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“I went through a huge spiritual awakening… I felt as if the tūpuna were standing right next to me”

during the darkest period of Oriini Kaipara’s life, she was visited by the spirit of her late nan and received a calling to something higher: to receive her moko kauae.

The decision to have the traditional tattoo saw the broadcaster make headlines around the world as the first kauae-wearer to present on mainstream television. It was a historic moment, but for Oriini, 37, the real reward was that it saved her life.

Just a few years ago, she found herself going through “a really, really dark time” when her eldest son Paetawhiti, now 20, was about to finish high school. She was plagued with guilt and self-doubt around parenthood, her career and her culture, and on top of all of that, she went through a divorce.

“I was reflecting on the time that I’d lost by chasing my dream,” says Oriini. Around the same time, the show she was working on, Native Affairs, went off air. “That’s when I hit rock bottom,” she says. Not because the show was over, but because without it she finally had time to process things for the first time in her life.

Up until that point, Oriini had simply been grinding. She became a mum at just 16 and by the time she was 17,, , , and more.

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