Jenny-May Coffin has marked many milestones in her life as a police officer, representing the Silver Ferns and landing herself some of the biggest TV presenting roles in the country. So reaching the big 4-0 was just one more event in an already action-packed life. This year, she also celebrated her first decade in broadcasting, giving the bubbly sports fanatic yet another reason to party.
“I don’t know what 40 is supposed to feel like! I’m just happy, enjoying life and in a good place,” says Jenny-May.
“When you’re younger, you might think you’re supposed to get married and have children [by 40]! It’s not that I haven’t wanted those things, they just haven’t happened for me. And rather than feel sorry for myself,
I accept where I am at this point in time and celebrate it!”
The energetic TVNZ sports news presenter and Maori TV Code host threw a big party ahead of her April 9 birthday, to get everyone together, before jetting off to Rarotonga with her closest female friends.
“I love being around friends and family. I actually had a party for my 37th birthday as I don’t believe in waiting for milestones to happen to have a gathering. My 40th was exactly the same – an opportunity to catch up and have a few wines.”
Dressed to kill in a figure-hugging dress for our photoshoot, the former professional athlete, who hails from the small King Country town of Piopio, recalls how she first became a police officer at the age of 19. After eight years in the force, her career turned to the comparatively glamorous world of broadcasting.
“I loved my police job, but I couldn’t see myself as a 40-year-old woman in such a confrontational job. Police work exposes you to the darker side of life and as much as I liked the job and helping people, I didn’t want to do it forever,” she explains.
It was a chance meeting with a radio contact at a coffee shop in 2003 when she was offered the opportunity to co-host Classic Hits’ Breakfast show in the Waikato.
“Then one day my mate Neil Waka (former TVNZ sports reporter) told me they were looking for a back-up presenter for One News and asked if I had thought about that. I said ‘No’, but I did a screen test and got offered the job,” she says. “I’m a big believer that opportunities are in front of us all the time.”
Celebrating her 10th year in broadcasting, Jenny-May’s philosophy is to live in the moment, which is why she offers no clues as to what she’ll be doing in 10 years’ time.
“I’ve never lived my life that way. Working in TV has been a big rush – I’ve been able to meet so many people and go to sports events I otherwise would have not gone to, including the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006.”
The ageing process doesn’t unnerve her either. The naturally dark-haired beauty spotted her first grey hairs as a teenager and has been dying her thick locks ever since. But that’s where her anti-ageing regime stops. While many TV stars turn to Botox, Jenny-May uses only natural skincare products.
“My view is, if I’m good enough at my job, they’ll keep me on,” she says bluntly. “If the job becomes all about what I look like, then it’s not where I want to be. As a Maori, I think wrinkles make people more attractive because they tell a journey. Botox isn’t something I would subscribe to.”
Jenny-May’s holistic approach includes regular massages, ocean swims in summer and training five days a week at a CrossFit gym, which focuses on high-intensity interval training, weightlifting and other strongman exercises to maintain her athletic figure.
“I got into CrossFit after finding out about it on Code. I thought, ‘I’m an athlete, I’ll be all right, I can cope.’ I’d been playing netball at top level for years but when I turned up to the CrossFit gym for an initial eight-minute session, I was hammered! I could barely breathe and these were the simple exercises like push ups, running and squats!”
But four years on, she’s still hooked by the fitness regime.
“I feel good but it’s been hard work,” she says.“But finding an activity you really enjoy doing makes such a difference.”
Jenny-May’s never had a problem with motivation, but admits her diet needed a shake-up after retiring from international netball in 2002.
“When I was doing netball training, it didn’t matter what I ate as I burnt it off. When I stopped playing, I had to adjust my diet because I put on a lot of weight.
I can’t just eat what I want,” tells the self-confessed “terrible eater” and non-cook.
“Nowadays, I have this philosophy that I train hard so I can eat and drink what I want. I don’t want to be the person who’s so much into the health side of things that I miss out on socialising with friends!” she says.
While the outgoing and confident presenter has met many influential people throughout her career, the most outstanding female influence is her mother Paddy (71).
“I’d like to think that I am a bit like my mum,” muses Jenny-May. “I don’t think I’m half the woman she is – she’s such a kind, giving person. My mum has always said to me it’s better to be a person who’s beautiful on the inside than faking it on the outside, but I also know how looking good makes you feel good too.”