It’s no secret that most parades are pretty terrible. The Santa parade is a hot mess of Farmers flyers, sticky children and begrudging Shortland Street cast members. The All Blacks parades are a pathetic jaunt from The Heritage Hotel to Victoria Park. Boobs on Bikes is barely a parade at all. And then there’s the Hero parade, a magnificent celebration of the LGBT community packed with costumes, body paint and more glitter than a fire sale at Look Sharp.
Jon Bridges wearing a shirt that was either soaking wet or made of of the world’s shiniest silk (Spinoff analysts have found it impossible to determine):
And frankly the biggest mermaid that Ponsonby has ever seen:
But all these tasty offerings paled in comparison to the star of the show – a very young, very beautiful Colin Mathura-Jeffree popping out of a giant lotus flower as the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. I sent the clip to Colin and asked him to recount this glorious, wet rebirth on Ponsonby Road.
What was your life like in 1998 and how did you come to be placed inside a giant Lotus flower?
At the time I was modelling internationally, completely oblivious to all of this. The parade that year was called ‘Gods and Monsters’, so basically there were planets and deities and devils and demigods – everything you could imagine coming down Ponsonby Road. They had this concept for an Indian deity floating up and down in a lotus flower. Apparently someone at the council had said, “the only person you should have in that lotus flower is a young Anglo-Indian model named Colin.”
Someone tracked down my mother, and my mother called me in India and said “they want you to come back” and I just said “what do they want me to do?” Because I was modelling quite extensively in India at the time, I remember being at a lunch with this royal family in Udaipur. I asked them if the idea was disrespectful, and they assured me that it was a blessing and an honour to be asked. I really didn’t want to do anything offensive. It ended up being one of the key, spectacular pieces of the parade – so much so that Julian Clary, who was a guest, said it was his favourite float of the night.
Did you have a rehearsal or were you straight off the plane into the cherry picker?
I arrived about two days before the parade, it was all very fast. They showed me the lotus flower, they put me in the outfit and I was lifted up and down. What nobody knows is that there was a guy between my legs controlling the float. There wasn’t anyone driving it remotely, the guy beneath me was steering but he couldn’t see anything. He knew to aim it in a straight line and that was about it.
How did the floats not crash into each other all the time?!
Because I would signal with my legs, or I would tap the guy on the top of his head. I think in the video you can see me tapping him to lift it up. Honestly, the crowds just went crazy for it. I had all these rose petals that I was supposed to throw. Of course it was pouring with rain, so the rose petals would just blast back into my face. They were totally useless, so I just waved.
I’ll tell you this though, when we got to the end of Ponsonby Road around Three Lamps, we had to turn around the corner. As we went around the corner I rose up into powerlines. In the rain. So I was kicking the guy in the head saying “stop the machine, stop it!” Meanwhile my head was just resting right between the power lines. The next year I went back on a giant boat with Neptune and all these other gods. That one did actually crash straight into the power lines. That was the last time I did the parade.
Sounds like an OSH nightmare.
It was such a great event though. The amount of people that turned up in the pouring rain, it was just noise and music. The televised version does no justice to the energy of the event.
Why do you think the parade remains so important, and has managed to return stronger than ever?
What the parade represents is the power of a community. When you have a parade it takes away any concept of illusion, it totally strips away “them and us.” The LGBT community just love to show off for each other, and also to have a sense of validation. Besides wanting to be normalized, and actually be a part of the wider community, they also want to show that they can shoot glitter everywhere. And sometimes we need that.
Just while I’ve got you, are we going to see New Zealand’s Next Top Model again? Please say yes.
I am constantly asked about New Zealand’s Next Top Model. MediaWorks have said to me that it was such a hit that they would never write it off entirely. In saying that, I have had a very recent approach about another fashion model reality TV show that is in development – and they want me to be a part of it. That’s all I can say.
This article was originally published misnaming the Hero parade as the PRIDE Parade, The Spinoff apologises for this error.