Suzanne Paul, Timeline Of A Media Maven

By Emma Gleason
Suzanne Paul and Stefano Oliveri dancing the ChaCha on episode one of Dancing With The Stars. Photo / TVNZ

With her melodic voice, eclectic résumé and indefatigable zest for life, Suzanne Paul is a national treasure.

It’s hard to imagine Kiwi pop culture without her. Paul’s been on New Zealand screens since the late 1980s, and she was in the right place at the right time for the heyday of domestic television. Julie Christie’s Touchdown Productions launched a “barnstorming run of local programming”, explains Kim Knight in her fascinating feature story, and the infomercial icon went from presenting Natural Glow commercials to starring in some of the nation’s most memorable reality shows. Proving she has a sense of humour and is up for anything, her list of cameos is as long as her entrepreneurial endeavours, all of which garnered considerable media coverage.

To celebrate her Viva cover story and our inspiring Autumn Fashion Special shoot by Dan Ahwa and photographer Guy Coombes, we’ve turned on the time machine to take an illuminating look back at all her moments in the spotlight.

1989: Blind Date

New Zealand’s own dating show, produced by TVNZ and boasting a fabulously jazzy intro sequence, Paul was a contestant on the third episode of its first season. It’s the 1980s, her shoulder pads are big, and her name is Susan Barnes. An aspiring “game show hostess” with notes written on her hand, she told presenter Dave Jamieson she wanted “someone who’s well built with a well-built wallet”.

1992: Natural Glow

The infomercials that offered a “radiant”, one-shade solution for women who wanted a quick makeup routine and made Suzanne Paul a household name. From “thousands of luminous spheres” to her warm manner and memorable accent, the marketing for Natural Glow has become a cultural relic in Aotearoa.

1994: ‘Blue Monkey’

Opening with Paul emerging from a classic Black Cab, Paul stumbles upon a rave and begins line dancing to a remix of her own catchphrases. Filmed at Staircase Nightclub on Karangahape Rd, according to local lore some of the backing vocals are by Boh Runga.

1996: Metro

Paul’s debut magazine cover was for Auckland bible Metro, gracing the front of its August issue as “the woman who can sell anything”, she’s interviewed by Jeremy Hansen.

1998: ‘Life Begins at 40′

Returning to the music sphere, Paul releases a single.

1998: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

This quirky local show from Greenstone Pictures saw Paul in the presenter’s seat, alongside co-host Anthony Ray Parker for two seasons. They’d visit a different (allegedly unsuspecting) house each episode with an expert chef in tow, before their mystery guest rolls up in a limousine to join the party. There were appearances from famous Kiwis like Temuera Morrison, Robyn Malcolm, Katrina Devine and the late Kevin Smith.

2000: TV2 commercial

Part of a bevy of high-impact advertising from the station, this TV2 advertisement features Paul getting up a ladder.

2001: Being Eve

It really was a great era for local programming. Smart, surreal teen show Being Eve was ahead of its time and ran for two seasons. It starred Fleur Saville in the titular role and future Hollywood star Jay Ryan (then Bunyan), with Paul making a cameo as “craft queen and life coach” Suzy Sonnenschein.

A very glamorous Suzanne Paul in 2000. Photo / NZMA
A very glamorous Suzanne Paul in 2000. Photo / NZMA

2001: Second Honeymoon

Another romantic reality show for local viewers — a genre that’s enduringly popular if Married at First Sight is anything to go by — this one from Greenstone Pictures gifted Kiwi couples with a second honeymoon, transporting them to steamy locations like Rotorua. Paul was reunited with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? co-star Anthony Ray Parker, while Cherie Penney completed the line-up.

2001-2003: How’s Life

New Zealand’s very own panel show. How’s Life was hosted by the late Charlotte Dawson, and Paul made regular appearances, alongside fellow panelists like Christine Rankin and Paul Henry, to help answer viewers’ quandaries. Agony Aunts meets talkback radio, it was a great product (although a brutal review from The Listener at the time disagreed).

