The widow of Kiwi chart-topper Pauly Fuemana has revealed she has handed over her family's share of royalty rights for her late husband's global hit How Bizarre.
The song, which was released in late 1995, made Pauly – who performed under the name OMC – a worldwide music sensation and for a time a multi-millionaire.
And several years after his death in January 2010 – by which time the trappings of his earlier success had gone - his wife and six children were still receiving annual royalties of about $50,000 based on radio and TV airplay of the song.
But just five days before the 10th anniversary of his death, Kirstine Fuemana said she had handed her family's share of royalties and control of the use of the song to Universal Music, which owns Pauly's work, to protect their children from the possibility of any future family feud.
"I don't get an income stream from the music," Kirstine, aged 51, told the Herald on Sunday.
"I made quite a conscious decision a few years ago to get out of it. I realised I didn't want my kids [to have any issues]. I don't want to see what I see goes on [in other families].
"I have been quite aware of my own mortality and I don't want, if something happens to me, that they are left to continue ... It wouldn't be so much the money with the kids, it would be more of a power struggle.
"I wouldn't want a falling out with the kids."
Kirstine – who was pregnant with the couple's sixth child, Santos, now 9, when Pauly died - said she realised some might find her decision "weird" and "will think I'm crazy".
During her time around the music industry she had seen "too much disgusting behaviour with money" and "wanted our kids to be better than that".
She said her decision followed one of her late husband's strong beliefs that family was far more important than money.
"The kids have comfortable lives," she said. "The kids are all healthy and bright, they have all done incredibly well and I couldn't be more proud of them. They can go into the world fine.
"For each of their 21sts they will each get a trip and I will work my a*** off to make sure that happens. I would rather they go into the future without something dragging them back where Paul is ever responsible for their demise."
A fairytale journey
How Bizarre went to No 1 on the New Zealand, Australian, Austrian, Canadian and Irish charts and the Billboard US Mainstream Top 40. It was also a top five hit in Germany, Scotland, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as on the prestigious UK singles chart.
The single and album of the same name sold more than four million copies globally, with Pauly netting an estimated $5m in royalties.
But he lost the fortune almost as quickly, and tragically died aged just 40 after battling a rare neurological condition and then pneumonia.
The millions received from How Bizarre were a world away from when he first met Kirstine, and the life they lived when it was first released.
When he flew to the UK to perform the song on BBC's Top of the Pops in mid-1996 as the song headed up the British charts, the pair were "broke" and living in a council flat in central Auckland.
"I gave him my pay cheque for that week, we didn't pay rent that week, and he went off," Kirstine said.
"That is how broke we were. We had no money. We were living on noodles. I was working 55 hours a week at a record shop."
Also appearing on the show that night – to an audience of about 10m in the UK – were The Spice Girls, Neneh Cherry, Los Del Rio and Gary Barlow.
It was the beginning of an incredible journey that would take Pauly around the world multiple times, top charts around the globe, earn millions, and have friendships with Hollywood stars such as Drew Barrymore and Matthew Modine.
Losing it all
A decade later he was declared bankrupt, with liquidators ruling the Fuemanas' lifestyle had not "contracted when royalties began to diminish".
Pauly's spending included a home for his family on the North Shore, as well as spending on his "passion" for top-end vehicles.
One of those purchases was for a Hummer.
"He got his Hummer ... it was stupid and in the long run it cost us, but he drove it and loved it," Kirstine said.
He was also very generous with his money with his small network of close friends, including shouting eight mates on a two-week trip to Brazil to celebrate the South American nation's annual Carnival.
"I was at home with the children and he was going off to Carnival with his good friends and he had a wonderful time," she said. "I look back now and think, 'Damn it, life is once'. I am glad he did that."
Kirstine said she never questioned her husband's spending; Pauly had sacrificed a lot to make it big and deserved to enjoy the rewards.
"He grew up with nothing and then suddenly he was thrown all this money," Kirstine said.
"And I was very much of the mind that to me it was his money. I know how hard he worked for it ... it was a hard path.
"I never said no to anything he was going to spend his money on."
When Pauly's career started off there were no accountants or lawyers in New Zealand who specialised in the entertainment industry.
The lack of sound financial planning would ultimately come back to bite as earnings for How Bizarre tailed off.
At one stage he was stung by a $280,000 tax bill.
