"If you wrote a book about my life it would be this big."
Krissie Knap extends her arms as wide as what's now accepted as social distancing. That, we tell her, would make it a very big book but then everything about Krissie's big – and she's proud of it.
Her body is the antithesis of svelte, her trademark singing voice and laugh that's set on continuous replay are super-powered. The sum of these parts is wrapped in an eiderdown of aroha, people are her passion.
Before there's an outcry about us drawing attention to Knap's body shape she's ordered us not to pussyfoot about it, insisting she'd be mighty offended if we held back.
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"It's me, it doesn't matter how many kilos I am, people love me because I'm upfront about my weight, I know my body, it's fit and healthy."
There was a time when Knap's kilo count did take a tumble. Keep it in sequence, not easy with one as chatty as Knap.
Anyone who saw her in the recent homegrown production 8 Scott Ave, the Musical, will recognise her as the larger-than-life Aunty Lovie.
If you missed the sold-out show there've been plenty of other places to reacquaint ourselves with Knap over recent years. After time across the Tasman she bounced back to her birthplace in 2014. Since then there've been numerous gigs with local bands, she sang at Smear Your Mea events promoting the late Talei Morrison's anti-cancer message, performed at the previous two Lakesides, the Seafood Festival and MC'd the recent Te Arawa kapa haka regional finals.
She's using lockdown to bring Saturday night soul sessions to the world from her lounge. That's no exaggeration; feedback has come from across the globe for her Facebook #Raise The Vibration live video, also streamed on the Aronui Arts Festival web page.
This is the latest phase of Knap's Rotorua performing days. The first began when she dueted with Sir Howard Morrison at Rotorua Intermediate.
"Uncle Sid Yates was my teacher, he got me up on stage, so I guess that's where things kicked off."
To Knap, everyone senior to her is uncle or aunty.
"That's why I was so happy playing Aunty Lovie, I really identified with the other aunties and the songs because that was my growing-up era [the 70s]."
At intermediate and girls' high she was in the Māori Club.
"It wasn't known as kapa haka then."
As a 14-year-old she performed with Leola Hayes' cultural group at Tamatekapua then joined John and the late Maureen Waaka performing at the International Hotel (now the Holiday Inn) and was in the Tūhourangi-Ngāti Wahiao team competing at Polynesian Festivals before they became Te Matatini.
"I was 18 when Aunty Maureen and Uncle John took seven of us to the Texas State Fair. I'll never forget the reverence when the American national anthem was sung. You could hear a pin drop, it was incredibly moving."
Kapa haka apart, her teenage years were spent on the city's netball courts playing for City League.
"My mother, Karen Knap, was one of Rotorua's great netball players, I was in the reps from 1983-86 and in the under-14s that went to Sydney for the state champs. We only lost by one point, that was pretty cool."
From school, she took a Waiariki Polytech retailing course.
"I went to Wellington and became a Woolworths checkout chick but was soon home because I missed my man."
That man was Duane Fraser who died at age 21, stabbed in Christchurch while stationed at nearby Burnham military camp.
"I named my beautiful daughter Krisuane, a combination of my name and Duane's but he wasn't her father."
By then Knap was performing regularly at Tudor Towers.
"I was working in the kitchen when one of the Kairo [band] guys dragged me out saying 'this is the mic'. I sang the Everly Brothers' Bye Bye Love, then went on to win Tudor Towers talent quest with Car Wash, that's my claim to fame."
In the early 90s Rim D Paul (Our People, June 10, 2013) selected Knap for the National Māori Choir, touring nationally and in Australia.
"We opened the Kiwi Club in Sydney, singing with all the top Māori performers like Rotorua's Eddie Low, it was amazing."
When New Zealand legalised civil unions for same-sex couples Knap "wed" her partner.
"We'd been together 13 years but our marriage only lasted three months."
Smarting from the breakup, Knap returned to Australia where she worked aross the country from Perth to Sydney, the Gold Coast and inland to the mining town of Moranbah, 230km west of Mackay.
"I'd had all sorts of jobs including a bacon factory. In Moranbah, I was in the community hall's kitchen then a food bar. I bought myself a little sound system, did some gigs then moved to Cairns, singing in clubs."
Her day job was working with indigenous people in aged care.
"There were Aboriginals, Torres Islanders, a few Kiwis, it was wonderful, I learned so much about these people, their culture."
Knap drops in one of her oh-so-Knap-isms:
"I live by the wind, when the wind calls I need to go, that's when I moved back home. Three of my relatives were seriously ill, when I came back they got better. I slipped right back into the local setting as if I'd never been away."
She joined her cousin Timohau Palmer at the Outlaw Bar before transferring to Ponsonby Rd.
"I started as a hostess, became manager. Leaving was the hardest decision I'd ever made but it was for health reasons.
"I went on my 'Phatt' journey, lost heaps of weight down to 86kg from 145.5kg. I was focused because my daughter and I were going to the US to see relations and I wanted to fit into the plane seat properly."
Her weight's crept up since then, which takes us back to where Knap's story started.
Until Covid-19 intervened her latest job has been inspecting rental properties.
"Most people respect their whare, they know how hard it is to get another."
What of the future? "We're hoping for a third 8 Scott Ave season, possibly out of town, if not maybe Auntie Lovie can be developed into a one-woman show.
"When they make the forever pill I want two. I'm going to stay here as long as I can because there are far too many people to help, look after and entertain."
About Krissy (Kristene) Knap
Born: Rotorua, 1969. "On Christmas Eve, I say I'm a day older than Jesus."
Education: Otonga Primary, Rotorua Intermediate, Girls' High, Waiariki Polytech
Family: Father Michael Hill "not the jeweller, my dad was from Murupara". Mother Karen Knap, daughter Krisuane Terina Knap, four moko
Iwi Affiliations: Ngati Ngararanui (Waiteti), Te Arawa, Ngai te Rangi. Ngati Ranginui, Ngati Manawa
Interests: Family, music, people. "Music is my world, I love people. It doesn't matter if their pockets are empty or they have $10 million, they're just human."
On her life: "Blessed with gifts from heaven."
On Rotorua: "It's home."
Personal philosophy: "When people stop talking about me I'm doing something wrong."