It's going to be a big weekend for entertainer Suzy Cato with two big events to cover — and she's hoping to get lots of support from Northland for one of them.
Cato grew up in Kaikohe, doing all her schooling there, and is best known as the host of several New Zealand children's television programmes, most notably Suzy's World and You and Me.
These days she's a busy mum of two, has a radio show that runs on 22 stations across the country and runs a YouTube channel focused on children, as well as her other media work.
Cato is a finalist in the NZ Children's Music Awards — a finalist for Best NZ Children's Song Sprinkle A Little Sunshine with co-writer Kath Bee.
Cato was also instrumental in setting up the Kiwi Kids Music Collective, which now has more than 70 members, including the likes of Anika Moa.
"So to be up there with people like that is a huge honour," she says.
Oh, and there's also that little thing called Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) she is taking part in which leads her to practice twice a day, sometimes going as late as 11pm.
Shortly after MCing and appearing at the NZ Children's Music Awards tomorrow, she'll be off to the Three television studio to record the next episode of DWTS. She just couldn't reveal this week what dance she will be performing.
"I have to keep it secret so it's nice to surprise the audience."
It's not surprising she's feeling a bit weary after all the dance practice on top of her other work and commitments, but she's loving it.
I had to tell Cato that one of my colleagues, who grew up watching her on TV and can recite most of the songs from her show, was excited when it was announced Cato would be on DWTS, but was horrified when she saw the DWTS trailer.
The colleague said the trailer, where Cato barges through a crowd on a smoky dancefloor with a mean stare and throws some mean shapes on the dancefloor, shattered her childhood memories of the presenter who always seemed so lovely.
"It's what the producers wanted. If I'm going to do hip hop [dancing] then I've got to look the part. I was 50:50 whether people would like it or think "what does she think she's doing?". I hope your colleague has recovered from the shock — give her a big hug from me."
I then inform Cato that the colleague has had her faith restored after seeing Cato burn up the dancefloor on Monday's DWTS, performing the quick step.
"Oh, that's good."
She was keen to get involved with the show from the second she got the first call, but initially thought it might be in another role.
"I thought I would get a job as a runner for the dancers but, when they said they wanted me on the show, I got excited. I was almost hyper-ventilating. But I knew, from knowing Simon Barnett, how much work is needed to do this well, so I knew it wouldn't be easy.
"At the moment I get to dance practice from about 1pm to 3pm, then get home to pick up my daughter from the bus, then in the evenings do the normal household stuff, dinners, tidying up etc, then from 8pm to 10pm it's back dancing . . . though that can go till 11pm too sometimes.
"The more you put into this the better you do, but Matt and I are very good at distracting each other."
Cato confesses that, while she loves a good boogie, DWTS is throwing up some new challenges.
For one, she found it hard to get close to her dancing partner on the show, Matt Tatton-Brown.
"I like my personal space so he had to coax me into getting close enough to dance. I love to dance, but I don't just shimmy up to somebody on the dance floor.
"We'd do some practice and say 'that's great, but next time can we be a bit closer', then after the next one he'd say the same. And the holds. I'm not comfortable being held in another man's arms.
"And the lifts. Heights are not my thing, and I had to put my trust in him that he wouldn't drop me, but I'm just lucky to have such a great dancing partner.
"We have such a good time at training and he's just as big a chatterbox as me. I've always had the gift of the gab."
Cato hopes her fellow Northlanders will vote for her — if she keeps her high standards up — but in typical fashion, wants plenty of votes for her dance rivals.
"I really do. I've made 11 great new friends and I don't really want any of them to go."
And with fellow contestant David Seymour originally from Whangarei, she suspects the Northland vote could be split anyway.
"Northland rocks really. I was born in Brisbane to Kiwi parents then came back to NZ when I was a few months old. When I was about five dad was posted to Kaikohe in the old Telecom service and my mum worked in the old telephone exchange up there.
"I did all my schooling in Kaikohe and went to every school there — Kaikohe East, Kaikohe West, Kaikohe Intermediate and Northland College, all without being expelled — we just moved around the town a bit," Cato said.
Northland helped shape her and she still catches up with some of her old schoolmates.
"Though not as often as we'd like.
"I loved the closeness of the Kaikohe community at that stage. Everybody knew everybody else and I made some lifelong friendships. I hope I get a lot of support from Northland. Really it's about supporting the charity [she's dancing for] The Mental Health Foundation. We've all been touched by mental health issues, whether it's us or family members friends and it's so important.
"One in five people will feel the impact of mental illness and I'm honoured to be supporting the foundation."
She says being a finalist in the Children's Music Awards with Bee is another huge honour and she enjoyed the whole process of writing and recording with Bee.
It's her own kids who helped push her into the new venture.
"They are behind me 100 per cent and they pushed me back out there."
Cato did not write the songs for her early children's shows but being a scriptwriter for the old KCC FM in Whangarei after leaving school certainly helped her with writing songs.
"So it's quite a red-letter day for me (tomorrow)."
Dancing With The Stars is on Three at 6pm on Sundays and 7.30pm on Mondays.
Cato is in third place in DWS after the first two episodes with 21 points, behind Jess Quinn with 23 and Samantha Hayes with 22.