Conquering 'gay boy' school yard taunts to carve out career as hair, beauty stylist to the stars
The way Donald Hollingsworth tells it, he left his mother's womb doing a pirouette and "Liberace flamboyant", that it was preordained he was a child born to be gay.
From infancy he's never hidden the way his genetics are aligned, or that alignment's consequences.
Throughout school he was branded a "poof", bullied, "faggot" was repeatedly sprayed on to his locker, he was "dealt to" in the toilets. The one time he complained the teacher was dismissive - the torments continued.
Although he didn't fit the Rotorua early 1980s norm he was confident in his own skin, rolling with the verbal and physical punches. Prejudice dogged him into adulthood.
"Obviously I've survived."
Now approaching 50, Donald's clocked up an international career few, if any, of his early detractors can lay claim to.
Drop a big name star and chances are he's had a hand in making them even more beautiful or rubbed shoulders with them.
His work's appeared in Vogue and he's contributed to the Australian Book of Etiquette.
There've been visits to Moscow, New York and Hollywood.
"Not bad, eh, for a gay kid from Ngongotahā?"
Settled back where his life began, Donald Hollingsworth is very different from the very different Donald who turned his back on his home town in his late teens.
"I walked out of school at 15 because I was tired of looking over my shoulder. I sat at home with my mother fixated on TV, my father said 'it's time you stopped watching Oprah, get a trade'."
Donald obeyed, school holiday work in a hairdresser's was the perfect pathway to an apprenticeship with Christine Miller's Cut 'N Curl Arawa St salon.
"She made me feel safe. If anyone said 'I'm not going to let that faggot touch my hair' she'd tell them 'there's no place for you here'."
Local clubs became his down-time safe houses. Passionate about music, he was 17 when he convinced a sceptical Angus Inn manager to let him become resident DJ. It became Rotorua's "in place".
By then Donald had a physical advantage over the mud slingers.
"I was 6 foot 4 inches tall [1.92cm], solid, people weren't so keen to take me on."
Out of his apprenticeship he moved to Auckland confident he'd walk into a top salon.
"They laughed, told me to get more experience. I was used to rejection but had ambition, so kept on learning until Chagall took me on. At the time Metro [magazine] ranked it Auckland's number one salon."
By 21 he was in Sydney. "I flourished, learned to do make up professionally, worked in a Darlinghurst salon, there were clubs everywhere. I loved seeing all these happy gays." He coupled up with one, bought his first salon.
His introduction to the celebrity world came when a client asked him to prepare the Backstreet Boys (American vocal group) for their Sydney gig.
They took him on their Black and Blue world tour.
"You name it, we went there. My job was to make them look fabulous when they stepped off the Sultan of Brunei's plane - that's hard after going against and with time zones."
Back in the real world Donald sold his Sydney salon, returning to Auckland for Fashion Week.
"There was so much going on here in fashion and make up, Karen Walker [designer] suggested I go freelance. I soon learned the secret language of modelling agencies, fashion editors, photographers, the work kept coming. I've never sat back waiting for things to happen."
Māori TV signed him on as its stylist. "I was there six years, loved the work and was still freelancing."
In 2005 he met photographer Andre Jewell.
"One of the world's top hundred commercial photographers. He took me to China for a Head & Shoulders shoot, it's the number one shampoo in China - there's a lot of dandruff in China."
Work in China kept coming. "My partner felt abandoned, I left him, it was all about my career."
Home, work with Māori TV resumed, other assignments were plentiful. "I was making good money. I've always loved Coco Chanel so I did what she did, took an apartment in a hotel, l loved that lifestyle."
The Lord of the Rings New Zealand premier was looming, Karen Walker recommended Donald to superstar Liv Tyler.
"That was very exciting, she was fabulous. We had to keep it secret she was pregnant, in my job you have to be very discreet; some of the stuff you know, well ... "
Donald doesn't lay claim to being a movie make-up artist: "I get people camera-ready."
He talks excitedly about meeting Andy Serkis (Gollum) and calls Sir Peter Jackson "a lovely person".
Another knight, renowned gay Sir Ian McKellen (wizard Gandalf), took a shine to him. "He asked me back to his room, he just wanted to flirt with me."
"Orlando Bloom was stunning. I was so in awe of his beauty I tripped up, my makeup kit went flying, there he was down on his knees helping me pick things up. It's times like this you realise stars are real people too."
With the Rings excitement over and no partner Donald became "a little bit lost", returning to Sydney.
With the aim of breaking into TV he marked time in a barber's shop "with a lot of straight men, great guys and really good to me" until Channel 9 called him up.
"I learned viewers like continuity, consistency, they become distracted if presenters change their hair cut, its colour."
He learned to train hairdressers. "Sydney was getting so expensive I needed a second job so I could have a life."
When an aunt became ill he returned home, he'd been gone 12 years. "Before that I didn't want to come back because of the prejudice here."
His mother's cancer diagnosis set the seal on his remaining.
He become involved in Ngāpuhi whānau Treaty settlements, had a stint as a bank concierge then managed a local hairdresser's.
Early this year he opened Mai Salon.
"I got the keys on my birthday, January 31, it's gone from strength to strength. Coming back as someone who's achieved success proves to those who scoffed at me I may be gay but I'm a real person who grew up in a small town, embraced rejection and have thrived."
Born: Rotorua, 1970
Education: Ngongotaha Primary, Kaitao Intermediate, Western Heights High
Family: Father Kevin Hollingsworth (deceased), mother Patricia Hollingsworth, two brothers, sister, "65 cuzzies"
Iwi affiliations: Ngāpuhi (mother), Scottish (father's side)
Interests: My salon - "I treat clients as guests. I'm relaunching on September 1 as a colour specialist." Fashion, design, beauty, photography, music
On his life: "I'm grateful for the life I've led, it's been authentic, honest."
On Rotorua: "It's the most stunning place, the lakes, the forests, I love the frosty mornings"
Personal philosophy: "Never give up"
The now and then of being gay:
"We can get married now, we're not as hidden, misunderstood ... there's still bullying, the internet is a world where hatred is prevalent, that can destroy a gay man's confidence."