9 June 2021
Choosing faith over fame – Ben Leauanae’s story
Life has a way of throwing us opportunities, choices and challenges, especially when it comes to our careers. Often the road forks and a choice must be made.
Three decades ago, this was the case for Hume’s Community Cohesion Officer, Ben Leauanae, when as a teenager he looked set to be a pop star, fronting the Auckland boy band Purest Form.
The band was originally a vocal quartet from Onehunga High School who busked at weekends in downtown Auckland. One day the manager of Auckland’s Rainbow's End amusement park discovered them, and they recorded an a cappella doo-wop version of the park’s advertising jingle and filmed a television commercial. This kicked off Purest Form’s band career and started making them a household name.
Purest Form released five singles, with four of them making it to New Zealand’s top 40. In 1995 they also won single of the year for ‘Message to My Girl’ at the New Zealand Music Awards. At this time, this talented singing group were at the height of their popularity and the world was at their feet.
As lead singer, Leauanae had offers and opportunities being made at every turn – such as a solo recording contract. But he decided to take another path – one of faith, not fame.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, for some time Leauanae had planned to undertake a religious ministry, and it was this commitment that he eventually put before anything else.
So instead of signing record deals, he ended up going to Melbourne on a two-year ministry which ultimately led him to a career in social work and now community housing.
The band split up in 1997 but it was amicable, and the other boys understood and respected Leauanae’s decision to follow his faith. They did however reunite in October 2013 on New Zealand’s TV3 comedy panel show 7 days where they performed the Rainbow’s End song and enjoyed the reunion.
Looking back, Leauanae said these years were fantastic fun and the path of fame twinkled and tempted. Yet it was his commitment to his faith that won in the end.
“It was a real sliding doors moment, where the other decision would have led me in a very different direction, but I would not change it for the world,” said Leauanae.
“It all really started as a bit of fun watching a friend’s music group singing on a Friday night in Auckland and then we started singing ourselves. It was when the manager of Rainbow’s End amusement park spotted us it all changed as we began singing regularly and getting paid for our trouble.
“We did lots of performances and really enjoyed it, but for me it was not everything, although music is still very much part of me. Getting back together in 2013 was a great laugh and was very happy to do it,” he said.
As for his non-musical career, caring and support have been his prowess.
“Post the mission, despite my love of music I chose to study social work because the mission had led me down this path,” he said.
“I worked for some years in disability services in New Zealand and then came to live in Australia, a blessed country of which I am now a citizen, where I continued doing this until I worked as community engagement coordinator at Settlement Services International, helping refugees get settled in Australia.”
Leauanae’s experience eventually led him to where he is now in 2021 working for Hume Community Housing which is a growing organisation that strives to not just provide a home for those with low incomes, on welfare, disabled or in need, but also crucial support to the disadvantaged and struggling.
“I love my work as people are what it’s all about and when I appropriate a little music comes into play as well – it’s a great healer and ice breaker!” he said.
However, music is never far away from Leauanae as all his children sing and perform, with their own YouTube channel called Kids of Leo, Leo being Ben’s middle name.
“My kids all go to the Australian Performing Arts Grammar and have also been on Australia’s got talent, Super Kids in Germany and America’s Most Musical Family, so no matter what, music is in my life to stay as it’s very hard to avoid in my house!” he laughed.
Ben's story is featured on page 14 of the Winter Edition of HumeLife read it here: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/999343828/14/
You can also watch some of Purest Form's pop videos at this link: https://www.youtube.com/user/OmnicronProductions