Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Lealand


Award winning Actress, MC, Fluent Te Reo Speaker, 2020 New Zealander of the Year

Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Leland is the First Lady of New Zealand theatre, she’s an actor, director, Te Reo Māori advocate and a union campaigner for actors. Over the last 40 years, the award-winning actress has amassed a list of stage and screen performance credits that would make the Encyclopedia Britannica seem short. She toured New Zealand and abroad with Harry Sinclaire and Don McGlashin in music-theatre group The Front Lawn, starred to international acclaim in melodrama film Desperate Remedies and was a core-cast member in high-rating comedy sketch show Full Frontal. Over the last 20 years, Jennifer has directed film, musical and theatre, as well as working as an intimacy coordinator for screen and stage. Jennifer was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and later was appointed as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for her contributions to theatre, film and television. Despite being non-Māori, Jennifer has dedicated a lot of her time to learning and promoting the importance of Te Reo Māori in New Zealand. This contributed to her being named the 2020 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

Elegant and down-to-earth, Jennifer is in hot-demand as an MC and host for arts and corporate events. Her warmth, self-assurance and wit have carried audiences at the NZ Book Awards (7 times), The World of Wearable Art Awards, the Whitecliffe Fashion Show (five times), APO fundraisers and the annual Equity Lifetime Achievement Award. Her fluency in Te Reo Māori brings an added depth to her work.


Auckland, New Zealand


After Dinner Speaker, Celebrity, Compere/MC, Debator, Judge, Keynote Speaker, Live Performance Host, MC / Stage compere, Panellist, Singer, Speech Writer


Intimacy Coordination (for stage & screen), Current Affairs, Directing, Film & Television, Music, Musical Theatre, Opera, Producing, Race Relations, Research, Teaching, Theatre, Travel


Testimonials (12)

New Zealand Institute of Architects - Nov 2020

Jennifer, you held the evening together with poise and confidence, and the audience in the Waterfront Theatre in Auckland was purring with delight at your te reo pronunciation and fluency.

You’ve been integral to the success of the awards programme this year – thank you very much.

John Walsh - Communications Director

We have used Jennifer a number of times in the past… this is because she is so reliable, professional and is able to adapt at a moment’s notice. She takes the stress out of script-writing and the performance. She is the ultimate MC; proficient and skilled with class and mana. She is mesmerising to watch and a pleasure to work with.

Daryne Begbie - Events & Sponsorship Director