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Image by Tina Tiller
Image by Tina Tiller

Pop CultureMarch 30, 2024

What happens when Rachel Hunter sells out a Christchurch school hall?

Image by Tina Tiller
Image by Tina Tiller

Rachel Hunter sold out a Christchurch school hall for a mysterious sounding ‘Community Event’. Alex Casey went along to find out what it was all about.

Former international supermodel Rachel Hunter is sitting cross-legged on stage between HEAT PUMP 3 and HEAT PUMP 4. It’s a school night in St Albans school hall, and 100-odd people have assembled for a meditation session with the woman they once called Stacey’s Mom. “Drop the shoulders, drop the belly, bring your gaze between your eyebrows,” she coos.

“Bring a nice warm smile to your face, feel that sense of peace.” 

Crossing my eyes and grinning, the ambient orange light bringing a peaceful Jack-O-Lantern effect to my face, I needed to relax badly. Ten minutes prior I was in a flap, running late and panic parking in the school staff carpark after discovering the streets were rammed with Rach-heads. Stressed that I would get locked in, I frantically found a woman vacuuming a classroom and asked for her opinion. 

“The gates will stay open late,” she said. “The principal is going to that thing too.” 

It was a good way of putting it – I didn’t really know what “that thing” was either. Having purchased a $30 ticket to the mysteriously named “Rachel Hunter – Christchurch Community Event” months prior, details were scarce. “Rachel Hunter will lead us in a guided meditation, and intention setting,” the event page read. “After this there will be a question and answer session also.”

“Bring your cushion and join us for a beautiful evening in an amazing setting.” 

Less vague was the 1500-word waiver that I had to read and sign to “release Rachel Hunter of any liability” during the event. “You understand that participating in the Activities poses inherent risks, some more obvious or more serious than others. These risks can result in serious harm and injuries that could change your quality of life and, in very rare and extreme circumstances, may even result in death.” 

With that soothing outcome in mind, I wandered through the school, hoping to spot the Activities via the coffin that awaited me. That’s when she appeared. Rachel Hunter, a shimmering mirage across the schoolyard, golden curls glinting in the setting sun. She waved at me, and I waved madly back, trotting straight through a father-son hockey game, towards my personal VIP welcome. 

But as the sun ducked behind a cloud, I realised within mere metres of Rachel Hunter that she wasn’t heartily waving at all, but pointing vigorously towards the school hall, a few buildings over. In my vision-impaired state, I had intruded upon Rachel Hunter’s outdoor green room, and the only course of action was to do an exaggerated 90-degree pivot, and stride away like John Cleese in that Monty Python sketch.

Just as the waiver warned, I had nearly died of embarrassment by the time I made it to the doors of the school hall. It was humming with well over 100 people, mostly women and a handful of men, abundant in their plush cushions and rolled-up yoga mats, aluminium bottles and Lorna Jane leggings. “You do the eclairs, I’ll do the ice cream,” I overheard one woman say. “I got 79 bucks for that dryer,” said another. 

I found a spot next to a whiteboard (“DISCO TO DO LIST: Sausies on at 3.45”) as Rachel drifted into the room, swathed in drapey black fabric like a beautiful Californian Ringwraith. She took her place on stage to applause, before presenting her hand in a brace – her phone’s fault. She thanked us for dealing with the emails, waivers, “and whatever else we have to do to move now” and we got started.

The scene is set

The first revelation came almost immediately, when Rachel advised us to fold our cushions up and place them under our “sit bones”. I felt a sudden release of hellfire tension in my back and, as we closed our eyes to “come back to ourselves”, a palpable wave of calm washed over the eclair-planning, dryer-selling room. “This is your moment with you,” said Rachel softly.

“Feel how quickly you can actually connect with yourself.”

It was a remarkably gooey feeling, but one that immediately evacuated my body with the very next sentence, perhaps the single biggest challenge you could give a sold out crowd of New Zealanders: “Now, does anybody want to share anything?”

