Jennifer Ward-Lealand is a pou of the performing arts community and a role model for all New Zealanders, demonstrating leadership and dedication in all walks of life. Her exceptional artistic talent has guided her to the pinnacle of the performing arts industry where she has amassed an impressive body of work as an actor and director alongside a lifetime of voluntary work, using her mana to advocate on important issues affecting the performing arts community.
In all these endeavors, she has shown an genuine commitment and passion for te reo Māori me ōna tikanga, showing the way to an authentic bi-cultural society.
Jennifer was gifted the name Te Atamira (The Stage) by Sir Tīmoti Kāretu and the late Dr Te Wharehuia Milroy for her championing of te reo throughout the performing arts community.
As a teacher, Jennifer is involved in all aspects of screen and theatre work and is a direct mentor to emerging actors, filmmakers and writers; she has been training and working as an intimacy coordinator on stage and screen where she is one of the pioneers of this important emerging field.
She is also President of Equity New Zealand, co-founder of Watershed Theatre, a co-founder of the drama school The Actors’ Program, a trust board member of The Actors Benevolent Fund, 2018 SPADA/Data Book Industry Champion, Patron of The Auckland Performing Arts Centre (since its inception in 2000), Patron of Q Theatre (since its inception in 2011) and patron of Theatre New Zealand (since 2019).