ZM radio host Bree Tomasel speaks to express about quietly coming out as bisexual on-air, being an Australian in NZ, embracing Maori culture and why she loves dating Kiwis.
Bree Tomasel calls express from her uber, heading to Auckland Airport, where she will fly to her parent’s Queensland house for the first time in 18 months.
It’s Anzac weekend. Bree will enjoy just a short quarantine-free three day stay in Australia and her parents have no idea she is coming home. “My brother is picking me up from the airport. I’m just going to sneak in the back door walk into the lounge and ask my parents what’s for dinner,” she laughs with baited excitement in her voice.
Bree has made quite the splash since shifting to New Zealand three and a half years ago to pursue her career in radio broadcasting. A naturally warm and enthusiastic speaker she scored an additional job as co-host on TV3’s Celebrity Treasure Island, where she was equally well received.
She also came out on-air to virtually no fanfare.
Rewind ten years and YouTube has captured Edge Breakfast host Mike Puru nervously telling listeners he is gay for the first time. He later told express that he was unsure if that moment would signal the end of his career.
Thankfully Puru’s career is still going strong, but his bold, shaky announcement could not be further from Bree casually talking about a previous night’s date and mentioning it was with a woman. What a difference a decade makes!
But time isn’t everything. Bree was previously a radio host in Australia and was unable to be as open there.
“I’ve been in radio for 10 years and at my last job at the radio station I worked at previously… it was dropped that I should keep those parts of my life off the air!” Bree tells us.
“That was really hard for me. Whether I was ready for that or not – I didn’t think that was a decision that should be made by anyone else but me. When I came to ZM, I was made to feel like anything I wanted to say or wanted to share, was up to me and they were supportive of that.”
She tells us that coming out on-air was not a planned announcement but simply a natural progression of the relationship she was forming with listeners by sharing her life.
“This is me and I’m going to live my life for me, and that’s just how it unfolded on-air. This is just another story about my life. I didn’t really think about the details, I just told the truth,” she says.
She admits it has taken a while for her to get used to sharing all of herself on-air but has been encouraged by the unanimously positive response to her openness.
“At the start of my career, it was quite daunting. It’s hard to know which parts you should share and what I should keep to myself because it’s too personal. I tend to share nearly everything and when I meet listeners it quite amazing to me how much they know about my life and how well they know me. But I love that!”
ZM paired Bree with Clint as their afternoon hosts which has proven to be a winning formula for the station.
“We’re very similar people… The big difference is I think it’s great to fart in front of partners and he thinks you should never fart in front of anyone. He says he never farts at all, but I don’t believe him, it would definitely make you ill,” she tells us, highlighting a working relationship based on deep values and meaningful conversations.
With a secure job and more sociable work hours than her breakfast host peers. Bree has had time to get out and see the country, meet the people and even date some of them. We ask the dating scene compares to Oz.
“I love Kiwis. When I left Australia, we had only just passed the marriage equality bill, so to come to a country where that had been legal for a long time, it just feels like Kiwis, in general, are further ahead in terms of acceptance and wanting everyone to be equal which makes it a lovely place to meet people.”
Bree says the greatest highlight of her time in NZ so far, has been, “learning more about the Māori Culture and where it started and embracing that.”
Like so many New Zealanders note when they move to Australia, the celebration of Māori Culture here, is a stark contrast to the lack of visibility Aboriginal Australians face across the pond.
“Growing up rurally in Australia, I didn’t have much interaction with indigenous people and I didn’t really know much about the Aboriginal culture in general, but here in New Zealand the fact that there’s Te Reo used on TV here – I just love that!”
Bree has witnessed changes in Australia’s embrace of their indigenous culture and feels progress is being made.
“In the years since I have been gone from Australia, I have seen things improving. They now have performances from the indigenous people before Rugby League games and they acknowledge the elders and original land-owners which I think are all great steps in the right direction,” she tells us.
As for whether this trip and open borders could spur a move home, Bree is steadfast.
“I have no plans to move. I feel New Zealand is home now. I have lots of roots here and I feel like people have embraced me which is so nice doing that job that I do!”
She also has to be back to the NZ International Comedy Festival where she will take the stage at Going LiveGoing Live, a show that takes four of the funniest Kiwis from Instagram and Tik Tok and plonks them on Q Theatre’s stage to see if they can cut it live. Pressure much!
Bree admits to having tried stand-up for the first time just before Covid but confides she was, ‘horrible at it,’ despite the similarities between stand-up and her day job.
“Radio I find is like stand-up without the pressure… we’re in a room with a microphone and can’t see anyone which is different to a stage with an audience where you can hear whether or not your jokes are landing.”
Equivalent feedback in Radio comes in the form of a quarterly ratings survey, where broadcasters discover if audiences are tuning in or out. You can feel the tension on Ponsonby Road in hours leading up to the results’ release.
“It’s always tense when you find out if what you are doing is connecting with people,” agrees Bree, highlighting her goal is to make people happy.
“I just want to make people laugh. I feel blessed to get to do that every day with my job. I still can’t believe I get paid to do it!”
Last month’s survey showed continuing audience growth for ZM, proving Bree is still one of Australia’s best exports.
You can catch Bree Tomasel performing live at Going Live on Tuesday 11 and Sunday 16 May at Q Theatre as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival (comedyfestival.co.nz) and from 3-7pm weekdays on ZM.