Entertainer Luke Bird pops up in many guises, from MC to TV extra to talent judge to being co-host on popular TV show Sidewalk Karaoke. Lindy Laird catches up with the 6ft 5 in exclamation mark who calls himself The BIRDMAN.
You've been flying high so you're home to roost for a while?
I tell ya, my wings are flapping like you wouldn't believe and home is definitely where I like to fluff up my feathers and rejuvenate. Although I travel a lot for my work, Whangārei is always home, my very own nest and the best place for me to relax, reflect, refuel and reboot. This year already I've travelled to London, Paris, Melbourne, Rarotonga and all over NZ to perform and MC.
You've been busy on everything from Melbourne Cup Fashion Week for Trelise Cooper to gag-show The Funny Whare. I know you are discreet, can you share some inside skinny? Which of those two shows was really the funniest, the gaggiest?
People say I'm so lucky to get to work in such an industry but they don't see the enormous amount of work behind the scenes and the amount of work I had to create eight years prior to even getting a look in. So everything I say yes to or put my hand up for, I 100 per cent do it with the intention that it's going to be bloody amazeballs. To be contacted by one of NZ fashion's royalty, Trelise Cooper, to host her fashion event was truly awesome and what an incredible woman! Now we're fab friends so putting yourself forward and sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone does have it's advantages. Am I answering the question? Funny Whare was a lot of fun to work on.
NZ fashion rocks, yeah, nah? Would you like to share, dear?
Holy kapow, yes, yes friggin yes! I love fashion and I love NZ Fashion. Fashion is not about the who or what, it's how you create style by showcasing your personality. We have some boom shakalaka designers and emerging designers in Aotearoa and I love that I get to be part of it. Why would you not want to be?
Do you ever encounter the tall-poppy effect or haters?
Simple answer, yes. Tall poppies and online haters are like crickets or keyboard warriors — they're full of noise but as soon as you're in front of them, they're silent. I've learnt a lot about myself and how my personality adds to how I work as an entertainer. A friend sent me this quote I stick by: A lion never loses sleep over the opinion of a sheep. How you perceive me and what I do is no issue of mine, but yours alone.
Now, Luvvie, tell us all about Gay Ski Week QT and the Drag Race at the Remarkables. I'm never piste myself, of course, so I'm not up with what's going down on the slopes. What is it exactly you judge?
Hahahaa. Like in Vegas, what happens at Gay Ski Week stays at Gay Ski Week. This is my third year hosting the extremely popular event, the biggest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It attracts people from all over the world and some have been bringing their friends and families since it started over a decade ago. For the Drag Race, I host and judge the competition which is a huge slop of semi-pro skiers dressed in their best drag to ski as fast as they can down the Remarkables without losing a nail. Honestly, seeing is believing.
In 2016 you were Express Magazine's NZ Hottie of the Month and in 2017 named the mag's Style Icon.
Yes, the BIRDMAN was August Hottie of the Month for Express Magazine 2016. When I was contacted about it I was a little OMG, WTF! as I've never thought of myself as 'hot' so it was nice. But it also was to celebrate all I do and showcasing that being hot is about being true to yourself. Yes, in 2017 I was announced as a style icon for Express Magazine but that was more of a validation that I'm genuinely making a splash in the industry of entertainment, media and fashion.
Has the Far North got talent or is that a stupid question?
Of course we do. Last year I was asked to host alongside the amazing Miss Kihi the 2017 Far North's Got Talent and, holy sissy boom boom, the talent was another level of WOW! Now we've been asked to host the 2018 event alongside some of NZ's top music and entertainment judges. I can't give too much away but let's just say that it'll be huge.
Hand on heart stuff, the national anthem at the netball and NRL games — does it irk you how whimpy the crowd sings the Māori verses, then all join in for the English?
Aw, bless you. To be honest, my job is to entertain, but when it comes to being invited to perform not only your own country's national anthem but also the anthems of other countries, it's a huge honour and huge commitment to create the wow for not only yourself, but for the nation you're representing. And, believe me, I'm not worrying about anyone but myself and the soundman when I'm out there.
What shenanigans do you get up to at half-time?
We (crew, producers and team) have a lot of fun. There's a lot of preparation behind the scenes the public would have no inkling about — rehearsals, meetings, technical rehearsals in stadiums, music writing, timings, sound, staging, but all in all we have a lot of fun. Yes we go out, yes we sing around the stadium and dressing rooms and sometimes we have the catering team saying 'oh, it's you lot again', but fun is the priority. I guess that's why I get asked back.
What are those netball girls like?
They are truly awesome. The Silver Ferns are brilliant, so athletic but really down to earth. The Aussie Diamonds are some of my faves. They've personally invited me back several times to perform their anthem.
Does your mum Sharon, or MammaBIRD, who is a great sports fan, come along with you?
I'm not a big sports fanatic myself but Mum loves it. MammaBIRD is always the first person I invite to performances, premieres, events, international performances. A couple years ago I was invited to perform in China at the Hainan Music and Film Festival. MammaBIRD was also invited and she was not saying no to that trip. I'm truly grateful I can share my work with people I love.
You're looking trim, slim and fantastic so how much danger was there in being a guest judge on Whanau Bake Off?
Guest judging on the baking show was awesome. Hard to not want to eat everything produced, but I have a hardcore amazing personal trainer Curtis at Activ8 Northland who has literally helped transform my body, so I always have him on my mind, dammit! I trained as a chef for two years after graduating high school so I do have the credentials to judge a cooking show and I also have experience in eating.
You do a lot of work on Maori Television and now you're one of their #1 TV hosts, presenting Sidewalk Karaoke. How did this come about?
Maori Television has been at the top of the game for a long time and I'm very grateful to be involved with a network who truly gets it. I was approached by a producer to audition as a host for a dance show called The Stage. I couldn't make the audition date so I sent a video instead. Long story short, they were blown away by my larger-than-life personality and my experience in stage work. The rest is history, this opened many doors. This is my second season co-hosting Sidewalk Karaoke and that all came about because the host at the time fell ill two hours before filming. I got the call to fill in. I was offered a fulltime presenting role because of my performance that day, and now we are one of the top three reality shows in NZ. We were nominated for Best Reality TV Series at the 2017 New Zealand Television awards. We beat The Block and The Real Housewives [of Auckland] so we're pretty chuffed about how far our show has come, and it's the only show of its kind in Australasia. In season three we travelled all over the North Island. We did two Northland locations, the Ngapuhi Festival and at the Whangarei Town Basin.
Well, I'm exhausted, but I don't suppose we've covered half of it. What else is lined up?
We can go on and on and on but then I'd be giving away too many things. I've been asked to perform in Rarotonga so that's exciting. Last year I was the face of Fly Buys and that's being rolled out again for another year. I launched my BIRDwatcher Activewear in winter 2017 and there's more coming out soon. I'm filming a pilot for a new reality TV series but I can't say anything other than it's going to give you more insight into what happens in my world. I've hosted Fritter Festival and Relay for Life again, and I'm doing Far North's Got Talent and Colour Splash 2018 later in the year.
■ Sidewalk Karaoke airs Thursdays, 8.30pm Maori TV.