For someone who places so many roles in film, TV, promotional and media work, Tracy Cameron sure plays many roles herself. She talks to PHILIP CHANDLER about what brought her to Queenstown, and what her greatest successes have been
Business owner, talent agent, model, dancer, arts centre trustee, mother and wife.
Tracy Cameron — latterly the face for a new skincare product— has made a major impact on Queenstown since arriving in 2000.
Through her Ican agency, hundreds of locals have got work as extras on the small or big screen, and more recently she’s been placing actors into roles throughout the country.
She’s also soon resuming her Ican schools, in which she’s taught self-confidence to oodles of youngsters.
Now 55, her life’s journey started in Stewart Island as daughter of Gwen Neave (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa), who’s received a New Zealand Order of Merit for services to art and the community, and retired deep sea commercial fisherman, Garry Neave.
‘‘It was an amazing upbringing, and now I realise how special it was for the resilience it teaches you, when you see the kids of today on their phone most of the time.’’
At 12, she and her twin sister Nadia were shipped off to board at Dunedin girls’ school, St Hilda’s Collegiate.
‘‘A shy, uncertain teen’’, she took classes at Vanity Walk Talent Agency in her last year, which she says made a huge difference.
On leaving school, she tutored there, and subsequently modelled in Dunedin, Auckland and Sydney, posing for magazine shoots and becoming a finalist in the Miss Universe NZ pageant.
After an OE in London, she returned to co-direct at Vanity Walk.
At the time, they were supplying film extras to Queenstown for Vertical Limit and the start of The Lord of the Rings.
It was a catalyst to move here in 2000 and start up Ican.
‘‘I just had this go-to attitude, I never thought about the ‘I can’ts’.’’
Cameron still recalls the moment she came up with ‘Ican’ — ‘‘you can’t fail when you go and call yourself that’’.
An early move was starting up her Ican modelling and confidence school, holding weekly classes in Queenstown, Wānaka, Cromwell and Alexandra.
She held large-scale graduations each year, with judges such as All Blacks Josh Kronfeld and Andrew Mehrtens and opera singer Jud Arthur.
She also taught hip-hop dancing — having taught her self by watching Bobby Brown and MC Hammer videos — and had an Ican dance group which performed at events and conferences and big Dunedin rugby games.
She, vocal teacher Margaret O’Hanlon and others founded the Queenstown Performing Arts Centre Trust (QPACT), which took over an old Henry St school building.
‘‘It allowed many talented locals and groups to establish their craft and teach dance, drama, song, music, martial arts and more to all ages.’’
Cameron managed the centre for the trust until, having become ‘‘a tired old lady’’, it was knocked down last year.
She believes its success paved the way for the new Te Atamira arts and cultural facility.
A life highlight came in 2006 when she married Dunedin boy Nick Cameron, who has the Buzzstop honey centre at Country Lane — their children Neave, 15, and Scout, 12, attend local schools.
In 2010, when Cameron had Scout, she stopped her school — ‘‘it was too much’’.
Now her children are older, she plans restarting it during the October school holidays.
‘‘There’s a lot of anxiety out there, there’s that need to give kids that bit of self-esteem and pride.’’
Aside from business, Cameron has an Ican netball team playing in the local league — ‘‘I bring the average age up’’ — and is in a local travel group that takes overseas trips every two years.
‘‘Next year I’m taking them to Stewart Island.’’
She delivers Meals on Wheels and is in her second year learning te reo Māori in a group that meets weekly.
She’s also started trekking all the Great Walks of NZ, which she highly recommends.
‘‘Only then do you fully appreciate our native land, and I guarantee you’ll get hooked.’’
Cameron says her top business achievement is establishing a pool of diverse actors whom she offers roles to nationwide.
‘‘We’ve just had a male model confirmed in a huge global campaign for a well-known brand.’’
Recently she’s also enjoyed being the global face for Elizabeth Barabalich from Antipodes’ new skincare product, ‘Lime Caviar’.
‘‘The brief was clearly middle-aged and gently ageing,’’ she quips.