'It's hard to be yourself in New Zealand': KJ Apa says 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' reason he couldn't wait to leave home

KJ Apa has hit out at New Zealand's 'Tall Poppy Syndrome', citing it as one of the reasons he couldn't wait to leave the country after landing his breakout role on Shortland Street. 

Speaking with Demi Moore for Interview Magazine, Apa said he "became a machine at learning lines" when he starting working on the iconic Kiwi soap opera at age 16 - but soon got itchy feet. 

"I didn't really want to stay there. I didn't want to stay in New Zealand, full stop" he told Moore. 

"There's this thing in New Zealand called Tall Poppy Syndrome, where if you stand out, if you want to do anything too big or you dress weird, people give you shit and try to cut you down." 

Apa said he was totally shocked on arriving in Los Angeles for the first time and feeling a sense of freedom he hadn't been used to back home. 

"[I was like] 'Holy shit. This is what it's like to be in a place where you can dress how you want. No one cares if you're gay or straight'," he said. 

"In New Zealand, it's hard to be yourself if you're not confident enough." 

Despite his issues with New Zealand, Apa admitted that "deep in his heart" it's where he still calls home. 

"But when people ask me nonchalantly, I usually say LA. That's my sanctuary right now. My place of rest," he said. 

"I'm in the [Hollywood] hills," he added, "but thinking about it now, it's really not home. When I'm there, I still feel a sense of loneliness. My home is where my family is."