Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Lealand


Actress, MC, Speaker, 2020 New Zealander of the Year

Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Lealand 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 Encyclopaedia Britannica seem short. She toured New Zealand and abroad with Harry Sinclair and Don McGlashan 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 (13)

Philanthropy Summit 2021

Jennifer was a keynote speaker at the Philanthropy Summit 2021, speaking about her te reo Māori journey, learnings and implications. Jennifer was professional to work with, adaptable and focused on delivering to the needs of Philanthropy New Zealand and summit attendees. Initial feedback told us that Jennifer’s talk was insightful and highly rated.

Sue McCabe | Chief Executive Officer

Philanthropy New Zealand