Tammy Wells, a stellar career

For 35 years, Tammy Wells has been the voice and the face behind one of New Zealand’s most endearing and enduring characters. Metropol’s Céline Gibson catches up with her at home in Darfield.

The Briscoes Lady is so deeply embedded into Kiwi culture that she has already achieved icon status, popping into the lyrics of Don McGlashan’s ‘Marvellous Year’, being fantasised about in the play ‘Mamil’, having her face tattooed on to a Whakatane DJ’s leg, and, most recently, becoming a GIF.

On a personal level, while celebrity recognition undoubtedly has its downside, the upside is that it can be used as a tool for good, and paying it forward is something Tammy Wells is passionate about.

“In those early days with Christchurch City Mission, I did a lot with them. Nowadays, when an organisation invites me to speak about being The Briscoes Lady, I’m happy to do it but ask that they give a good donation to the City Mission.”

Tammy’s Briscoes Lady has so long proved herself the ultimate ambassador for the brand, that the temptation to ask if there is any particular instore merchandise that she covets above others is irresistible.

The question is promptly answered. “The linen sheets. Personally, when travelling for my work, I don’t like cotton sheets. They’re cold and noisy; whereas linen sheets are quiet and warm. Briscoes linen sheets are my fave.”

Tammy describes herself as a private person who cherishes her downtime with family – her husband, Michael, and their two sons, who both recently married. “We adore our daughter-in-law and son-in-law and feel so blessed. It’s lovely to see them all in a settled and happy place.”

A typical day away from the cameras sees Tammy either before her easel, “I love creating with colour, and the colours that happen on the canvas – what comes out – it’s a learning curve in itself,” or working alongside Michael in the garden of the family home they have resided at for 38 years.

“Sometimes when I’m being The Briscoes Lady instore and meeting our wonderful customers, that’s amazing, but it’s also intense. As my character, I’m being hugged and photographed and filmed, so it’s lovely to return home to the peace and quiet and the bellbirds.”

As Michael has long championed Tammy’s career in front of the spotlight, Tammy is now championing Michael’s new career as a sculptor.
Michael’s sculpting began after his retiring from dairy farming and ramped up during lockdown. His Corten steel artworks are drawn from shapes and forms in life, and range from small ornamental barbed-wire bird nests through to magnificent large orbs, balls, and link-like structures.
Tammy says their property will open to Garden Clubs for the first time, this spring, showcasing Michael’s work.

“Corten steel looks beautiful amongst green surroundings. Nature has so much rust colour in itself.”
Work and home-life aside, another burning question that needs to be answered is what is Tammy’s secret to looking so vivacious?
“Number one is smiling. Smiling is key because smiling lifts your face. I’m also lucky that I have a team doing my hair, my make-up, my clothes, and fabulous lighting guys.”

“If I had a dollar for the number of times people say to me ‘Oh, you look so young – pause – on television’. And you have to stand there being The Briscoes Lady and suck it up and think okay, and just go with it, because it is what it is.”

For Tammy, the most important thing is to embrace who you are and how you look “Because there is no one quite like you, and that’s what makes you special
and different.”

Tammy says that having an inner contentedness helps too. “Surround yourself with good people who help to lift you up. Realise that you are beautiful as you are. Youth is beautiful, but so is age. All ages are beautiful. We need to make the most of the age we are at.”

As for retirement, there are no plans for that. “My employer at Briscoes said to me right at the start that he visualised us both still going strong into our old age. So, as long as I can keep going and they keep saying, ‘Let’s get Tammy up to Auckland’, I will still be The Briscoes Lady.”

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