Massey’s own queen of DIY

Many students may find themselves glued to television screens for the latest series of The Block NZ. But what you might not know is contestant Yanita McLeay is a Massey University student. The 29-year-old has paired up with her best friend and freelance designer Stace Cottrill on The Block NZ, as this year’s Team Orange, with the hope of walking away with any profit their house makes when it is sold at the end of the season. In between the chaos of painting walls and furnishing rooms, Massive Magazine was lucky enough to have a quick e-chat with McLeay.

What tools should every respectable DIYer have in their tool belt?

The one thing we are always needing (and always losing!) are our utility knives!

What’s the hardest part of being on The Block NZ?

Sleep deprivation has to be the hardest thing on The Block. Trying to finish a room (or two) in five days becomes a million times harder when you are living off two to three hours sleep consecutively.  She’s a big job and not an easy one!

What’s the best part of being on The Block NZ?

Being able to have a vision and create it within a week.  Nothing beats seeing a room go from a timber skeleton to a vibrant space that was only a sketch five days earlier.

How did you feel when you got the call confirming you would be a contestant this season?

We actually got told in person! Production organised a ‘mandatory medical exam’ for all the teams that attended casting weekend.  Turned out only four teams were called up, the ‘doctor’ was Mark Richardson, and we were ‘prescribed 12 weeks of renovations’ haha.  We were shocked and extremely excited!

Who do you think is your biggest competition?

Every team is our biggest competition.  Everyone brings a unique set of skills and varying levels of competitiveness.

What’s your favourite paint colour?

Right now I am LOVING the deep tones. Inky blues and teals are super hot.

How are you juggling uni work with competing on the block? 

The Block is a 24/7 gig and there is no way I could continue my studies while on it.  Massey has allowed me to put them on hold during the three months of filming.  I will be straight back into completing them once we wrap up on site. By December I should have completed by PhD in Sport Science (fingers crossed).

Which is the room you are most excited to design?

I am super excited to design our master bedroom and ensuite. The Block houses this year have insane views of the city and Rangitoto and we have some epic ideas for this space that utilises these views.

Is being a contestant on The Block NZ different to what you expected? Have you been a big fan of the show in the past?

I’ve watched previous seasons of The Block and thought ‘this looks quite hard’.  A week into it we realised that it is SO much harder than expected.  Most days we work 17 to 18 hours a day and its all under significant pressure.  It is a physically, emotionally and mentally challenging game.

How does it feel to see yourself on television?

Seeing myself on television is a little surreal!  When we can, the teams all sit down to watch the show together and it doesn’t really feel like we are watching ourselves.  Its almost like an out-of-body experience!

What’s your top tips for the everyday Kiwi designer?

Don’t be afraid to use colour!  Paint is such an epic way to bring a space to life and you can achieve so many different moods just by slapping some colour on the walls!

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