Dr Ashley Bloomfield was thrust into the spotlight as a pivotal player in New Zealand's COVID-19 response - and now, the beloved health official could be crowned New Zealand's TV Personality of the Year.
The Director-General of Health has become a fixture on the small screen since the start of the pandemic, fronting the regular 1pm press conferences as the public-facing official liaising with the media on behalf of the Government.
Lauded for his measured, methodical and mild-mannered leadership style, the public servant has become something of a local healthcare hero. He will now compete against the likes of seasoned 1 News presenter Wendy Petrie, Newshub's popular national correspondent Paddy Gower and Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien - who vaulted to viral fame after her no-nonsense interview with disgraced former MP Jami-Lee Ross became a social media sensation - for the TV Personality of the Year title.
Addressing reporters at the media briefing on Tuesday, Dr Bloomfield was asked how he felt about being a finalist in the New Zealand Television Awards' category.
"I'm very humbled," he said with a smile. "Let's just see what rolls with that one."
"Have you ever wanted to be a TV star?" the journalist pressed.
Laughing, he responded: "It's not something I dreamt about in my childhood, or my adulthood for that matter."
New Zealand's TV Personality of the Year is the only publicly voted category within the New Zealand Television Awards. Previous winners include Toni Street, Hayley Holt and last year's recipient Matty McLean, who will be presenting the trophy to this year's winner.
The popularity of Dr Bloomfield - who was singled out by former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer as the most "well-known" public servant in "a long time" - has seen his likeness printed on hand towels, recreated in numerous artworks and even inked on the leg of one adoring fan.
The finalists for the 2020 TV Personality of the Year are:
- Aziz Al-Sa’afin – The AM Show (Three)
- Hilary Barry – Seven Sharp (TVNZ 1)
- Dr Ashley Bloomfield – COVID-19 daily updates
- Kimberley Crossman – The Project (Three) / Golden Boy (Three) / Survive the 80s (TVNZ OnDemand)
- Jayden Daniels – Shortland Street (TVNZ 2) / Head High (Three)
- Patrick Gower – Newshub National Correspondent / The Project / Patrick Gower: On Weed (Three)
- Kanoa Lloyd – The Project (Three)
- Tova O’Brien – Newshub (Three)
- Wendy Petrie – 1 News (TVNZ 1)
- Pio Terei – Pio Terei Tonight / Off the Grid with Pio (Māori Television).
Online voting is now open via the New Zealand Television Awards website and closes at 11:59pm on Sunday, November 15, 2020. Winners will be announced on November 18 at a red carpet gala event in Auckland.