Great women in my life this week

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It’s one of the fortunes of my job that you get to meet people from all walks of life. 

And so it was that I had the great pleasure of talking with two Kiwi women this week pursuing very different dreams and making major sacrifices to do so. 

Kiwi songsmith Anika Moa, who plays The Winehouse on Sunday, has strived to be an honest and authentic artist since bursting onto the national scene as a teen with debut album Thinking Room. 

Not long after, she ended up in New York, signed to a major label and was on track to become The Next Big Thing.
Except she decided it wasn’t the way she wanted to go – and has been mostly back in New Zealand since, putting out three more albums her own way. 

There’s a great scene in a documentary about her that seems to sum up her US stint – it shows her during a photo session sitting on a seat that needs shifting. Rather than ask for her to momentarily move, two people lift the seat with her still in it and adjust it to the desired position. The look on a cringing Moa’s face says it all – this is ridiculous and not at all what she’s about. 

Despite fame and fortune beckoning, she turned her back on it to pursue her dream her way. 

When I spoke to her on Monday, she was in good form as usual – funny, natural, and busy as ever with music. The last time we spoke at the end of 2010, I asked if she had regrets about what happened in the US. 

“I love my life. I love the way it has turned out – so it’s not really important to me,” she replied. “It could have been different, actually it would have been different. 

“But I’m glad I’ve put out the albums I have and I never have any regrets about that kind of thing.” 

I thought that was pretty cool. She’s not going to die wondering. 

The other person I spoke to this week who epitomised that sentiment was Balfour-born Dianne Hollands, a semi-pro tennis player who visited for match practice at the Queenstown Open last weekend. 

Hollands has never given the pros a fulltime crack – because of illness and other reasons – but told me things have finally aligned so she now can. At 28, it’s pretty late to have a tilt at a pro tennis career but she knows in her gut it’s what she wants to do. 

She’ll be on a tight budget – and what she’ll earn and how long she’ll carry on will depend entirely on her results.
Hollands and her coach/boyfriend will sacrifice plenty for her dream – but know it’ll be worth the ride, whatever happens. 

To break even on tour, they sleep in a van or tent and use a gas cooker for meals. When not on tour they work and save hard – so they can go back on tour. 

“We save every cent we can and then go and spend it on tennis. And you have to be willing to let it all go down the drain,” she says. 

At the level of tournaments she’ll start at, a first-round loss means $50 prize money. In the meantime, she has to pay for food, transport, restrings. 

“My family thinks I’m crazy and my partner’s family thinks so too. But I’ve learned to enjoy it – the grind. There were times when I thought ‘This is not cool’. But the thing is it’s not easy – if it was, everyone would do it. [But] I don’t want to be sitting back one day with my own kids, telling them to pursue their dreams and thinking that I didn’t.”