One of New Zealand’s top hair stylists, Tane Tomoana tends to the hair of the Prime Minister for the occasional international magazine shoot, is the lead creative at Dry & Tea New Zealand and Australia, and is a mentor for TVNZ’s Glow Up. We talk to Tane about his journey to international recognition, the importance of looking back as well as forward, his relationship with New Zealand brand Adashiko and how two knee surgeries won’t slow him down.
How would you start to summarise yourself and what drives you?
First and foremost, what comes to mind is I’m really an empath. Empathy and care drives me and I think what fits so well with what I do every day is I’m able to perform that or give that to others on an hourly basis. I think that’s probably the number one drive for me, to show up for others as best I can, to give that mentality.
You’ve been really growing on a number of fronts. One minute you’re doing the PM’s hair for international magazines, next you’re on TV. Do you find that there’s a momentum that comes from success in one area that feeds into another?
That’s been a really interesting part of the last two years for me, how that momentum has just bought all these awesome opportunities. The biggest thing I would say is to be in alignment with yourself and just be happy in your own skin, feel good, do the things day-to-day that help you achieve your best, true self.
I think once you get to that point and once you start working towards achieving that in your daily life, then there is just this flow of abundance. Some of these things that I got involved with over the last couple of years, especially with television, was so far out of my comfort zone and something I would never have thought I would ever say yes to, but in the moment of actually having to make decisions on that, you just have to move out of the fear and just go for it.
The other thing too is I think the Prime Minister really does support local. She’s the ultimate in supporting local and taking local with her to the world and I’ve been part of that journey. There’s been a lot of momentum that’s come out of her global gloss.
For young Māori and Pasifika people to see you guys on Glow Up and in the spotlight, do you feel like now there’s now something on your shoulders to keep going and be a shining example for what is possible?
I think in the Māori world or in the Polynesian world, that is always there. It’s intergenerational and it’s not a pressure, it’s a responsibility. You do have the choice of whether you take on that responsibility and there can be parts of it, I suppose, that can make you feel under pressure.
But I think if you speak your truth and if you stand for what you know is right, then it’s just natural, it’s intrinsic. It’s who I am. That whole part of me isn’t a pressure because it’s who I am and it’s what I’m here to do and to be. It’s definitely a responsibility, but not a pressure.
You seem to have a really strong connection with your ancestors. Was it implanted in you from an early age that you need to look back in order to look forward? Is it this connection that really drives you to be a shining light for future generations?
Oh, absolutely. And it’s so simple. The connection is that they went through a lot for me to have the platform I have today. That’s over hundreds of years, or even if we just look at the last 250 years. They did things they didn’t want to do. They did things that they might not have been comfortable with or they may have felt like they were selling themselves out.
But when I look at it, it’s so moving to me that I am able to stand here and I’m able to be here to talk to you today because of that. It’s pretty simple. The connection is that responsibility and that’s something that has been passed down.
I grew up in a tiny marae community just out of Hasting. 95 percent Maori, probably a population of a hundred people. We did and do still practice in many ways, a traditional indigenous way of life. Although we grow up in this modern world, we’re definitely rooted in tradition and genealogy.
Do you get the feeling that people are starting to look at some of these indigenous values that have allowed custodianship of amazing areas of the planet for thousands of years and realise that the way we’re living is not sustainable? Is there some sort of optimism in you that the tide is turning?
Oh, yeah. There is definitely optimism and I think there is definitely movement towards big change. It can take one action that may seem small, but may actually be huge in one country and that just can deflate your whole optimism on those sorts of things.
But I think generally, there is more of a movement. I think if you look at the spiritual and wellness movement, there’s always been this correlation between indigenous culture and wellness and spirituality. I suppose in the Western world, in the wellness and spiritual space, there is that connection and they are more aligned to an indigenous way of thinking.
I think globally, there are definitely things happening. Even if you look to the Black Lives Matter movement, we have so much more of a voice now, even just in the last year. It’s awful that it took what happened last year for us to be more seen and heard, but I think there’s definitely a tide of change.
