Spy Editor Ricardo Simich (Ngāpuhi) cast a wide net to put together a list of rising stars to celebrate Matariki. He consulted with respected leaders in various industries to discover young wāhine and tane who are shining in their spheres of influence.
The global superstar
Conversations with Friends' star Sasha Lane may be American-born, but we are claiming the beautiful and talented wahine as a Kiwi and we know she won't mind. The actress, who originates from Houston, Texas, is of Māori heritage. Her mum, from Taumarunui, married an African American man with whom she had two children but the pair split and she stayed in the US to raise Lane and her brother.
As her star has ascended, so has Lane's interest in finding out more about her heritage in Aoteoroa. A fern tattoo on her back represented her dream to visit Aotearoa. She visited in 2020 and while she was in Wellington an aunt gave Lane her first pounamu which, she told her more than 150,000 followers, had her melting.
Lane made her film debut with Shia LaBeouf in the Cannes Prix du Jury award-winning American Honey in 2016. She was discovered sunbathing during a spring break in Florida by the movie's writer and Oscar-winning director, Andrea Arnold. Overnight, Lane was in demand. She modelled for Louis Vuitton and appeared on the cover of Teen Vogue, all while battling mental illness.
Lane then starred in Hearts Beat Loud and was also in the grand jury prizewinner at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, The Miseducation of Cameron Post.
In 2019 she embraced more mainstream fare, playing Alice Monaghan in Hellboy, then in 2020 - the same year she welcomed her daughter, Aster Cairo - she starred in an episode of Amazing Stories, executive-produced by Steven Spielberg. Wider audiences followed with the American remake of British thriller Utopia, followed by a role in the Marvel series Loki.
Many talented American directors have been attracted by Lane's exotic look, but it's her attitude and staunch independent movies that make her an absolute stand-out star on the rise globally. She is winning global acclaim this year with countless magazine covers celebrating her role as Bobbi in the television adaptation of Irish writer Sally Rooney's best-selling first novel, Conversations with Friends, currently screening on Amazon Prime Video.
The handsome leading man
Some may argue that the star of Vinnie Bennett (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi) has been rising slowly over the past decade, at least in New Zealand. Now it's shining internationally.
The 29-year-old Christchurch-born actor's work has been diverse, with local roles in the television series Filthy Rich, The Gulf and Kura. Overseas, he's had roles in Paramount's Ghost In The Shell, MTV's fantasy series The Shannara Chronicles and BBC America's Tatau.
But he got his biggest break last year in Fast & Furious 9. In the Justin Lin-directed blockbuster, Bennett played the young Dom (Vin Diesel's character) and turned Hollywood heads.
The Canadians first spotted his international ascent - in 2017 Bennett was named Rising Star for his performance in the feature film Human Traces, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.
Kiwis can now see Bennett in Whina, the biopic of trailblazing Māori leader Dame Whina Cooper, where he plays her second husband, William Cooper alongside a stunning performance from Head High star Miriama McDowell as young Whina.
This week, Bennett will be back on TVNZ+ as Beau, the young, laidback hearse driver at the Loving Tributes Funeral Home in the second season of Good Grief, the funeral comedy created by and starring sisters Grace and Eve Palmer.
NZ's fastest woman
Turning heads in the world of athletics, is Auckland-based track star Zoe Hobbs (Ngāti Ruahine). The 24-year-old sprinter, who was raised in Taranaki, will be making her Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham later this year. She appeared in the 100m at the 2019 World Championships and earlier this year set an Oceania 60m indoor record of 7.13 secs and placed 11th in the women's 60m at the World Athletics' Indoor Championships in Belgrade.
Hobbs continues to smash it on the track, placing sixth last Sunday at her first Diamond League in Paris. Her 100m time of 11.10 secs was just .01 sec outside her personal best. She solidified her position as New Zealand's fastest woman, breaking the 100m New Zealand and Oceania all-time records within the past year.
Next month, Hobbs will be in the US to contest the World Athletics' Championships in Oregon. Her consistent form makes her one to watch at the Commonwealth Games in August, with pundits signalling she's a medal hope.
Sponsors are also paying attention to the speed and appeal of the sports star, who has an association with New Balance and a rising following on Instagram.
Hobbs has become a role model for young sprinters and Māori athletes, backed by her mum, Dorothy, and dad, Grant, who have travelled the world supporting the wahine toa on her quest for sporting glory.
TVNZ's Tāmati Rimene-Sproat (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne and Ngāti Hāmua, Ngāti Hinewaka) is the fastest-rising star at the network.
