Last month a large portion of New Zealanders thought she’d departed for the great car yard in the sky. Thankfully, Tina from Turners is stronger than ever, writes Tara Ward.
When Tina Turner died in Switzerland last month, her passing sent ripples across an unexpected pond. Far away in New Zealand, many people – tragically too young to remember this sweaty, saucy 1989 NRL ad – misheard the sad news. Instead of grieving the death of an American rock star, they mistakenly mourned the shocking loss of an equally beloved but fictional character who sells used cars on our television screens, one Tina from Turners.
“I cried when they said it on the radio,” an upset Tina from Turners TikTok fan commented. “Lol me too our whole class was sad bc we thought it was Tina from tuners,” another responded. “I GOT SO SCARED I HAD TO SEARCH UP TINA TURNER,” one ardent admirer screamed, seemingly overcome with the emotion of it all.
Turns out, they weren’t the only ones:
It’s no wonder we were so worried. Over the past year, Tina from Turners has successfully cemented her place on our TV ad Mount Rushmore, alongside The Briscoes Lady, Big Save Lily and Goldstein from ASB. It’s the law that New Zealanders must shout “CARS!” every time they see a Tina from Turners ad. We whip up inspiring tributes in her honour, and recently an Irish tourist claimed he felt “personally harrassed” by the abundance of Tina from Turners ads after he arrived in the country.
Tina from Turners is everywhere, but who is this mysterious vision in a blue polo t-shirt? We turn again to Google, the used car yard of knowledge, to find out the truth.
Beep beep! This answer is a lemon. Steel yourselves: Tina from Turners is a fictional character played by comedian Sieni Leo’o Olo (aka Bubbah), who’ll star in the upcoming season of Taskmaster NZ and who also appeared on Sis, First, and Alice Snedden’s Bad News. The “Tina from Turners” ad campaign won three awards at the 2022 New Zealand Marketing Awards, with the judges ruling that the creative strategy delivered a “significant transformation” for the Turners business.
Finding out that Tina isn’t a real person working at your local Turners is as upsetting as bumping into Tammy Wells in public without her Briscoes wig on. It is another unwanted shock from life’s cracked casing, but don’t let it diminish your affection for this TV legend. How do we love Tina from Turners? Let me count the ways.
In an overcomplicated world, Tina is a wonder of simplicity. She simply loves cars: big ones, tiny ones, uncomfortable ones. When Tina shouts about her love of cars, her arms raised in an embrace of the world around her, I feel like she’s talking directly to me. I am also big and tiny and uncomfortable, Tina, thank you for noticing. “I love them all,” Tina says of her beloved vehicles. Those cars are a metaphor for the human race, and Tina from Turners is the mother of the nation.
When your wheels get stolen by two feral octogenarians, Tina from Turners will treat you like she treats a wing mirror: gently, lovingly, but with the same intensity Big Save Lily had when she drove a golf cart through a tower of boxes. She will also stare at you into the long, dark night like a weird car-selling creep, but you won’t mind. I don’t even like cars, but after watching every Tina from Turners ad on repeat, I started eyeing up a 2002 Toyota Corolla with 217,000kms on the clock like it would change my life forever.
Her enthusiasm is inspiring, her optimism refreshing. “You might even find something you like,” Tina tells us, her beaming smile surrounded by rows of lonely motors. We might even find something we like is a truth far deeper than “live, laugh, love”. When the time comes for us to take our final hoon to the great scrapheap in the sky, looking back on a life where we might have found something we liked is all one can ask for.
In a world of chaos and darkness, Tina from Turners is a beacon of hope. It doesn’t matter that Tina from Turners isn’t real. I don’t care that we’ve been sucked into a capitalist campaign that helped Turners pull a record profit. Boom! Money in the bank. I hope Tina from Turners gets all that cash, and I hope we get more of Tina from Turners holding an ornamental frog and laughing like she’s never laughed before.
What’s love got to do with it? Tina from Turners dances like nobody’s watching. She is the soft chamois in a streaky world. She might be selling cars, but Tina reaches far beyond the Turners car yard. Tina is an attitude, a way of life. She is an icon. She is a hero. She is Tina from fucking Turners, and long may she reign.