12 June 2017
When Georgia Bergerson got the call saying she’d made it on to Survivor NZ, the singer and dancer from Palmerston North couldn’t wait to tell her family the exciting news – but her big sister Jessica didn’t share the same enthusiasm.
“When I told her I was going to be on TV, her first response was, ‘Oh, my gosh, on Shortland Street?’ I could sense her disappointment when I told her no,” smiles newly eliminated contestant Georgia, 26, whose 28-year-old sister was born with Down syndrome. “I’m lucky she wasn’t forced to choose between the two because I know exactly where her loyalties would lie.”
But Shorty super-fan Jessica got the best of both worlds when Georgia used her newfound fame on the TVNZ 2 reality show to score a visit to the soap’s set, where they both posed for an exclusive
Woman’sDay photo shoot. “Today has been a dream come true,” says pharmacy worker Jessica. “It was the best day of my life.”
While highly competitive Georgia says getting booted off Survivor so close to the tribal merge was devastating, it’s moments like these that put things into perspective.
Georgia Interview with Woman's Day:
“Jess is naturally quite a shy person, but when she was chatting away to the stars, her confidence lit up the room,” Georgia says with a smile. “It feels incredible knowing I’ve made this happen. I used to wonder what life would look like for her, and I couldn’t be more proud of the mature and independent woman Jess has become.”
However, there was a time when Georgia admits that schoolyard bullies made her and her two brothers – Sam, 23, and Noah, 19 – feel ashamed of their sister.
“We’d never really thought of Jess as different until I was about eight,” she tells. “We moved from Hawke’s Bay to Palmerston North, and the kids in our new school would tease and mock us – it was awful. It got to the point where we actually felt embarrassed to be seen out in public with her.”
Georgia eventually moved schools, which put an end to the bullying, but she also found a way to celebrate her sister’s differences. By the time she was 15, she’d opened up a dance school for kids with disabilities, which still operates today.
“I’m a performer, and have danced and sung all my life – as a kid, it was an out for me,” tells Georgia. “I wanted Jess and her friends to have a place where they could experience the joy of it. Jess has taught me so much and I wanted a way to give back.
“The way she looks at the world is beautiful – she has nothing but love in her heart. She has taught me so much about acceptance and being brave. Jess is truly someone special.”