How COVID-19 killed the radio star, but gave life to a Kiwi skincare business

David Rooney opens up about his mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
David Rooney opens up about his mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: Supplied

When David Rooney thinks back to his time spent working in Melbourne, the first couple of years were full of fond memories. 

"I went over there with the Jase and PJ crew, they started a breakfast [radio] show in Melbourne and I was working with them."

He made the move at the end of 2017, and was working a dream job at KIIS FM, in a dream city. 

"I did that for two years, but my time came to an end as radio producer. I moved into a new role in the business, and that's when things started taking a turn for the worst." 

He says he moved into a toxic work environment, and was subjected to "immense bullying". 

"It brings up a lot of emotions talking about it now, but it was one of the most traumatising experiences of my life," he told Newshub podcast 'The Pivot'. 

And then the pandemic struck. 

"My mental health was so bad, and then you throw lockdown on top of that, and yeah I think it got to a point where I was just so keen to leave." 

As COVID cases took off in Melbourne, the city was plunged into the equivalent of New Zealand's alert level 3 from mid-March last year. 

It was then that the big city lights started to dim. 

"I remember having a phone call with my brother and he was saying 'look, you think that this is going to go away in a couple of weeks but you're wrong'... and he was right.

"We're still dealing with it now." 

The city came out of lockdown, but it was short-lived and even harsher restrictions were enforced. 

"I was just the most anxious I've ever been in my life - mainly related to work, but heightened by not being able to leave the house." 

Minutes after the second lockdown was announced, Rooney decided to book flights home to New Zealand. 

"There's a massive part of you that goes - 'I don't wanna give up on the work situation, and I don't want to leave Melbourne'. You don't want to say goodbye, but at what point do you go, 'this is just too much?'" 

After landing in Auckland, he spent two weeks in managed isolation. It was just the time he needed to reset, and bring to life an idea he'd hatched during lockdown. 

"So me and one of my friend's Jordyn used to go for socially distanced walks in the park, and we'd brainstorm things that were problems in society.

"One of those problems being that people get different pimples for different reasons... and the other is the mental health epidemic throughout the world." 

So they combined the two together, and created skincare brand 'Boring Without You'. 

It creates targeted skincare, and wants to donate a quarter of its profits to mental health charities. 

Rooney is now preparing to launch the business later this year, and tells 'The Pivot' just how he did it. 

To hear more about Rooney's journey, listen to the full episode of The Pivot - hosted by Newshub's Wilhelmina Shrimpton - now on Spotify or Apple.