Regional | Actor

'Has Taika rung yet?': Etta Bei Jeff, the Māori 'ninja' who's gone viral

Jeff Rangihuna (Ngāti Porou) is Etta Bei Jeff, a popular Māori TikToker who as a youngster learned acting under Jim Moriarty.  Source / TikTok

Gisborne is blessed with some of the world's most gorgeous and spectacular wonders - a city that is first to see the sun, a stunningly beautiful coastline, mouthwatering kaimoana - and now a Māori ninja.

Better known as Etta Bei Jeff to millions on social media, 'Gizzy' local Jeff Rangihuna (Ngāti Porou) has unleashed a devastating '3kick Combo' this past week that has the internet in awe - well, sort of.

Dishing out advice in case you're ever attacked in a dark alley, Rangihuna, 40, tells followers, "Probably the most effective would be the three-kick combo.

"So you just want to go - legs, body, head - and then a turning back kick just to finish them off.


@etta_bei_jeff Jeffrey Bourne If You Will🤦🏽‍♂️🤣 #3kick #selfdefence #technique ♬ Rodeo (Remix) - Lah Pat & Flo Milli

The only problem is his kicks are a little low - barely above ankle height.

"Not legs body head. That was ankle ankle ankle," one amused follower said.

"No one under 2 feet tall is safe," another chimed in.

"I'm on the floor dying," said someone else.

So how did Gizzy's finest get so funny, you might ask?

'I don't think I’m funny'

"Oh, I don't think I’m funny. It's just something I do on a daily, I’m just glad people do find it funny," says Rangihuna.

"I guess in saying that, it’s been in our family. The Rangihunas are always joking around, we're always ribbing each other, roasting each other."

"And it’s a coastie thing," says Rangihuna, who is originally from "further up" the coast - around Te Araroa and Waipiro Bay.

"Really, if you're in Aotearoa, everyone's into that sort of buzz. We all roast our own whānau."

Rangihuna says Billy T James made a huge impression on him as a youngster.

"There's a list of them. I mean, if we go right back, obviously the original for me is Billy T James. My pāpā had videotapes, VHS's, we'd thrash them all the time."

Rangihuna rather modestly - seeing as a couple of his videos have gone over the top viral, with one receiving about three million views and another upwards of 11 million to date - says he is just doing what Māori do naturally anyway.

"It's a simple case of just taking those scenarios that we've already been in or seen and applying it to a video - a little one-minute section."

"It's just basically getting the idea, whacking the camera in place, pressing record and letting it run. Editing's the biggest part of it."

"For those people that have got stuff floating around in their drafts, just chuck it up - because you never know."

Rangihuna credits his young son - "he's a full-on character, if he had his own channel, it'd be bigger than mine" - and a 'cuzzie' living in Australia for starting him off down this track.

@etta_bei_jeff Love this little man @Herabr0wn #funny #reactions #kids #my #son #nz #maori #aussie #mcdonalds #park ♬ Just a Cloud Away - Pharrell Williams

"It actually started on Facebook. Me and my young fulla - I've got two boys now but he was the youngest at the time - we had a little bet just to see who could get the most likes or friends.  And, of course, it went from that to blinking expanding out from there - and then TikTok came along."

A series of beautiful videos of Rangihuna with his nan, Keita Rangihuna, who suffered from Alzheimer's, saw him share some touching moments with her that brought a smile to many faces.

"That was huge. It was one of the biggest ones until I got to TikTok. That was a huge kaupapa for us. I didn't really put it out there - but our nan passed," says Rangihuna, who takes a moment to compose himself.

Rangihuna says he wasn't interested in TikTok at first - "the whole dancing thing" - until his cousin persuaded him, 'Oh cuz, you wanna jump on TikTok. You'll love it.'

"So I gave it a go - and nek minnit."

Now, Rangihuna has nearly 60,000 followers on TikTok and more than 65,000 on Facebook - and he's smashed several of his videos out of the park.

'I freaked out'

His popularity built up over the past six or so years has taken some getting used to and also required him to push aside his own personal misgivings.

"It's taken me a while to actually fully accept myself because a lot of times - especially with my weight - I've gone from small to big, to small and back to big again. So there's that feeling of falling from grace - 'everyone's gonna look at me'.

"But it's about accepting it. I am big right now and that's cool. I'm working behind the scenes."

"Never mind about other people's opinions unless they're paying your bills."

"Regardless of whether you post it or not, people are going to have an opinion."

The first time he went viral 'freaked' him out, he says. It was a stitch of him doing these spectacularly impossible press-ups.

"Overnight, it just flew off - and I freaked out. What's going on here?"

@etta_bei_jeff #duet with @june_challenge Yes That’s My Son Scootering on the wall🤣#foryoupage #fyp #foryou #funny ♬ original sound - Kei Kei - Kei kei 🇵🇭🇭🇰

"To be honest, it's above my head," he says, about people around the world knowing who he is and connecting with his content and humour.

"I'm from - we're a small town, what 35,000 or 37,000 people - and we're getting millions of views, I can't comprehend it."

"What I can tell you is it's rewarding in a way - where shucks, if I go down to the supermarket or get a petrol, everyone's like - you're recognised. That's the reward feeling you get."

He says it hasn't got to the point of anyone sliding into his DMs yet though, "Mumsy's got that on lock".

Has Taika rung yet?

"I wish. I'm willing and waiting," laughs Rangihuna. "Fingers crossed".

He says he has been "trying to get into the acting game for a while". In fact, since he was in his teens.

"I actually started my acting career back in 2000 with Jim Moriarty, who's been in a few films lately. We travelled the North and South Island doing performing arts with him."

"I'll put my cards on the table, if it wasn't for Jim Moriarty, I probably wouldn't have gone down that path."

"So that's where the passion came from. It's reignited and I just hope the right person sees it and we can do something with it."

But for the sometimes ill-thought-through decisions we can make as 17 or 18-year-olds, Rangihuna might well be one of our better-known Māori actors.

"I was young and dumb. I applied for Toi Whakaari, I did the audition. I got in - and I never turned up."

"I was chasing the opposite sex, just young."

"I wish I could turn back time - but at the same time I wouldn't have what I have."

So are you a martial arts 'instructor' - or nah?

Rangihuna laughs, then says "funnily enough, I did once upon a time."

"Everything's obviously been put into a comedic style. Obviously, the kicks have been brought down and just tailored to what I think would capture the eye."

So the kicks might have been a bit higher back in the day?

"For sure, I could probably still get up around the knee," chuckles Rangihuna.