Jennifer Te Atamira Ward-Lealand is the First Lady of New Zealand theatre, she's an actor, director, Te Reo Māori advocate and a union campaigner for actors. Over the last 40 years, the award-winning actress has amassed a list of stage and screen performance credits that would make the Encyclopaedia Britannica seem short. She toured New Zealand and abroad with Harry Sinclair and Don McGlashan in music-theatre group The Front Lawn, starred to international acclaim in melodrama film Desperate Remedies and was a core-cast member in high-rating comedy sketch Full Frontal. Over the last 20 years, Jennifer has directed film, musical and theatre, as well as working as an intimacy coordinator for screen and stage. Jennifer was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and later was appointed as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her contributions to theatre, film and television.
Despite being non-Māori, Jennifer has dedicated a lot of her time to learning and promoting the importance to Te Reo Māori in New Zealand. This contributed to her being named the 2020 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.