Title: Georgina Beyer: The woman behind the politician Credit: Matt Akersten Features Friday 5th January 2007 - 12:00pm1167951600 Article: 1537 Rights
Beyer is a striking and impressive public speaker The wonderful thing about Georgina Beyer is that with her, you don't just get a damn good politician… she's an all-around showbiz star as well! Who else can boast that? (Sit down please, Rodney Hide). So, in the hopes we'll see Beyer back on stage and screen soon, we asked about her other talents – and addressed some ‘weighty' issues as well. DANCING (AND SLIMMING) WITH THE STARS Having worked our way through the political aspects of Beyer's life (see link below for part one of our interview) we thought it was time to discuss the woman behind the re-glamourised politician. Beyer, who for some years was looking increasingly, er, matronly, started losing weight after surgery for a gall bladder problem in late 2004. “Dancing With The Stars was a damn good kick in the arse,” says Beyer of her stint on TV's favourite ballroom dancing show. “Certainly the physical rigour required helped put exercise into my life." She says simply that "my innards became well" after the operation, and her Dancing With The Stars stint came along at about the right time for her metabolism to change. “I lost weight while I was doing the programme, but I actually lost more afterwards,” she says proudly. "Politics can be quite sedentary, and I had fallen into that kind of life in my mayoral days I suppose. During the nineties I really started to pile on the weight, and I carried it into Parliament. I didn't realise really – you don't, until something like Dancing With The Stars happened. So it was a delayed reaction, from two months of physical hard yakka on the show. Then I wanted to maintain my figure and improve it, so I paid a little bit more attention to my diet, did a little bit more exercise – just walking and stuff like that. At Christmas last year I went on a beachy, summery, outdoorsy holiday, and by the time I got back, I was looking really good!” But has she been tempted to slacken off over Christmas? “I haven't really slackened off, but over the last couple of weeks I've put a little bit of weight on – that's because it's Christmas time and I've been eating a few more naughty things than I should. I guess if I went to the gym I could probably tone up and firm up the flabby bits that are left now… as opposed to going to a plastic surgeon and saying ‘suck this out please' or ‘tuck this away',” she giggles. Although her expression hints that hours slogging away at the gym are not on her agenda, it has to be admitted that she looks damn good. “Yeah, I'm feeling a lot better, sexier, and people tell me I'm looking younger. And I changed my hair," (she's gone for lighter colouring and a more contemporary cut) "so it's a new look, moving with the times.” A RETURN TO THE STAGE Beyer says she'd planned about six months of “not doing an awful lot” after her seven-year stint in Parliament finishes in February. But then came an offer she couldn't refuse, when producer, director and actress Janice Finn rang out of the blue. “Janice said she was directing a play for the opening of the new summer season at Dunedin's Fortune Theatre, and said she'd like me to be in it. I liked the script she sent, and so rang her back, but she'd suddenly been approached by television and so wasn't available to direct the play. The theatre still wanted to put the production on though, and they still wanted me.” In the play, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, Beyer will play Lilly Harrison, a recent widow whose husband was a Baptist minister. “A younger guy comes to her apartment to give her dance lessons,” Beyer says slyly. “She reveals that she's a widow, and he reveals that he is gay – but I won't tell you more because it'll ruin the rest of the story!” Written by American author Richard Alfieri, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks will begin in Dunedin in February, and then tours Otago and Southland. “It's a wonderful challenge, terrifying really, remembering a script, but I'm looking forward to it,” says Beyer. Will she continue her international speaking engagements too? “Yes, when they ask me, I'll be there, as long as they provide me with my first class airfare and five-star accommodation, and my fee,” she laughs. “And that will be the test of whether people are really keen to have me come to their event. Airfares and accommodation have until now all been taken care of by Parliament, so it'll be interesting to see whether it all dries up – because it'll suddenly cost them a bit!” THE BACKSTORY: REMEMBERING ALFIES Many years before politics made her a household name both here and overseas, Beyer was a well-known cabaret dancer. The girls at ‘Alfies' bar in downtown Auckland dominated gay entertainment from their opening night New Year celebrations in 1985 right through to the early 1990's. Beyer's time on stage under the Alfies spotlight ended in 1989, but she says she still often runs into people who used to go to the club, “and of course they are now adults in their thirties. They say ‘I met you at Alfies!', or ‘I saw you at Alfies!' And they're not all gay, either. But it was the then club of the day. All the glitterati used to go there as well, not just the queer community. And we had a great time. Lots of fun.” She keeps in touch with some of the girls. “Nicole Duvall, certainly. We had a reunion a few years ago, and some of the girls came back, because they've all dispersed overseas in that time. But we keep in touch,” she smiles. TIME TO FIND MR. RIGHT? Beyer has been steadfastly single throughout her time in the political spotlight. With all the demands of parliamentary life soon to be behind her, will she finally have time to look for love? “Well, they can look for me I suppose! If you go around looking for it, they say it isn't likely to happen,” she answers coyly. Lack of personal relationship was one of the factors that helped Beyer decide she was going to leave Parliament, she admits, and she gazes somewhere into the middle distance as she reflects on a full and varied life that nonetheless has clearly had its moments of loneliness. “It's become something that is more important to me as I get older. I realise I've just endured a period of my career with absolutely no emotional support whatsoever in my private life. There's no one I go home to at night to cry on their shoulder or get a cuddle or anything like that.” But she's well aware of the reasons why there's currently no man in her life. “I'm a famous transsexual politician, and that can be quite intimidating to some men. And no one just approaches you in that way. And if they do, it's mixed with my own suspicion of ‘well, what does this person want out of me?' But yeah, it's time to focus a bit more on my personal life, because I'll be a meaner person without it.” Beware, though, Beyer says she is not going to be an easy person to be with! “I'm so fiercely independent – no one tells me what to do! I think the challenge of having to compromise with another person who's meant to be a significant other is going to be a huge change for me, if it happens. “Also, I don't like gay men – it's just not who I'm sexually attracted to. If I have someone I'm sexually attracted to, it's straight men, so while I'm in a high-profile position, the kind of heterosexual man who may be interested in me would also have to endure being ‘Mr Georgina Beyer', and that could pose some problems for them.” A HEART-FELT THANKYOU… WITH TEARS Concluding our interview, we ask Beyer if there is anymore she would like to add, any message she would like us to convey to the glbt community. The response is immediate and highly emotional. “I'd just like to pass a huge thank you to all in the gay community who have supported me, even if they have never contacted me directly," she says. And from seemingly nowhere the tears start rolling down her cheeks and she fumbles in her bag for a tissue. "I hope they have felt empowered and proud of what I've had the chance to do... I couldn't have done it without them...." There's a long pause as she futilely dabs away the flood that won't stop. "They nurtured me at the beginnings of my life... and they've nurtured me right through it... I hope what I have achieved has paid them back in some way...” A moment for more dabbing and apologising for her emotions and then the sleek, confident politician and public personality reasserts herself. Lighting yet another cigarette she calms herself down and with a laugh and a confident step Georgina Beyer is off to catch her ride to the airport, and to face yet another new beginning. Matt Akersten - 5th January 2007    
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