The biggest financial hit came when his then record company "shelved" his planned second album and recouped costs on the expensive project by dipping into How Bizarre's earnings.
"The money that you make from the music is not all yours," Kirstine said. "Every cent [of what it costs to produce] has to be paid back. It is all great until you get your invoices."
She said Pauly had been "sent all over the world to the do the second album, racking up huge bills".
"It was costing thousands upon thousands of dollars," she said.
Kirstine travelled to England for a period during the recording of the album and was later staggered to find out he had booked them into a hotel room charging about $600 a night.
"I was like, 'Why?'. We had to pay all of that, it is not magical money," she said.
While the second album was never released, Pauly still had to pay for it.
"In that industry, there is no kindness. If they think you are sliding downhill, they will cut their losses," Kirstine said.
She opened up on the dark side of her husband's overnight fame.
"It made his life a lot harder," she told the Herald on Sunday.
"We were all savaged. If you take someone who was really fragile, and he was, [it can be very hard]. You take someone that fragile, throw them into a world like that . . . And let's not muck around he was literally thrown into that world ... [And it's not surprising he struggled].
"This kid had only been to Australia once before he made it big ... He was a kid from Otara who had literally been living on the streets. Suddenly he is thrown [into the music industry]."
Many Kiwis celebrated his local and global music success in the mid-1990s. But Kirstine said she struggled to grasp how some people also took joy in the financial struggles he and his family battled a decade later.
"People loved it, they still do," she said.
"What [some] people don't understand in New Zealand is that overseas he still sells [records]. I get messages all the time overseas that How Bizarre is still being played.
"Paul had that lyric in the song [Breaking My Heart]: 'But when you're in they all want to come around, and when you're out they don't want to know'. And I always thought that was a total prophecy."
Kirstine and Pauly met during a night out at Cause Celebre; at the time one of Auckland's coolest night spots.
"When I met him he moved in with me pretty much overnight because he didn't have a home," Kirstine recalled.
A full-time home was something which Paul hadn't had since he was 11, spending a lot of time on the streets.
In contrast Kirstine said she was a "middle-class white girl from the North Shore" who was brought up in a loving and supportive environment.
"I had never met anyone that didn't have [what I had in a family]," she said.
"The thing I have learnt with my relationship with him, which I am really grateful for, was loyalty. For him, it was above all else.
"With the kids, Paul was very clear to them that they would not find [greater] loyalty and love from outside of the home."
The couple's children are: Angelo, 22, Caesar, 21, Eva, 19, Salvador, 17, Imogen, 15, and Santos, 9. Kirstine is also a grandmother to 1-year-old Baskett.
Santos was born in July 2010, seven months after his father's death.
"He is his father to the T," Kirstine said.
"He is his own little person but reminds me a lot about Paul. He is a weird genius at some things. He is the most beautiful, sweetest child. "
The Fuemana family now live in Otara, just streets away from where Pauly grew up.
A few reminders of him are ever-present at the family home; including his guitars, his Niuean tapa and a note he wrote to Kirstine in 1997 which ends with "Love you, kiss", and is now framed and on a wall.
His widow and their children remember him as a partner and father first, not Pauly Fuemana the musician.
They lovingly remember the pranks he played – including when he was battling illness while they lived on the North Shore – such as indoor water fights and making prank phone calls to them while he was on his sickbed.
"He used to just have a lot of fun," Kirstine said.
Their children talk about him "a lot".
"He is a daily part of our life," she said. "I think that has helped get the kids through too."
Kirstine added that the life lessons Pauly had taught her had also helped her get through life throughout the decade since his death.
"He has taught me more than I could ever give credit. And he gave me six great kids," she said.
"Now thinking back, especially this 10 year [anniversary] which is quite a big deal, it is making me really think back to him and how much I had never realised he had taught me."
That includes the power of love, loyalty and installing a world of confidence in her.
"To be left with five kids, and pregnant, I was s*** scared," Kirstine said.
"I am proud we have done it on our own. Both of my parents are gone and we don't have a lot of friends . . . That is hangover from his career where he didn't want a lot of friends because we had learnt early on that we couldn't trust people.
"It has been me and the kids and we have been very insular. I am very proud of us all."
The couple's children also didn't have a lot of friends during their early years.
"There were a lot of parents who just didn't want their children playing with ours," Kirstine said.
"They just had this fantasy that [we were a bit wild] ... because of what people thought they knew about us."