For their latest ageing episode, Hilary Barry joins the On the Rag team to talk wrinkle creams, menopause and why people still think she is Jeremy Wells’ mum.
This month’s episode of On the Rag is all about ageing. Time ravages us all, of course, but there’s no denying that women bear the bigger burden of keeping that fact a buried, Botoxed secret. With a whole industry built around smoothing laugh lines, stomping out crow’s feet and doing whatever we can to slow the sag, it can be hard to resist the pressure when every woman we see in the media is flawless, ageless and entirely gravity-free.
Hilary Barry doesn’t seem to give a fuck about any of that. The Seven Sharp co-host and ex 6pm newsreader has dealt with decades of people talking about the way she looks, what she wears and how she talks. In an industry where men are allowed to wither and grey behind the news desk while the women tend to get swapped out for someone younger, she’s also been the older woman in the hosting relationship twice over.
Joining the On the Rag team to talk about getting older, the pitfalls of menopause, and clapping back at critics on social media, here are five of her greatest pearls of wisdom.
1) On the phrase “mother of the nation”
For whatever weird reason, the public has always been eager to find New Zealand’s Next Top News Mum. Barry rejects the label for herself, despite headlines declaring otherwise. “Judy Bailey will always be the mother of the nation,” she told On the Rag. “I know that people have enjoyed that tag so much they want to put it on someone else but I don’t feel like I’m responsible enough. I just feel like some chick on TV… someone you might like to have a beer with.”
2) On the age difference between news anchors
With both her current and former co-host being men who were (hold onto your bloomers) younger than her, Barry knows a lot about how people react to older women. Paired with Jack Tame on Breakfast in 2016, there was a 17 year age gap between them. “There were so many comments from people saying ‘she looks like his mother’. But if you look at Mike McRoberts and Sam Hayes, or Mike Hosking and Toni Street, the age difference is 19 years.”
“That’s a bigger age difference, but ain’t nobody saying that Mike McRoberts looks like Sam’s dad, or that Mike Hosking looks like Toni Street’s dad. Yet you put an older woman in that role, suddenly, she looks like his mum.”
Barry now hosts Seven Sharp with Jeremy Wells, who is only seven years younger than her. “There are still comments that talk about me being his mother, and that’s ridiculous. I mean, I could not have given birth to Jeremy at the age of seven. It’s impossible.”
3) On her infamous social media clapbacks
Asked if she still receives negative comments about her appearance, Barry says the trolls have quietened down since she’s become known for “giving them a bit of a biff” online. “That’s the thing about the internet,” she says. “People feel like they can say terrible things to you, like ‘she’s a big girl, she’s on TV. She can take it.’… I think I’ve clapped back enough times for people to realise that they shouldn’t.”
Although she sometimes runs her response tweets past her co-host Jeremy Wells – he seldom tells her not to send them – she never asks any higher-ups. She’s earned that right. “Occasionally, something will really tick me off, or actually really make me laugh. There was one where some woman said, ‘oh my goodness, your thighs on television’. I just thought it was so funny, so I took a close up photo of my thighs in the pants that she had complained about and sent it to her.”
4) On the secret world of menopause
An often neglected topic in the conversation of aging is menopause, something Barry openly brings up in relation to how long it takes her to get her makeup done. “Now that I’m nearly 50, what is so awful is that I have the worst skin in the world, because hello menopause,” she says. “I’m like a pimply teenager again. You go into makeup and some of the young ones go, ‘are you allergic to something?’”
When she explains that it is down to hormones, she is often met with more questions. “They go, ‘really, is that what happens?’ Because, you know, we just don’t talk about it.”
5) On anti-ageing snake oil
Despite being the subject of a scam – people have been using her face to sell anti-ageing creams online – Hilary says she will never shill for Big Beauty. “You’re never going to see me on my Instagram feed hocking off some anti-ageing cream. It’s very funny because I get sent, unsolicited I should say, constant boxes of anti-ageing cream from PR companies.”
In yet another real life clapback, Hilary immediately hands out every free, new, cutting-edge anti-ageing lotion out around the newsroom.
“I’m not using that shit,” she says. “Heaven forbid that I should get any older.”
On the Rag is made with the support of NZ On Air
Subscribe to Rec Room a weekly newsletter delivering The Spinoff’s latest videos, podcasts and other recommendations straight to your inbox.