He started out on TVNZ's Māori news show Te Karere and later become a reporter with Seven Sharp, where his humour and goofiness, mixed with a genuine empathy, made him a stand-out, as did his distinguished moustache.
The up-for-anything journalist was painted for the NZ Body Painting Art Show and tried his hand at becoming a cadet firefighter.
But for the past two years, the 29-year-old has enjoyed showing off a more serious side, reporting for current affairs show Sunday. Over the last few weeks, Rimene-Sproat has shone as the host of TVNZ 1's Hongi To Hāngī: and everything in between, which shares insights into tikanga Māori customs and protocols.
His lighter side came out again on Friday night, when he appeared on TVNZ 2's special edition of Give Us a Clue.
The artisan of kaimoana
Seventh-generation Chatham Islander Delwyn Tuanui (Ngāti Mutunga) is the owner of the Chatham Island Food Co. His kaimoana is devoured in fine restaurants in Aotearoa and beyond.
Coming from a long line of island farmers and fishermen, Tuanui had a lightbulb moment while serving Chatham Island blue cod to his mates from Marcus Oldham Agricultural College in Victoria, Australia. While still at uni, he started delivering fish in the early hours of the morning to Melbourne's top restaurants.
Challenging times on his third-generation family farm back home and the costs of getting product to market sparked Tuanui's lightbulb moment to grow his burgeoning business. Eight years ago, he and wife Gigi moved back to the island and bought a fish processing plant. Since then, the team at CIFC have focused on making their wide array of kaimoana available to Kiwis across New Zealand through their online store, as well as exporting worldwide.
Celebrity chef and owner of Ahi restaurant Ben Bayly is a huge fan of Tuanui and his team and will celebrate the success story of the modern Māori business, connecting with their genealogy and adapting to a new world, in his second series of A New Zealand Food Story.
Tuanui was in Auckland on Tuesday night for the Outstanding Food Producer Awards where CIFC won gold medals for their Pure Pāua Mince, Chatham Blue and Pāua Pies. CIFC also took out the Supreme Award that evening and we are told they are the first Māori producer to win.
Radio star ascending
Flava's Azura Lane (Ngāpuhi) is not just a rising radio star, she is also about to become a knockout in the boxing ring.
Lane grew up in Pukekohe and arrived at Flava - which is owned by the Herald on Sunday's parent company, NZME - as an intern in 2017 from the Christchurch Broadcasting School. She is now the host of the popular weekday drive show from 2pm-7pm.
Listeners are tuning in for her fantastic sense of humour, and confidence, as well as the fact she oozes kindness and fun.
This year, the 24-year-old burst on to the influencer and ambassador scene with huge engagement results. She has done campaigns for TVNZ, Primo, Live Nation, New World, London Lonsdale and Endometriosis Awareness Month. She was particularly passionate about a campaign called That's Us, supporting rangatahi in making informed decisions about getting the Covid-19 vaccine.
Over eight weeks, Lane will be taking part in Boxing Alley's Fit-to-Fight challenge, training as a boxer and raising funds for people affected by leukaemia and other blood cancers, following her father's lymphoma diagnosis this year. She will put everything to the test in a final body-sparring event in September and is raising awareness and funds through a Givealittle page.
Lane is passionate about becoming more fluent in te reo and is loving her journey, embracing the language and the deeper cultural lessons that accompany it.
Cheers te Pā
Haysley MacDonald (Rangitāne, Ngāi Tahu) is the founder and owner of te Pā wines.
MacDonald first planted vines in 2003 on a precious piece of land on the Wairau Bar, in Marlborough, where his ancestors have worked for generations. The land is the backbone of MacDonald's family, who trace their lineage to the Māori explorers who first landed there 800 years ago. The generations of whānau ensure everything te Pā does is full of love, care and respect.
The te Pā logo is the traditional Māori fishhook, Hei Matau, which is considered taonga, the revered symbol of life source and strength, reflecting their connection to the land and the water surrounding it.
Loved by critics and customers alike, te Pā's award-winning wines, such as Koha Pinot Noir and Pā Road Sauvignon Blanc have become part of any sommelier's vernacular. With a little more than 21 years of growing grapes, this winery is a rising star in the ancient story that is viticulture.
Politician to watch
Political pundits say Rotorua politician Tania Tapsell (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Whakaue) is one to watch. She stood for National for the East Coast seat in 2020 and lost to Labour's Kiri Allan by more than 4000 votes.
She said at the time she was surprised and hurt to be beaten, but it has heartened her to know that Allan previously featured on a Spy "one to watch" list.