How's Life enlisted local celebrities for its panel. Photo / TVNZ
How's Life enlisted local celebrities for its panel. Photo / TVNZ

2003: Celebrity Treasure Island

A genre-leading show from Touchdown Television and TVNZ, Treasure Island launched in 1997 and from 2001 the venture began to get the star treatment, with several seasons depositing local celebrities on island locales to tough it out. Paul appeared on the second instalment in 2003, heading to Vavaʻu in Tonga alongside Paul Ellis and Greer Robson.

2004: City Celebrity Country Nobody

No footage of this Kiwi reality show exists online, but shreds of evidence of this Touchdown Productions artefact can be found in the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision archive and on the forum It was hosted by Matthew Ridge. Local celebrities including Zinzan Booke, Erika Takacs and, of course, Suzanne Paul, were sent to the West Coast for a competitive rural immersion experience designed to humble and humour.

Suzanne Paul upped sticks to the West Coast for City Celebrity Country Nobody.
Suzanne Paul upped sticks to the West Coast for City Celebrity Country Nobody.

2005: Face Off

A sign you’ve made it in New Zealand — or at least earned household-name status — was being caricatured on satirical sketch show Face Off. An emblem of the times, it brought political cartoons to life via the prosthetic-exaggerated appearances of its subjects. Paul was portrayed by Darlene Mohekey.

2006: Metro

The Auckland magazine granted Paul another honour in 2006, naming her “woman with the most integrity”.

2007: Intrepid Journeys

A local travel show that ran for nine seasons, it sent well-known New Zealanders around the globe. Paul visited Vietnam and China for the show, a trip that coincided with her 50th birthday.

2007: Dancing With The Stars NZ

Possibly the appearance she’s most well-known for and certainly a pinnacle of success, Paul appeared in — and won — the third season of the appointment-viewing local show.

It felt like the whole nation tuned in for Dancing With The Stars, which Suzanne Paul eventually won. Cartoon / Rodd Emmerson
It felt like the whole nation tuned in for Dancing With The Stars, which Suzanne Paul eventually won. Cartoon / Rodd Emmerson

2008: The Sitting

A rather unique local concept created by TVNZ and Top Shelf Productions, the show invited well-known New Zealanders to sit for portrait artist Marty Welch, while discussing their past. Welch painted everyone from Mike Hosking and Buckwheat to Kevin Mealamu and, you guessed it, Suzanne Paul.

2008: But Wait There’s More

Published by Penguin, the book was billed as her life story “so far” and melded memoir with self-help guide.

But Wait, There's More by Suzanne Paul.
But Wait, There's More by Suzanne Paul.

2009: Outrageous Fortune

Another year, another cameo. Paul rubbed shoulders with some of the famous West clan; she appeared as herself, alongside Pascalle West, presenting a fictional infomercial. “It could be a whole new career for me,” she told New Zealand Woman’s Weekly of the role.

2009: Suzanne Paul Petites and Short & Sweet

Dipping her toe in the waters of womenswear, Paul shared her experience in finding clothes for a petite height with New Zealanders, releasing two clothing lines, Suzanne Paul Petites and Short & Sweet, and an array of local advertising to support the launch.

A 2009 advertisement for Suzanne Paul Petite and Peters Fashions.
A 2009 advertisement for Suzanne Paul Petite and Peters Fashions.

2010: Stepping Out

Paul took to the stage for this Richard Harris production by Auckland Theatre Company, directed by Colin McColl. “A feel-good comedy that taps into our secret longing for a taste of the applause and exaltation that is showered on over-night celebrities,” wrote the New Zealand Herald. “Suzanne Paul is perfectly at ease on stage — effortlessly slipping into the bright and breezy insouciance of a self-absorbed housewife.”

2011: Dirty Dusting

Returning to the theatre as the lead of this David McPhail-directed production, Paul trod the boards alongside Lynda Milligan and Jude Gibson. “All English cleaning ladies who are suddenly made redundant,” reported the Nelson Mail. “They decide to go back to the offices after hours and operate a phone sex line.”

