according to a bunch of millennialists, environmental extremists and long-dead Mayan witch doctors - should be our last. After 5126 long and prosperous years, the Mayan calendar abruptly stops four days short of Christmas, 2012. So what better opportunity to have a blast?

The Herald on Sunday has nominated 12 Kiwis who are set to do just that this year, New Zealanders who are determined to make it big on the world stage.

We have a proven track-record picking winners: in past years we have talent-spotted the likes of 1500m Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis, Flight of the Conchords genius Bret McKenzie, newsreader Wendy Petrie and shotput sensation Jacko Gill - so keep an eye on this year's list.

Of course, our 12 stars don't have a lifetime to change the world. They don't even have all of this year. If, like Kerrison, you believe the world is to end, then they have only 356 days to make a difference.

Taking on the world, and taking on the Mayan heavens, has to be a big challenge for mere mortals. And that's why we're calling them Destiny's Dozen.

1 Steve Adams
He's 18, and he's 7ft 1in (2.15m) tall. Yes, basketballer Steve Adams has grown in stature and maturity in the five years since he escaped a future of crime on some of Rotorua's meanest streets.

New Zealand has only ever had two players crack the National Basketball Association - Sean Marks and Kirk Penney - but if you believe the hype, our next is not far away.

Adams has been one of the country's top juniors since moving to Wellington. And as a brother to Olympic shotput champion Valerie Adams, he certainly has the pedigree to be a world beater. Two other siblings - half-brothers Warren and Ralph Adams - were Tall Blacks in their day. Warren brought Adams to the capital and placed him in the care of basketball mentor Kenny McFadden, who began grooming him for bigger things.

At 18, Adams was named 2011 NBL Rookie of the Year as his Wellington Saints side successfully defended their title. He turned down a chance to play for the Tall Blacks to attend the prestigious adidas Nations Camp in Los Angeles. There, he simply dominated the best talent of his age and had NBA scouts drooling.

"He's easily one of the hardest workers in basketball in 29 years since I've been here," says American-born McFadden. "If he went into the 2012 NBA draft, he'd go top 10. He destroyed all their top prospects at the adidas camp and right now, he's the number one prospect in international basketball."

Adams left for the US yesterday to take up a scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh. A man of few words, he says: "I've been working hard on and off the court, and I'm definitely excited about taking my basketball to another level."
- Grant Chapman

2 Lydia Cole
Eight months ago, talented young musician Lydia Cole turned her back on a dead-end job to pursue her dream. This year, that dream could come true. "I quit my job in May," says the 24-year-old. "I was working in the loading bay at a telecommunications company. I was doing mail, couriers, cleaning up the kitchens after all the salespeople. It was quite horrible, and I was there for quite a while."

She left to record her first album, Moon & Me, which will be released on January 27 at the Parachute Christian music festival. Although a Christian, she says her religion doesn't define her music. Her influences include Simon and Garfunkel, and Ryan Adams.

"It's all quite intimate and sparse," says the largely self-taught singer, guitarist and pianist.

Cole toured Australia and New Zealand supporting Kiwi singer Brooke Fraser and admits to being nervous about the upcoming album release.

"Hopefully the album goes really well, people love it and it picks up and I don't ever have to think about work," she laughs.
- Kathryn Powley

3 Mark Loper
Detective Inspector Mark Loper is in for a busy year. Last month, three of the country's highest-profile cases fell into his Bay of Plenty patch; this year, they go to trial.

December began with the arrest of a 70-year-old in Rotorua for the "cold case" killing of Turangi petrol station attendant Rodney Tahu.

On December 21, Loper stood on the steps of the Manukau District Court and described the extradition of runaway Westpac millionaire Leo Gao from Hong Kong as an "important milestone".

Then, that night, a girl was attacked in a Turangi campground. Loper called on his staff to work through Christmas and last week, after a dogged investigation, he charged a 16-year-old over the violent attack that had horrified a nation.

Loper told a packed media conference, "New Zealand society probably needs to take another good look at itself."
- Kathryn Powley

4 Ingrid Starnes
As Heidi Klum says, "In fashion, sometimes you're in, sometimes you're out."

Ingrid Starnes is definitely "in". The 29-year-old mother of 3½-year-old twins - who has another baby on the way next month - has an eponymous label, shares a store with Tesutti in Auckland's trendy Jervois Rd, has a stockist in Australia and is about to launch an online store.

