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Dear Pageant Girl,

Dear Pageant Girl sure gets around!

I had the pleasure of attending the Miss Samoa 2012 pageant, held on the 7th of September at the Samoa National Sports Complex at Faleata in Samoa.

2012 marks 50 years of Independence for this island nation, and it was only fitting that the theme for this year’s event was “Celebrating Samoa”.  The Miss Samoa pageant traditionally is the finale to Samoa’s annual Teuila Festival – the biggest cultural festival in Polynesia celebrating everything that is Samoan.

To Sua Trench – Image courtesy of Samoa Tourism Authority and Kirkland Photos

Fales along Lalomanu Beach, Upolu, Samoa. Image courtesy of Samoa Tourism Authority and Kirkland Photos

The capital city of Apia becomes a hive of activity during The Teuila Festival, with daily events centering on the foregrounds of the Government Building downtown. Weaving competitions between competing villages, cultural song and dance exhibitions and fitness demonstrations regale tourists and locals alike and not even the sticky heat of noon or the occasional torrential downpour deterred the crowds.

Highlights for me of course were seeing the hot Samoan men twirling their fire sticks as they performed the Siva Afi / Ailao better known as the Fire Knife Dance.  Talk about getting hot under the collar!

Image courtesy of Samoa Tourism Authority and Kirkland Photos

But back to Miss Samoa, dear pageant girls, eyes to me.

I must admit that I have never really experienced a national pageant like this before – though I would imagine this is really how the original pageants of old used to be run.

Unlike many beauty pageants that we are used to, the Miss Samoa pageant, according to the Samoan PM in his recorded speech “combines glamour and passion, art, creativity, beauty, intelligence and much more”. It focuses on a woman who best represents the Samoan people and who can “represent (Samoa) in various tourism events (in Samoa) and abroad.”

This year, six contestants competed for the title, with two hailing from the Samoan diaspora of Australia and New Zealand.

The 2012 Miss Samoa contestants. Image courtesy of Miss Samoa Org and Samoa Tourism Authority

The atmosphere in the arena that hot sticky night was electric and the crowd was definitely not backward in showing their support for their favorites.  The whos who of Samoan high society were out in full force and ladies displayed flowers in their hair of steroidal sizes.

The stage itself was impressive – very tropical and lush like the country. On the surface, everything blended beautifully together with the cultural performances enhancing the setting and really driving home the message that in this event, beauty is defined by the strength of a people’s culture.

The stage for the Miss Samoa Pageant – photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

But it wasn’t without drama.  Mid way through Contestant Number 3’s introduction walk the power went out for about twenty minutes throwing the entire stadium in darkness. Contestant Number 3 gracefully finished her walk in the dark as pinpoints of light began to dot the inky blackness – various members of the audience had brought out their mobile phones in a futile attempt to illuminate the stage. Attesting to the Samoan attitude of getting on with it, Samoan warriors rushed to the stage leading the entire stadium in a rendition of Samoan folk songs which everyone got into until the power came back on.  As the lights came back on, the host cheekily mentioned that the organisers wanted to give everyone a taste of what it was like holding the Miss Samoa pageant 50 years ago – in the dark, under the palm trees without electricity.

The girls competed in five rounds which made for a marathon of a show:

Round 1 was the cultural costume award, where the girls were decked out by their sponsored designers in their version of what we normally would refer to as “the national costume”. Designers had to use Indigenous designs and material when putting the outfit together.

Below are some of my favorite designs of the night:

Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

Round 2 was the Samoan version of the universal swimwear competition.  Here the girls are judged on how cleverly they would wrap themselves in 2 yards of fabric / sarong. A very wholesome and conservative version of what Im normally used to but it was cute nevertheless.  Notable mention goes to Contestant number 1’s outfit which resembled a palm frond. Very classy.

Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

This was quickly followed by the talent segment, which ranged from interpretive dancing, singing and of the more unusual kind – choral conducting.  The talent competition in any pageant really isnt my thing – I find it tedious and boring.  However, it was highly entertaining watching one of the contestants conduct an imaginary choir. Kinda like lip synching – only…different.  Conduct-synching maybe. Even without the choir I thought she did a marvellous job with her graceful waving – it was like watching the conducting equivalent of Milli Vanilli.