2013: Safe campaign

Paul starred — seemingly nude — in a very impactful advertisement for animal charity Safe alongside Angela Bloomfield and Ruby Higgins, which caught the attention of the New Zealand Herald’s Spy column.

The Safe billboard campaign featuring Angela Bloomfield, Ruby Higgins and Suzanne Paul.
The Safe billboard campaign featuring Angela Bloomfield, Ruby Higgins and Suzanne Paul.

2010: Stranger Danger

Two Kiwi icons joined forces for this unforgettable C4 video — Scribe and Suzanne Paul — encapsulating peaks of both music television and local fame.

2013: Pacific Journalism Review

Academics Rosser Johnson and Nemane Bieldt of AUT turn their analytical lens on the “liminal figure” of Suzanne Paul and the “the paradigmatic televisual form — the informercial”, arguing for her cultural importance and the dualities of her career.

2015: Good Morning

When the long-running breakfast show Good Morning wrapped up, Paul was part of the send-off.

2015: This Could Be The Night

Proving she couldn’t resist the allure of the music video, Paul returned to the medium for Ron Cribb’s debut single This Could Be The Night, featuring Chikonabz.

2018: Get it to Te Papa

Hayden Donnell undertook a Herculean quest for The Spinoff, seeking out Kiwi treasures that warranted a place in Te Papa — relics like the animatronics from Big Fresh and the Huntly Deka sign. In episode five they hunt down another local legend, Suzanne Paul. A “life-changing encounter”, wrote Donnell of the meeting. “Suzanne taught me a powerful lesson.”

2018: Set it Off

A celeb-filled video for the Tāmaki Makaurau rapper, JessB enlists Chlöe Swarbrick, Shaki Wasasala and Madeleine Sami. And Suzanne Paul.

2019: Anika Moa Unleashed

Billed as a “cultural taonga” by the show, Paul tells Moa her first memory was sitting in a pram outside a shop and throwing potatoes out of it.

2020: Dog Almighty

Nine dogs compete in this unique reality show, and our girl Suzanne is there to help out.

2021: RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under

The pinnacle of reality television, Paul got the call-up for this show’s debut season, making an appearance on episode five.

2022: My Life Is Murder

Yet another cameo, this time on Lucy Lawless show My Life Is Murder.

2022: New Zealand Woman’s Weekly

That same year, Paul also landed another magazine cover — one of many throughout her career.

2023: Briscoes

Two advertising legends and Kiwi icons came together for an unexpected campaign, with Paul sharing the spotlight with Tammy “the Briscoes lady” Wells.

2023: ‘How To Live like a King’

Another memorable advertisement from last year. Ahead of King Charles’ coronation, TVNZ enlisted the sales skills and singular voice of Suzanne Paul to front its ‘How To Live like a King’ campaign.

2024: Viva

For the Autumn Fashion Special, Viva taps none other than Suzanne Paul to model new-season womenswear. Styled by Viva’s respected fashion director Dan Ahwa, she dons everything from Versace to vivacious headwear and a scarf or two (accessorised with a Suzanne Clip, of course). She’s also interviewed by Voyager-winning New Zealand Herald journalist Kim Knight for the illuminating cover story, which spans rags to riches to rags to reinvention.

More Suzanne Paul

The television doyenne on weddings and life lessons.

Suzanne Paul on life after luminous spheres. The infomercial queen tells Kim Knight why she’ll always give it a go.

How to style a scarf with Suzanne Paul. She shares her tips on wearing a silky accessory.

Autumn Fashion Special. National treasure Suzanne Paul takes us through a parade of fabulous clothes.

Suzanne Paul: ‘The truth about my mystery illness’. The infomercial queen fainted during a Zoom call.

Suzanne Paul reveals the lessons she’s learned at 64. ‘I now know I can survive anything’.

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