Laura Daniel scores first 10 of the competition.
The Edge Breakfast co-host and award-winning comedian Eli Matthewson is “so stoked” to be one half of the first same-sex pairing on popular prime-time show Dancing with The Stars NZ.
“It’s about time, I can’t believe it’s never been done before,” he said.
The two-time Billy T Award nominee, double winner of Auckland Fringe’s Best Comedy Award, and winner of NZ’s top comedy honour The Fred, will partner with ballroom veteran Jonny Williams, whose wife Kristie Williams will be partnered with Dave Letele. But he’ll need more than jokes to sashay his way to a win.
“PC has finally gone mad enough to not just let a gay man dance, but to let him gay dance with another man even,” Matthewson said. “Top up your voting phone and tune in as the iconic question ‘who will do the girl steps’ is finally answered.”
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The new season of Dancing with the Stars NZ – set to premiere on Three in April – comes after the show had false starts in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The show wasn’t even on Matthewson’s radar, he said, but as soon as he got the call, his answer was: “Yes, 100 per cent! Let’s do it.”
The other celebrity contestants joining Matthewson in competing for the coveted Mirrorball trophy are Local Hero New Zealander of the Year Dave ‘Buttabean’ Letele, two-time Olympic medallist Eric Murray, broadcaster and journalist Kerre Woodham, award-winning broadcaster Brodie Kane, author and mental health advocate Jazz Thornton, stand-up comedian Rhys Mathewson, actor and television presenter Sonia Gray, and reality TV star Alex Vaz.
This season’s show will be filmed under strict health and safety protocols in line with current government Covid-19 regulations.
Same-sex pairings have featured on the US, Italian, Israeli, Irish, and Australian iterations of the show.
While Mathewson is “very excited” to be the first in New Zealand, he said “it’s pretty daunting”.
“It would’ve been so cool for me to see that on screen when I was a teenager growing up in Christchurch and thinking oh! Boys can dance with boys.”
”I know that I’ll be able to come home and process it with her as my unofficial dance mum,” Matthewson said. “I’m scared of getting criticised [by the judges], but I’m ready.”
Matthewson will be dancing for rainbow charity OutLine, who operate a free support line with rainbow specialist counselling and trans peer support.
He has the enthusiastic backing of his friends, whānau, and the wider queer community.
Comedian Chris Parker shared a message of support to his Instagram story today. ”My favourite boy is going to be on Dancing with The Stars, and I couldn’t be prouder,” he wrote. “You better believe I’m fully backing this horse to win.”
“This is awesome,” commented Rhys Darby on the announcement, and queer activist Shaneel Lal called it “completely legendary behaviour.”
“My boyfriend already wants me to teach him all the moves,” Matthewson said, “and my mum is so excited to come up from Christchurch and watch.”
He’s hoping to get a new skill out of the experience, and said dancing is something that he knows very little about.
“I want to fully immerse myself in the world of dance and get everything I can out of it. I’ll be praying every day to not fall flat on my face on live TV.”