Alex Casey chats to Bree Tomasel about hosting Celebrity Treasure Island NZ, farting in the ZM studio and going viral on the regular.
The most important thing you need to know about Bree Tomasel is not the fact that she peed her pants during Celebrity Treasure Island NZ, but the glee with which she tells me about it. “Not fully, but definitely a little bit,” she explains. “They yelled ‘ACTION’ and some wee came out. I thought it wouldn’t show on camera, but after we shot the entire thing I checked out the situation and the wee was definitely visible.” Tomasel repeats for emphasis. “Definitely visible.”
If you have ever listened to her radio show on ZM, or watched one of her many viral videos, Tomasel’s cheery toilet chat shouldn’t come as a surprise. Even in her very first episode as co-host of Celebrity Treasure Island NZ, it’s clear she has no qualms about bringing her favourite topics over to the small screen – whether referring to “poo paper” or “weeing” herself in the middle of a challenge (metaphorically, not literally – I think).
“Alex, I’m lactose intolerant so I can’t help my natural bodily functions,” she laughs when I ask about her scatalogical leanings. “I’m breaking the mould! Us ladies, we fart! We pee! We poo! Get used to it!” While it disgusts many, Tomasel’s frank, fart-fuelled attitude has made her an internet sensation, a radio host on one of the country’s biggest stations, and now a co-host on the return of Celebrity Treasure Island NZ on TVNZ. She must be doing something right.
Growing up on an apple orchard in rural Queensland, or what she prefers to call “an apple farm,” Tomasel’s childhood was a world away from fancy television cameras in Fiji and Channing Tatum in her DMs. “I had the most country upbringing you could ever imagine. I don’t think I wore shoes until I was six years old,” she says. “I was riding motorbikes, driving tractors – I learned how to drive a manual car when I was eight.”
Television was always a huge part of her upbringing, particularly sport, sitcoms and comedy sketch shows. “We had this show in Australia called Full Frontal, which had people like the creators of Kath and Kim and actors like Magda Szubanski. I remember watching and thinking that it would be the best job in the whole world to create things that make people laugh. I feel like I am an addict, I have always been addicted to making people laugh.”
At university, Tomasel did a dual bachelor degree in communications, journalism and public relations. “I remember, before I had even finished my degree, everyone was asking me ‘so are you going to get a job in PR?’ and I was like ‘no, I’m going to try and get my dream job.’ I knew I would kick myself if I didn’t give it a good go.” She wasn’t to know that the path to her dream job – “talking shit for a living” – would be paved with late nights cleaning filthy toilets.
Because, after eight months of working for free at the local radio station, Tomasel became fiercely strapped for cash. “I was giving up all my time to learn every single little thing about being on air, but at the same time I was so poor I started cleaning the toilets of the same radio station I was working at just to make a little bit of money. So when I say I know everything about working in radio, I really mean it.”
It was, coincidentally, around this time that she began filming content “too crass for radio” and uploading the videos to Facebook. Her first viral hit, ‘Getting an Uber Home Sober vs Getting an Uber Home Drunk’ got 800,000 views. “I remember refreshing the page and watching the views go up by the thousands every second. I had to turn my notifications off, my phone was completely unusable – and I’ve still got them off to this day, actually.”
She quickly topped that a month later with a supercut video asking her mum every awkward question she could think of, including whether she shaved her pubes and if she knows what a MILF is. With every outrageous question met with an incensed shriek of “Breanna!”, the video quickly surpassed two million views. To this day, her mum still gets recognised in the street. “I think she loves the attention, but she doesn’t love me giving her such a hard time.”
Then again, even the worst thing Tomasel has said to her mum doesn’t compare to the abuse she has received online, especially when her videos are shared by the often-toxic ‘male humour’ sites Unilad and LadBible. “It’s mainly a lot about my appearance and people telling me that this isn’t how a woman should be acting. But I love that because it means that I am breaking someone’s idea of what a woman should be.” Her favourite comment? “This girl looks like Cara Delevingne if she was on meth and homeless.”
“He said I looked like Cara Delevingne! Compliment taken!”
Although Tomasel downplays her viral success – “you rake up views but nothing else changes, I was still at home in my last pair of undies eating grated cheese out of the bag” – it was less than a year from her first video to getting a call from ZM. Despite having scored a job on a breakfast radio show just outside of Sydney, ZM’s offer was too good to pass up. “It was a tough decision, but I had so many out of the box ideas and I knew they would allow me to execute them.”
Arriving in New Zealand with her partner, not knowing a single other person, Tomasel describes the move as “shit scary” and, in the same breath, one which made her “shit herself”.
“I was really lucky to have that initial support, but then I went through a horrific break-up about five months later. That was one of the hardest things I’ve been through, being in a new country and away from all my support people.”
Nearly two years later, she is as comfortable calling New Zealand home as she is farting in front of her extremely tolerant ZM co-host Clint Robertson. “He absolutely hates it so much,” she laughs, “that’s why I keep doing it.” Matt Chisholm, her co-host on Celebrity Treasure Island NZ, is yet to have the pleasure. “What a lovely and amazing human,” says Tomasel of Chisholm. “I was so blessed to have my first TV job alongside someone so genuine and so supportive of me.”
As someone who takes pride in being a bit feral, Tomasel says she was disappointed to not be living in the damp jungle dwellings alongside the Celebrity Treasure Island contestants. “I felt like the child that was put in the naughty corner, because we were kept totally separate. I lived in a hotel while everyone else had in a hole in the ground for a toilet.” The shoot days in Fiji were long, cramming three challenges into 12-hour slots. No wonder she peed herself a little bit.
She set herself homework on each celebrity before the show started filming, but it wasn’t long before her expectations were shattered. “They all surprised me. You have a pre-existing idea of someone but these conditions really show all of them as a person. They are pushed to their absolute limits. There’s people breaking down, people crying, people backstabbing. You really see everyone in a different light.”
Of course, the drama is nothing without the edit and particularly the voiceover, something Tomasel has been heavily involved with from the beginning. Inspired by comedian Iain Stirling, the scathing Scotsman whose narration is responsible for roughly 90% of Love Island’s success, Tomasel has been rewriting her voiceover scripts right down to the wire. “It used to be much more straight, but I pitched Warner Brothers a script and they were like ‘That’s it. Do that.'”
The Tomasel touch is indeed all over Celebrity Treasure Island NZ, from crate day references to her description of Moses Mackay’s voice as “a unicorn sliding down a rainbow”. It’s all part of her goal to stay as authentic as possible in every medium, she says. “I want to stay true to piss-taking and having fun, keeping things light-hearted. I was really keen to represent a different kind of woman. I’m not a size eight, I’m not a super attractive blonde, I’m definitely not ladylike.”
Despite the fact that she has already gone viral, hosted a radio show and peed herself on national television, Tomasel isn’t finished with the media yet. She’s planning to record a podcast with her dear old mum next year, and has her sights set on stand-up comedy. “One day I’d love to build up the courage to do that, I’d hope some people want to hear it.”
One thing’s for certain: New Zealand will be hearing a lot more from the farm girl from Queensland. “Put it this way,” she says. “If you hated my accent before this, you won’t be able to get away from it now.”
Celebrity Treasure Island airs Sunday 7pm, and Monday and Tuesday 7.30pm on TVNZ 2.
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