Starnes studied fashion at AUT before getting a job working for Kate Sylvester. Since then, her designs have graced the covers of magazines and she had her NZ Fashion Week debut last year with a 40s-inspired collection described as confident and feminine.

She is the living proof that her designs are also wearable. "I wear all my silk clothes around my children," she says. "I know it's probably not a good idea but I love clothes, I love beautiful things, so I just think I want to be able to wear all the things I design."

Starnes, who is married to media commentator Simon Pound, says this year will be exciting. "I'm venturing into knitwear for the summer. There's all these little things evolving along the way. I'm having a baby as well this year, so I'll be playing it by ear."
- Kathryn Powley

5 Sam Mackwell
The Lion Emergency Power Generator is the only lightweight, environmentally-friendly electricity generator in the world. It's being used by Christchurch earthquake victims, a school in Tanzania to power its laptops and will be sold in Mitre 10 Mega and Kathmandu stores.

And it was invented by a teenager in his dad's hayshed outside Christchurch.

Seventeen-year-old Sam Mackwell has been tinkering about with engines and the like for most of his life. "I have a quarter of the hayshed. It's pretty primitive."

The Lion generator, which uses heat from boiling water to create electricity, was developed with the quake victims in mind. Former prime minister Helen Clark is a fan and was at the product launch in August. She helped the company make its African connection.

Mackwell says his focus for this year, his last year at college, is on finding a large-scale manufacturer of the generator so the product can be distributed more widely. "It's been such a huge journey, it would be a shame not to continue, hopefully upscale."
- Susan Edmunds

6 Kayla Cullen
Over-awed doesn't begin to describe how Kayla Cullen felt when she made it into the top tier of New Zealand netball.

"I used to look up to Irene van Dyk and Maria Tutaia and now I'm playing with them. It was so weird, I was so starstruck whenever I came to play, I was thinking, 'Can I have your autograph'?"

The 19-year-old prodigy, who joins her idols in the Silver Ferns training camp this month, started playing netball at age 8. The sixth of seven children, she comes from a sporty family. "Dad would pick me up from school, drive me to one training then drive me to another training. He was pretty much my taxi driver."

Now, she is a defensive star of the Mystics, a stand-out player in last year's ANZ Championship and debuted for the Silver Ferns against England in October. She says the training can be tough. "We have a camp in January and I think they're planning to kill us," she jokes. Cullen is too modest to realise that she's the one who will be signing autographs from now on.
- Kathryn Powley

7 Joseph Sullivan
Sullivan, 24, is world famous in Picton, but he could be a household name across the country by year's end. He's already a double world champion in rowing's double sculls and hopes to be standing on the medal dais at the London Olympics in August.

After all, his parents are keen to see the sights of London in summer. "They're pretty stoked," he says. "It'll be the first big trip for my mum."

Sullivan doesn't much like the fuss - he'd prefer to focus on his almost non-stop training, much of it on Lake Karapiro. "We got four days off over Christmas and that's it for us," he says.

He is an unknown, compared to rowing names like Mahe Drysdale, Eric Murray, Hamish Bond, Juliette Haigh or Rebecca Scown but he won't be unknown for long.
- Andrew Alderson

8 Tracey Martin
Tracey Martin was the sort of mum whom school boards loved. She joined every committee that was going. Now, the 47-year-old has joined the most prestigious committee of all: Parliament. And at No 2 on the NZ First list, this little-known North Auckland community leader is effectively leader-in-waiting - if Winston Peters ever retires.

Martin entered politics a year ago as Rodney Local Board member, after spending the previous 15 years bringing up her three children, Connor, 16, Sean, 14, and Rose, 11.

When her first child was born, Tracey had given up her job as a credit controller in a law firm and instead supported her husband, Ben Dugdale, in his winemaking career. "I was not in paid employment but I was never a stay-at-home mum," she says. "I was always out of the house. I joined every committee I could and loved getting involved in my community."

Now, it's Dugdale's turn to support her in her chosen path of politics.