I’ve read interviews where you have spoken about the fact that there are elements of racism in New Zealand. We think we’re pretty cool and progressive, but there’s is this serious undercurrent in places. Can you elaborate on that? Do you see a shift there?
I see conversation and that’s really important because the conversation has needed to happen for a while and the conversation opened up a lot more after the Christchurch terrorist attacks and I think, again, even more so with the Black Lives Matter movement.
I just think there is still a really ugly undercurrent of it here. The worst part is our ignorance towards it. We need to accept it before we move forward with it. I think there’s still so much more that can be done, but like I said, the conversation is happening and I’m grateful for that.
Along the way, have you experienced any hurdles purely based on your race or culture?
I have never felt like I’ve had to take different pathways, as far as my professional career goes. I think in the beauty and hair industry, it’s always been a very diverse and accepting industry. I’ve always felt at home in this space.
Like all people of colour, I have had experiences of it throughout my life outside of work. But generally, our industry is really, really amazing and always has been with diversity. I definitely think I have banged heads over situations, but I try my best to communicate these sorts of things with as much care behind my words as possible.
If we’re looking at it as not telling someone off or telling them that they’re wrong, but opening a conversation and sharing your own experience instead.
If we’re talking about pathways or opportunity, it hasn’t hugely hindered my opportunity in my career, but it’s definitely challenging.
When we start looking at things in an intergenerational perspective, it really changes some of the decision-making. Do you see that there is the potential for, even within businesses where it’s not just quarterly plans and performance reviews, it’s really looking at the intergenerational decision-making that sets future generations up?
I think the biggest thing with this is that there is no better way to really truly find out who you are than knowing your ancestry. There are so many little things that you will relate to once you start going into all of that.
One of the things, even in big business, is we all want people to be as authentic as possible to achieve the best they can. To be the best we can and to really be our true self, we need to know our true self. I do think it would be really interesting to roll out that sort of thing.
It doesn’t even have to be defined as ‘genealogy’, even just people getting to know more about where they come from if they’re disconnected from that. More of the custom of where they come from. I think there’s little steps with tradition and language that we can take with us everyday just to align ourselves to our true, authentic self.
Do you feel that we’ve become so busy and always on the move that we’ve lost that need to take a moment?
Yeah, absolutely. I do see it a little bit. The majority of our clientele are female and so I see a lot of working women who just don’t have the opportunity to do that. Yes, they’re coming in and they’re having a service, but they’re on two computers, they’ve got the phone going, they’re multitasking.
That’s nothing to be ashamed of, I’m not calling that out. I’m just saying that you’re right, this is the time we are living in.
I had a really interesting experience at Christmas time where I was supposed to go to Rhythm & Vines and I wasn’t totally keen. At the end, I just decided I wasn’t going to go because I needed to stop.
I had the most intense end to the year. It was a really hard decision to make, but at the time, I realised I actually just need to chill out and just take some time and just stop.
That was so valuable because I’ve come back this year and just hit the ground running. I think it’s just also knowing when to actually tap out. Listening to your body, listening to what’s going on.
It’s okay to just put your hand up and say, I’m not okay. It’s okay to say to a colleague, ‘I need help’. I think those are things we need to bring back a bit more, or even just create more conversation around being okay.
Going back to the start of the conversation where we’re talking about this momentum that you that you have achieved on all of these fronts, has that been a difficult process for you to find that time to work on health and fitness, but still keep doing what you need to be doing to get the momentum that you’ve got?
That’s a really good question on balance because it is hard. But I think, like I said, if you listen to your body, it will tell you. The body keeps score and it always knows.
As far as trying to keep a balance between staying busy, keeping that momentum, saying yes to all the things and the opportunities; sometimes I’ll feel really stressed or like I’ve got so much going on, but need to get to that workout or do that class. I’ll get there and I’ll get five minutes in, and I’ll just turn around and walk out.
I think it’s just those little moments where it just doesn’t feel right and you just need a rest. If you think it, do it. If you think this is too much, then sit down. It’s not quitting, it’s taking a break.
