Kerry Smith once argued that she might have been unemployed in a previous life. She told the Listener that right from when very young, she'd "always had at least two jobs. It's just one of those things — I need to be working all the time."
As a child, Smith’s interest in acting was spawned by trips to the ballet and theatre. Later she trained as a hairdresser, then left hometown Auckland to start her screen career across the Tasman.
During a holiday in Surfers Paradise in the early 70s, she saw the local meter maids in action. Originally established by the local business association, the Surfers meter maids were employed to put money into parking meters and do general promotion duties. 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 was then invited to become a weather presenter at a TV station in Tasmania. After joining live children’s series Razzamatazz, she was voted the most popular female television personality in Tasmania for three years running.
After returning to New Zealand in 1981, Smith dabbled in radio and theatre, then joined TVNZ as a continuity announcer. She would also co-host popular magazine show Weekend, alongside Gordon McLauchlan.
The debut of Gloss in 1987 marked the first time Smith had acted on television. Never a fan of the auditioning process, she cancelled two auditions before winning the role. Gleefully over the top, the soap about a high fashion magazine won many fans. Smith played “glamorous, witty, sharp-tongued” Magda McGrath, the magazine's deputy editor who has her eye on the top job — though as the press kit put it, "deep down she is kind hearted and caring".
Smith was never a person for doing one job when she could do three. In the first season she worked five months of 10-hour days. During the show's run she also worked in PR for TVNZ, and did a stint as a reporter on Kiwiana magazine show That’s Fairly Interesting.
By the time Gloss finished its third and final season in 1990, she was also presenting the Lotto draw, and working as a breakfast radio host. She began working on the pilot of comedy For the Love of Mike on a Monday, after filming her final Gloss scenes the previous Friday. When Gloss co-creator Janice Finn had approached her about the new TV show, Smith "wanted it very badly".
Smith starred as Mike, an ambitious businesswoman whose major flaw is her boyfriend, a psychologist/sexologist played by Australian Andrew Clarke (Anzacs). Smith's character was "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' first radio gig occured back when she was living in Tasmania. Later she joined Radio Pacific and talkback station RadioLive. In 2006 she began a five-year stint hosting the 10am till 2pm shift on The Breeze.
Smith died on 20 April 2011, after a battle with skin cancer.
Jenni Austen, ‘There’s a lot of me in Magda’ (Interview) - The New Zealand Women’s Weekly, 19 October 1987, page 4
Michael Fox, 'Kerry Smith dies after cancer battle' - The Dominion Post, 21 April 2011
Shelley Howells, ‘Fighting Shy: Kerry Smith’ (Interview) - The Listener, 17 June 1991, page 66
Writer unknown, ‘Kiwi Changing Rooms indulges the presenter’ - The Dominion, 6 June 1991
Gloss season three press kit