Conducting an imaginary choir is harder than you think!
Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

Round 4 saw the equivalent of the evening gown segment, the Puletasi competition.  This allowed the girls to really show off their outfits with grace and dignity often attributed to royalty. I was amazed at how every print, design, fabric and cut symbolised something in Samoan history.  Made me wonder if I should dress more thoughtfully each day to honor the memory of my ancestors….hmmm.

Especially loved Miss Lavashe Couture (our adopted home girl who hails from Sydney) who did a little strip tease with her three piece outfit revealing the different styles of Puletasi across the ages.  Watch the convertible costume in action below!

Capelet off….
Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

…followed by the bolero style jacket
Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

Next one off is the overskirt…
Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

And VOILA! The modern puletasi. Eat your heart out Gypsy Rose Lee!
Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

I could barely contain my excitement knowing that my favourite segment, the question and answer, was just around the corner.

I often call this section “The Bloodbath”, because in many cases, it is!

Now don’t get me wrong. It takes some serious balls to get up there on stage and answer a question your’e totally not prepared for in front of an audience numbering in the hundreds.

As much as I sympathise with the girls, I do have a sick sense of humour and there really isn’t anything more entertaining than an unexpected answer to what seems like a relatively ‘easy’ question.  Watching a girl flounder can be heartbreaking but just like the proverbial car crash, you just can’t look away.  Case in point, Jesinta Campbell’s dismal performance at the question and answer segment at the Miss Universe Australia 2010 finals. Dismal it was but hey, girlfriend won.

This year it definitely did not disappoint.

When one of the contestants was asked how she would promote health and well being among Samoans, she responded that she would do it by “delivering three messages: Diet, Exercise and…”

When the poor girl looked stuck for a third message an audience member offered a helping hand by yelling out “ZUMBA!!!!”

It was a touching moment when outgoing queen, Olevia Ioane did her farewell speech, her voice cracking with emotion as she thanked Samoa both in her native tongue and in english.  There was something moving as she was escorted by the next generation of Samoan beauties as she danced her final Siva before handing her crown to a new queen.

Olevia Ioane in her final Siva with the next generation of Samoan beauties
Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

After the awarding of the minor prizes it looked like crowd favourite, Miss Penina Day Spa would win the title scooping 5 of the 9 awards.

Imagine my surprise when she was announced as 1st runner up with the crown going to Contestant number 6, Miss Thomsen’s Bridal Couture, Janine Tuivaiti who hails from New Zealand.

Janine, a 20 year old law student from the University of Auckland was a hot favorite from the beginning.  Being one of the more photogenic contestants, she was a head turner in pre-pageant events with many punters naming her as eventual winner.

A pleasant surprise but a surprise nonetheless especially with her interesting choice of Puletasi and Cultural Costume (something tells me pink and blue are her favorite colors).

The controversial cultural costume
Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

The equally thought provoking puletasi
Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

Janine captured the hearts of the audience with her rendition of the national anthem and her simple answer to her final question regarding climate change.

Miss Samoa does not go on to compete in any of the big 4 international pageants (Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss Earth or Miss International).   Instead, the reigning queen competes with her South Pacific sisters in a cultural showdown which this year will be held in December in American Samoa. Her role is to embody Samoan grace, pulchritude and Fa’a Samoa (The Samoan Way), representing the island nation in events locally and overseas.

Janine immediately after her crowning and just before her Siva
Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

We will be watching Janine’s progress and wish her the best for the Miss South Pacific pageant in December. With her grace, charm, beauty and a powerful team behind her, no doubt Janine will be making waves in American Samoa for the finals. Hopefully Dear Pageant Girl will be invited to watch the show in Pago Pago!  Here’s hoping!

Janine Tuivaiti, Miss Samoa 2012
Photo courtesy of Miss Samoa and Samoa Tourism Authority

Dear Pageant Girl was a guest of Samoa Tourism Authority and Miss Samoa 2012. Many thanks to STA and Tanoa Tusitala. All photos courtesy of Samoa Tourism Authority.

 

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