Do you feel like there’s a flow-on effect when you start to take care of yourself?
Oh, absolutely. It helps in a huge way. I have a rare form of arthritis called palindromic rheumatism, so I have to deal with that sometimes. I can have flared up joints, but I still want to get that work out in the bank or still want to get that run in.
I’ve learned that I can, I just push through it. If I wake up in the morning and I’ve got a flare, if I just push through it, mobility is actually the best thing for it.
I also started using the Adashiko Joint collagen powder and I really haven’t had as many flares since taking it. I’ve also had two knee reconstruction and I’m noticing less pain in my knee.
The joint collagen is really good with the tissue. I have really noticed a huge difference and the maintenance of my arthritis is a lot easier.
How have you achieved the physique and fitness that you’ve got, while also dealing with pain like that?
When I first got diagnosed, I freaked out in a sense of, am I still going to be able to be active and physical? I talked to my friend who is a physician and asked, ‘What’s the deal? Am I still able to work out?’ Straight away, he just planted that seed of, carry on, push through. It can be sore at the beginning, but once you get that movement. It was so true.
The other thing with lifting weights, is it does increase bone density. You’re not just getting muscle mass and growth. It does increase or stabilise bone density. Once I knew that, straight after I was diagnosed, I was fine.
Some days I couldn’t even pick up a coffee cup, but I would go do some lighter weights. By the end of the 45 minute workout, just using lighter weights, in my hands and my wrist, I would have full mobility. I would be able to carry on and come to work and use my hands.
“Some days I couldn’t even pick up a coffee cup, but I would go do some lighter weights. By the end of the 45 minute workout, just using lighter weights, in my hands and my wrist, I would have full mobility.”
It’s been really interesting for me, that experience, just getting up and just soldiering on through that pain.
I just come from a background of being fit and active my whole life. My parents were fit and active. I grew up on the sideline of the rugby field and the basketball court, so I just freaked out that that might not be an option anymore, especially after coming out of two knee reconstructions with five years of rehabilitation.
I think the Adashiko collagen is just such a good supplement for my body and for the stage I am in my life at the moment.
In the creative world, have you noticed that there is more of a spotlight on us here in New Zealand?
We’re absolutely pumping. You look at the rest of the world at the moment, we have Netflix here at the moment, we have Amazon here at the moment, we have RuPaul’s Drag Race filming here. We have the movies that are filming down south.
In the film industry, they’re actually finding it hard to find enough workers at the moment. I think more than ever, because of the state we are in as a country and that we are fully mobile, we have the most active economy, I suppose, in the world at the moment; it’s more than a spotlight. I think we’re it, at the moment, in the film and television industry globally.
The spotlight is definitely on us at the moment in the creative, film, and television production industry. It’s really cool because we had a bit of a lull a few years ago and it’s really awesome to see that being so busy.
Has this started to shape what your plans are for the next five or 10 years?
When I said to you earlier that I wasn’t that confident with television work and I never thought it would be something I would do, after Glow Up, I think I just had my own sort of glow up. I was such a shy person as far as talking in front of people, so the reason why I said yes to that was to get over that and I really have now.
My short-term plan at the moment is I would actually love to do more television, more presenting. But I’m also thinking in the long term, if you’re going to say 10 years, I’d love to study. This is the kind of job that you can’t do forever. Like I said, my body is really showing signs of a full life.
I think in the long run, I would really love to study in the next 10 years, probably something like Indigenous Studies and eventually just work for my people.
I think the biggest thing with that is moving from a format where I work on one person at a time to uplift them or to make them feel better about themselves, to make them deliver that speech, give them the confidence to stand up in that boardroom.
If I can apply what I’ve learned over the last 22 years in this industry to the whole community, then I think that might be a long-term goal. Nothing serious or definite, but it’s a dream.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given along the way?
I think it was probably from my grandfather. I grew up in my grandparents’ home and the best advice he gave me was, you will only do great things.
With the mana that my grandfather had, in my eyes I couldn’t do anything else but that.