"Organising is what I do. I was the one who sent out all the emails, organised the billboards and pamphlets to be sent out. We campaigned on a shoestring but the media and the National Party thought we were dead and that gave us the breathing space.

"I want to hold people to account. I believe I'm good at that. I'm looking forward to the banter."
- Joanne Carroll

9 Milo Cawthorne
For a rising star now plying his trade in the States, Milo Cawthorne is an unassuming young actor.

"I'm going to sit over here, try and get a normal job and just survive for a bit. I've always felt that whenever you go to a movie, the less expectation you have, the better things turn out. So I've tried to keep my expectations as low as possible."

But if Cawthorne's current projectBlood Punch is a big-screen triumph, the world of film may have bigger plans for him. Now 22, the Whangarei native started in local theatre a decade ago. By the age of 13, he'd found an agent in Auckland. "I just chipped away, getting little parts on kids' shows in Auckland every year or so."

After school, the thought of university study horrified Cawthorne. Instead, he landed a role in the children's TV series Power Rangers: RPM.

Then the low-budget noir thriller Blood Punch emerged. The film is directed by former Rangers producer Eddie Guzelian. "It's really nice once you do get a full movie to play out a character," Cawthorne says.

The actor is overseas with his girlfriend, Olivia Tennet. Since he plans to stay in Los Angeles for two years, his Kiwi friends may just see him on screen before they meet him in the flesh again. "They're going to send it to festivals and get the word out - hopefully it'll go to New Zealand."
- John Weekes

10 Selena Short
A "real Kiwi summer" with family in New Zealand is a well-earned break for Selena Short, despite the persistent rain.

The Cook Islands-born New Zealander is in the process of expanding her gym empire in Australia, which she runs with husband Lusiano Afeaki.

After a career in marketing, including for the Cook Islands, Air NZ and the California Fitness gyms in Hong Kong, Short, 40, was inspired by Jackie Chan to go out on her own and start her own gym.

She met Chan while working as California Fitness' marketing manager. "He looked at me and said: 'Selena, you're so good at this, why aren't you doing it for yourself?' I said, 'You're right, I'm going to do it'. It was a defining moment for me, and I went and resigned."

The first V Club in Sydney opened four years ago. Short and Afeaki last year opened their first Crunch Australia branch and have now opened a second. The couple will open a UFC Gym later this year.

Despite strong Kiwi connections - the couple plan to open branches in New Zealand - Short says it is better doing business across the ditch. "There's a bigger population, there's a lot more competition."
- Susan Edmunds

11 AJ Bertenshaw
When Kanye West raps about your product, you know you've made it big. AJ Bertenshaw, co-founder of Auckland audio company Serato - which makes software enabling musicians to "scratch" with digital music files using traditional turntables - says Kanye is one of several singers to refer to Serato.

Bertenshaw, 35, and his computer science classmate and business partner Steve West are used to seeing their produce in magazines, movies and practically every nightclub they enter overseas, but it's not received much attention here. Yet their company employs 50 people.

Bertenshaw now only needs to work once every few months. "I don't want to call it retirement because I'm still doing things. Just recently I've started to develop games for the iPhone and the iPad, so I've started my own little venture."

An aspiring actor, he is also planning a feature film in which he will play a key role.

And if that's not enough to keep this techie entrepreneur busy, there's always his other interest: competitive poker.

"My best result so far was in Sydney last year. I managed to get to the final table out of 400 players. I was seventh, it was quite exciting and stressful."

In June he hopes to head to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker.
- Kathryn Powley

12 Olivia Lefebre
It was an ordinary day amid the plastic and tack of a suburban shopping outlet when Olivia Lefebre was given the chance of a lifetime.

"I was spotted at St Lukes mall by a photographer," she recalls. "It was quite strange. I wasn't quite sure if she was being serious."

A few weeks later, she'd signed a contract with local agency 62 Models. Barely a year after that, 16-year-old Lefebre was strutting her stuff at New Zealand Fashion Week.

Born and raised in Auckland, Lefebre is the only model in her family. She says her parents back her new career.

"They're really supportive and they try to push me as much as they can."

Lefebre turns 17 this month and says she'd like to climb the modelling ladder.

Ultimately, she hopes to head abroad to further her career and indulge her other passion, travel.
- John Weekes

- Herald on Sunday

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