Jess & Ardon share their stories at Real Talk event in Whanganui

A series of New Zealand speakers, two of whom are from Whanganui, will be sharing their stories this weekend as part of Real Talk, an event aimed at inspiring and empowering others.

The Whanganui date is the latest in a number of events throughout the country.

Co-founder Tania Carr said the event in Whanganui was especially targeted at younger people.

"It's about encouraging and motivating them by saying that it doesn't matter where you come from, it's about where you choose to go," Carr said

"The speakers have been selected because most of them have overcome adversity or have a story to share that empowers and uplifts. Our audience needs to resonate with the speakers and see themselves in their shoes, so they can say 'there is hope for me'."

Carr said a massive reason for putting on the events was the high rates of suicide that were still prevalent in New Zealand.

"Six-hundred and 5ifty-four people died by suicide in New Zealand last year, and of those, 174 were Māori; 78 deaths were rangitahi aged between 10 and 25 years old. The statistics are harrowing.

"The event is free for people aged between 16 and 25. Those are the ones who we want to hear the message."

Māori Television news reporter Jess Tyson is one of the former Whanganui locals to feature on Saturday night.

Tyson will be coming home for the weekend to talk about her experience healing from sexual abuse and starting her Brave charity as Miss World Oceania.

"My favourite part about being involved in Real Talk is the fact that the kaupapa itself is focussed on helping rangatahi," Tyson said.

"A lot of the speakers have gone through troubles and challenges in our younger lives but we've managed to overcome them.

"Hopefully, by telling my story, I can help those younger people who are going through a similar thing to see that there's a way out of it and there's a way to move on."

Tyson said while it might look like she had lived "a very glamorous life", she had faced struggles behind it all.

"It's good to normalise that with people I think, so they know they're not alone."

Ardon England has also joined the Real Talk line up this weekend.

England has created his own brand, and works in dance, fashion, entertainment and boxing.

"I've always had an issue doing just one thing, and I get bored very easily," England said.

"At the moment I'm a boxing instructor, and I'm the first openly gay male boxer in New Zealand, which I find a bit crazy.

"All the work I do kind of has a bit of a bigger story to it. My goal is to try to break down discrimination within the boxing industry and the impact that toxic masculinity has had in that space."

Real Talk was a great opportunity to connect with people who might be in the same position he was in the past, England said.

"If these types of talks happened back when I was younger, I would have loved to be sitting in one of the seats.

"Being from a smaller town like Whanganui, you can feel a bit sheltered from the rest of the world, I think.

"Having people coming in and talking about their lives might give a bit of hope that there are bigger things beyond our own backyard."

England said his main goal had been to create a life for himself that he actually wanted.

"Dreaming big in New Zealand is a very reachable thing because we're such a small country.

"Coming back to my hometown to share my story is really special, and it's important to remember where you came from, and where everything started."

Real Talk runs from 6pm to 9.30pm tonight in the Function Centre at the Whanganui Racecourse.

There will be sensitive subjects and some coarse language, so the recommended age for the event is 16 and above.

For more information, go to

Mike Tweed
Whanganui Chronicle 17/4/21

(*) Last Reviewed: April 27, 2021

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