My walls instantly shot up, were barricaded and concreted over, but thankfully there were a few open souls at the front that broke the excruciating silence Someone mentioned a flush feeling, Rachel made a menopause joke, and the crowd laughed knowingly. She had won us back, Our Rach, and soon dived into explaining her own meditation experience, with a caveat that she never plans her talks ahead of time.

Rachel Hunter’s journey to spirituality over the last few years has been a welldocumented one. She first travelled to India while shooting Tour of Beauty, in which she traversed the world to find beauty secrets from different cultures. Following the passing of her mother, who revealed her one regret in life was not being herself, Rachel decided to embrace her “true self” wholeheartedly. 

It’s the moment that, Rachel says, woke her up. “We think we’re all hiding ourselves cloak and dagger,” she told us. “But I’d be walking through the house with the sage stick as a kid.” She spoke of going public her with spirituality, and worrying that everyone would think she was “weird”. She reflected on days alone in caves, and finding out about Covid-19 during a silent retreat.

We were only 20 minutes in when she abruptly opened the floor for questions. Again, a saviour towards the front cut the tension by asking about her jewellery. Rachel took us through every piece, tossing her hair from side to side as if to signify her train of thought changing tracks, as she discussed how they related to everything from gods of war, to Barbie, to the divine feminine. 

Then: more silence. “I should have put paper out and got you to write questions in a bowl,” she joked, as people shifted uncomfortably on their cushions. 

An eventual question about spirituality saw Rachel toying with ideas of “spiritual commercialism” on stage. “There is a discernment to make. There’s an offering that needs to happen, but then there’s times that it gets silly,” she said. An interesting topic, and one especially ripe for further interrogation given she later asked “is anyone in here from India” and not a single hand was raised. 

Alas, a hair flip signalled another topic shift to the power of quiet, then another hair flip to whether we should get bereavement leave when our pets die. “I don’t even know how we got onto that,” Rachel laughed. While I will watch celebrities do anything – I once spent an evening watching Art Green eat an apple – at times I felt like I was greening out at 3am under an outdoor porch light. 

An audience with Rachel Hunter

We had been sitting on the floor for over an hour, so it was time for a 10-minute break, and immediately a huge queue formed to take selfies with Rachel. After joining a shorter queue for the toilet, I chatted with fellow peace-seekers. “I thought there would be more meditation,” one woman confessed. “But then it was pretty cheap, so can’t complain,” her friend added. 

Other punters had different concerns: “I love her hair, could dreadlock really easily.” 

It was nearing the advertised end of the event time (8.30pm) when we returned to our seats, and there was a distinct energy shift in my corner of the room. People started whispering about the time, checking phones and sliding on shoes. “I need a bus to get somewhere. I’m gonna get on the bus, but I’m not attached to the bus,” said Rachel. “It’s a means of getting somewhere. Do you see what I mean?” 

Someone asked a question about being alone, and Rachel was frank about her own life and relationships, including that some parts of her former self are “dissolving” and she isn’t sure what is coming next. “There is no plan, I am just purpose and heart driven,” she said. “Like when I come here tonight, I don’t think about anything, I just have to trust what comes out – sorry, guys.” 

The crowd laughed, perhaps a little loudly. 

As 8.30pm sailed by, it felt like pockets of the hall had entered a silent game of chicken with Rachel Hunter to see who would flinch first. “I need to stretch,” a woman muttered, creaking onto her knees. Yoga mats were tucked under arms, furtive glances exchanged, quiet exits made. “We’re in this beautiful Earth suit that we’re allowed to express everywhere,” said Rachel. “So how do we treat that?” 

It was nearing 9pm, and my Earth suit was expressing discomfort. As grateful as I was for Rachel’s musings, and the thrilling odd mention of Rod, I too thought there would be a little more meditation and a little less Q&A. I was reminded of Kevin McCloud’s unwieldy Town Hall show, and wondered if the Christchurch celebrity speaking circuit should come under some form of regulation.

“Someone’s just given you this life on a platter,” posited Rachel, “so what are you going to do with it?” I picked up my cushion, tiptoed out to the car, and bought a Trumpet on the way home. 

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