A Rotorua district councillor, in May Tapsell entered the race for the Rotorua mayoralty with a promise to focus on stopping the spend.
Politics is in the blood - she's the great-niece of the late Labour Speaker of the House Sir Peter Tapsell, who must have inspired her from a young age.
At 14, she served on Rotorua's youth council and in 2010, she was selected by National MP Todd McCLay to represent him at the New Zealand Youth Parliament.
At 21, she was the youngest councillor ever elected at the time. In 2016 and 2019 she was re-elected as the highest-polling candidate, attracting almost 1000 more votes than re-elected mayor Steve Chadwick.
If successful, Tapsell, 29, would be the first Māori woman elected Mayor of Rotorua and possibly the youngest.
The inspirational influencer
Mīria Flavell (Ngāti Rangiwewehi) influences on many levels. The daughter of former Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell grew up with a love of performing arts that saw her attend film and television school in Auckland.
She worked in the film and TV industry for years but other skills learned in school - directing, producing, fashion and makeup artistry - helped her become a true entrepreneur.
Seven years ago, Flavell started creating makeup tutorials on YouTube and Facebook, delighting fans with her use of te reo.
In 2018, the mother-of-two saw a gap in the fitness clothing industry and launched Hine Collection, a women's activewear brand catering for women of all sizes.
She also has a supplement company called LVL-UP, owns a functional fitness gym based in Hamilton called The Movement NZ and a podcast, The Social Miria.
Flavell has seen the ups and downs of business and is all the more successful for it.
Fashion leader and teacher
Bobby Campbell Wahawaha Luke (Ngāti Ruanui) has a Māori womenswear label, Campbell Luke, and is a Māori design lecturer at Wellington Faculty of Architecture and Design Innovation at Victoria University.
This week, Commercial Bay's Nook was converted into an exhibition space for Luke as part of Whānau Mārama, its second exhibition celebrating contemporary Māori artists over Matariki.
Luke first came to the mainstream fashion world's attention at New Zealand Fashion Week. He debuted in the New Generation Show and competed in Miromoda, the Indigenous Māori Fashion Apparel Board's competition at which top designers show on the runway.
Luke inserts aspects of his Māori heritage into his garments, and his work with natural fibres is inspired.
WgtnFADI describes Luke as part of the fresh vanguard of fashion designers and researchers who demonstrate decolonial constructs of Western fashion, emphasising an authentic indigenous lens.
One respected fashion insider described a Campbell Luke catwalk show as thought-provoking, beautiful and most importantly, wearable.
He is inspired by his iwi and hapū and the landscape of Aotearoa. He is the perfect Matariki star to enjoy, wear and learn from.
Paige Tapara (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) is a songstress on the rise, with great anticipation for her new album. In 2020, the 24-year-old was a finalist in the Breakthrough Artist category at the Aotearoa Music Awards for her EP Always Growing. She has said if she ever won a Grammy, she'd accept it in te reo Māori.
The singer-songwriter has admitted she doesn't know as much te reo as she'd like but that didn't stop her from releasing the beautiful single Taiāniwha/Waves in te reo last year.
She was one of more than a dozen New Zealand artists who joined forces and re-recorded singles in te reo for Waiata Anthems Week.
Tapara first started uploading her covers under Paige's Space on YouTube when she was 12 and has now uploaded more than 100 covers and original songs, some of which have caught the attention of stars like Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Ruby Rose.
Her voice and style have been described as groovy, funky RnB, able to fit into a variety of genres. Tapara, who smashes it at summer festivals, has collaborated with fellow Kiwis Balu Brigada and JessB and opened for Six60 and Drax Project and visiting acts Nina Nesbitt and George Ezra.
Activist and future leader
Qiane Matata-Sipu (Te Waiohua ki te Ahiwaru me te Ākitai, Waikato, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Pikiao, Cook Islands) is celebrated by many for her activism and photography and is seen as a future leader, standing up for many issues in the community.
She has spent more than a decade working in documentary-making, writing and photography and became increasingly aware of the lack of diversity in many areas.
She's the founder and creator of Nuku, which profiles 100 indigenous women through photography, podcast, video, live events and a self-published book, which has become a top seller.
Matata-Sipu became well known as the co-founder of The Protect Ihumātao -SOUL campaign, led by mana whenua members whose families have resided in Ihumātao for many generations. For several years they have protested to prevent the destruction of one of the few significant and unique historical, cultural, spiritual, social and environmental spaces they have left in Auckland.
Matata-Sipu was the winner in the Arts and Culture section of the 2021 Women of Influence Awards. In her endeavours, Matata-Sipu creates positive impacts for people, most especially for wāhine.