Ruby Tui has always been a passionate and curious traveller, and says her joint Samoan/Palagi heritage has given her a unique perspective on bridging cultures.
She wrote about it at length in her autobiography, Straight Up – which was such a massive hit that it was the bestselling book of 2022. “Obviously being from two cultures myself and trying my absolute best to bridge that gap of understanding, travel has led me to experience lots of other cultures all over the world,” she says.
“I think for us Kiwis and Aussies especially, at the corner of the world, travel has even more of an effect. It’s just so different out there. It’s an important part of life, getting you to think outside the box and change your perspective. It can be scary but on the other side of fear lies growth.
“A lot of people ask me ‘How do you get mentally tougher?’ And travel, to me, is such an easy answer.”
Tui is in hot demand these days, including as an ambassador for ALL – Accor Live Limitless, the hotel group’s free loyalty programme. Life is a great, glorious adventure – and the rugby superhero has just returned from the United States, where she took up the first ever playing sabbatical in women’s rugby with Premier Rugby Sevens, a men’s and women’s tournament with equal pay.
Her calendar is packed: greeting fans, commentating, speaking engagments, her work with charities – and of course, rugby.
“Honestly, I’m so grateful for all the work I get to do,” Tui says, reflecting on the years since she started playing Sevens at the University of Canterbury in 2010. “It just blows my mind every day and motivates me to keep on this waka and keep going.”
Tui, now known around the world for her natural charisma and leadership, is a gold and silver Olympian, the 2017 Sevens Player of the Year, and 2019 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, helped the Black Ferns to their win in the 2021 Rugby World Cup and the World Rugby 15s breakthrough player of the year.
She has a media and communications degree, and indeed her natural talent for connection has made her a sought-after commentator, speaker and spokesperson. She’s passionate about mental health and promoting healthy environments for Kiwi kids.
In 2022, that mix of talents led to her becoming an ALL ambassador, the first New Zealand ambassador for ALL, and a natural fit for the company.
However, for Tui, it was Accor’s “real commitment to women’s sport” that was the deciding factor in partnering with them.
“The women’s sporting world needs good allies, so I commend them on that,” she says. “I definitely don’t sign up to be an ambassador for anything that I don’t believe in and where I don’t think our values align.”
The ambassadorship means Tui is able to stay at Accor’s 45 properties around New Zealand or 5100 internationally. She’s found it takes away a lot of travel stress and helps her to consistently perform at such a high level.
“I never have to worry about ‘Should I go here, will I be okay?’” she says. “No matter what day of the week it is, what country it is, they always seems to come through.
“Sometimes in travel you have rough days, lose your passport or whatever, but when you come back to the hotel that remembers your name and gives you a cute little welcome drink, it makes it all feel better. It’s like having mates all over the world you can go and stay with.”
Her life is still a big buzz for her. She recalls the days when women’s rugby was an afterthought, unpaid, unsupported – “the curtain-raiser”. She has not only witnessed the blistering change in it becoming the main event, but has also been a big part of creating that.
“We need allies in women’s sport,” she says. “And since I started a lot of people have really stood up for it and said ‘This is what we want to sponsor’. I am so happy that businesses have clicked on to that and are supporting it – and it’s actually a good, smart business decision.”
She’s noticed that increased respect helping change young boys’ attitudes, too: “One of the coolest things I find when I go to school visits is that it’s probably more young boys who come up and want selfies and signatures,” she says. “There’s been a huge shift in our society.
“I try and explain that to other demographics, but until you come and you see how many young boys look up to us, it’s actually crazy. And I can’t wait to see the effect that has on society as a whole.”
Indeed, fans are so important to her that she’ll do signings for five hours until she’s met everyone – and she wishes she could do more to thank those who’ve made her extraordinary world possible.
“When we sell out Eden Park, I wish I could shake 40,000 hands and just say ‘Thank you’.”
For more information: all.com