Design: Tina Tiller
Design: Tina Tiller

Pop CultureApril 26, 2024

Hear me out: All I want is a TrueBliss T-shirt

Design: Tina Tiller
Design: Tina Tiller

Tara Ward makes an impassioned plea for some vital pop culture merch.

In April 1999, I became obsessed with a new reality television show called Popstars. Every Tuesday night, five strangers transformed into music royalty before my very eyes as Joe, Keri, Carly, Erika and Megan were chosen to form our pop group TrueBliss. We’d never seen anything like this on TV before, and they quickly became world famous in New Zealand: their first single ‘Tonight’ debuted at number one, their album went platinum twice, and their national tour sold out. There were also T-shirts.

The Popstars format was picked up in 50 different countries around the world, but my dream of picking up a TrueBliss T-shirt never came true. The UK version of Popstars went on to inspire shows like Simon Fuller’s Pop Idol and The X Factor and influenced the shape of reality TV for the next two decades, but tragically, did not influence my wardrobe. Without TrueBliss, there would be no Nadine Coyle mucking up her birthday, no Simon Cowell (also loves a T-shirt) judging Britain’s Got Talent, no Willy Moon or Natalia Kills blowing up The X Factor NZ. 

TrueBliss were trailblazers, and you know what goes best with a blazer? A T-shirt. 

TrueBliss in 1999 (Photo: Supplied)

A T-shirt, a T-shirt, my kingdom for a TrueBliss T-shirt. All I want is a piece of nostalgic clothing that celebrates the girl group that changed the pop culture landscape forever, but getting my sweaty paws on some TrueBliss merch hasn’t been easy. Internet searches prove fruitless, only bringing up a 2019 NZ Music Month T-shirt campaign (what was I doing in 2019? Not enough, evidently). A Trade Me deep dive uncovers nothing more than a couple of Dream cassette sales – a bargain at $4.99, but sadly, I cannot wear a cassette.

This flies in the face of the current 90s fashion renaissance, where every chain store is filled with T-shirts covered in retro images of Friends or Nirvana or even The Notorious B.I.G. – but those clothes are marketed at people too young to understand the electrifying rush of the rapid fire synth drums at the start of ‘Tonight’, who didn’t spend the end of last century making their hair stand up on end like Erika’s in the ‘Number One’ video. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy a Guns N’ Roses t-shirt from Cotton On. I am saying, Guns N’ Roses probably want a TrueBliss T-shirt, too. 

Surely our New Zealand 90s pop culture icons deserve to be plastered across some jazzy apparel? I know they’re out there. Last year, former All Black Josh Kronfeld expressed a similar yearning for a TrueBliss shirt during an episode of Treasure Island: Fan v Faves. In an astonishing coincidence, Josh’s team mate was Joe Cotton, who a) was a member of TrueBliss b) had a spare TrueBliss shirt stashed in her bag. When Cotton presented that TrueBliss singlet to Kronfeld, it was like the queen bestowing a knighthood.

Arise, Sir Josh (Photo: Screenshot)

This moment was the greatest music/sport/reality TV crossover since True Bliss kicked Bardot’s arse during the national anthem sing-off at the 2000 Bledisloe Cup. Sadly, Kronfeld and his singlet left the show shortly afterwards, making him the Carly Binding of the whole situation. 

If, as Kronfeld asserted so confidently on that beach in Fiji, everyone wants a TrueBliss T-shirt, why is it so bloody hard to get one? Must we be forced to sleep in a hut on a deserted island with a bunch of hungry celebrities for our wildest dreams to come true?

Happy 25th birthday TrueBliss, I hope someone hears my prayers. Otherwise, the closest I will ever come to wearing some authentic TrueBliss merch is putting on some PPE and recreating whatever the hell is happening in that ‘Number One’ video

Keep going!