Revealed: Cindy of Samoa's secret - 15-Jun-2008 Cindy knew, Simon knew. TVNZ knew. But Stars in their Eyes viewers had to make up their own minds. Was that Tina Turner impersonator an Amazonian woman or a bloke?
"I'm a woman with extras," says the performer who goes by the stage name Cindy of Samoa. And yes, she says, she was born a man.
The 38-year-old hosted her own show in Apia for six years and was featured in a 1999 documentary about fa'afafine, Paradise Bent: Boys will be Girls in Samoa.
She rejects labels like transgender... "I don't believe in that, all the trans-this and trans-that." She says she's just her. "I'm a woman... a woman with some extras and some women don't have the extras."
Stars in Their Eyes host Simon Barnett says it was not an issue for him.
"Obviously I was aware, on a personal level, I realised she was very broad shouldered and very tall... when I gave her a little kiss on the cheek it felt a little prickly."
But he says he avoided talking about her sexuality because he didn't want it to be an "irritant" for her.
"I genuinely thought she was great fun and I loved her performance. I think that's why she won. The audience took her to heart."
TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards says Cindy's gender was not discussed by the network.
"In terms of the programme we are interested in contestant talent, not in biology."
Barnett says he has had calls and emails from viewers asking if Cindy was a man or woman.
Cindy who stands nearly 1.8m tall and has a collection of size 12 stilettos says she would have happily talked about it and was surprised it didn't come up in the interviews before the show or during banter in the episode.
"I was surprised they never asked anything. I thought maybe they're not interested at all in that part... maybe they just want me in the show and that's all they care about."
In Samoa, The Cindy Show ran for five years from 1996, attracting audiences of up to 1000 with tourist guides listing it as one of the "must dos" during any visit. In Auckland, Cindy is a regular on karaoke night at Family Bar on Auckland's K' Rd.
The win has expanded her fan base. She says when she was out in Auckland last week a crowd, including school children, swamped her, all wanting to say hello. "Everybody [yelled] Tina Turner! Tina Turner! And they ran up and gave me hugs and kisses."
The final of Stars in Their Eyes is on TV One, June 24 at 8.30pm.