Kerry Smith’s interest in acting was spawned by childhood trips to theatre and ballet. Later she trained as a hairdresser, then left hometown Auckland to begin her screen career across the Tasman.
During a holiday in Surfers Paradise in the early 70s, she was overcome by a desire to become a golden girl. The golden girls are bikini-clad meter maids, employed by the local business association for promotional and photographic opportunities, including putting money into parking meters. Unlikely as it seems, Smith’s Kiwi accent helped her get the job: “The business association decided an Australian accent did not sound very good on air, so I was the one who travelled around the other states promoting the coast”.
Smith then accepted an offer to become a weather presenter at a television station in Tasmania. She followed it with live children’s series Razzamatazz, and for three years was voted the most popular female television personality in the state.
She returned to New Zealand in 1981, and joined TVNZ as a continuity announcer, then later co-host of popular magazine show Weekend, alongside Gordon McLauchlan.
Though she had acted on stage, the first season of Gloss in 1987 marked the first time Smith had put her TV and acting skills in one basket. That first season saw Smith doing five months of 10-hour days. Her role was the “glamorous, witty, sharp-tongued” Magda McGrath, deputy editor of the fashion magazine at the show’s centre.
Smith alternated seasons of the successful soap with a PR job at TVNZ, and a stint as one of the presenters on Kiwiana magazine show That’s Fairly Interesting.
By the time Gloss concluded in 1990, she was also presenting Lotto, and working as a radio host; the weekend after finishing on Gloss she began a starring role in the pilot episode of comedy For the Love of Mike. Gloss co-creator Janice Finn had approached Smith about the new TV show while Gloss was still in production.
Smith played Mike, an ambitious businesswoman whose major flaw is her boyfriend, a psychologist/sexologist played by Australian Andrew Clarke (Sword of Honour). Describing her character, Smith said “she’s just so madly in love with him that, in some ways, she lets him walk all over her.” For the Love of Mike also included appearances by Michael Hurst and a pre-Xena Lucy Lawless.
In 1998 the renovation-keen Smith began presenting the local version of English home improvement show Changing Rooms. She was still on board three seasons later, when Smith co-hosted a special cross-over show involving renovations in Alexandra (Otago) and Devon (England).
Smith was first heard over the radio waves while living in Tasmania. Later she became a presenter on Radio Pacific and talkback station RadioLive, before spending five years with easy-listening station The Breeze.
Smith died on 20 April 2011, after a battle with skin cancer.
Jenni Austen, ‘There’s a lot of me in Magda’ - New Zealand Women’s Weekly, 19 October 1987, Page 4
Shelley Howells, ‘Fighting Shy: Kerry Smith’ (Interview) - Listener, 17 june 1991, page 66
Anonymous, ‘Kiwi Changing Rooms indulges the presenter’ - Dominion, 6 June 1991