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Fiji rights group calls South Pacific Pageant outdated

Says it promotes wrong concept of beauty for Pacific women
fili@samoanews.com

American Samoa Visitor’s Bureau executive director David Vaeafe disagrees with criticism by a Fiji women’s rights group that the Miss South Pacific is outdated and promotes a concept of beauty into which Pacific women often don’t fit.

“The Miss South Pacific Pageant since its inception has always been promoting the identify of the Pacific woman, and culture of the Pacific,” said Vaeafe, who added that the regional pageant is therefore never modeled towards other international contests such as the Miss World or Miss Universe. “It’s has always been about our Pacific.”

“The pageant's stand has always been about celebrating our young Pacific women, and our Pacific culture. And that focus continues today,” he said, in a brief phone interview yesterday.

The pageant was established by the Samoa government as a regional event “to recognize and promote the attributes, intelligence, talents, cultures and traditions of young Pacific Island women,” according to the Samoa government website.

An official with the local organizing committee said yesterday that today’s Pacific island women are not only beautiful, they are also educated, smart, involved in their communities in various aspects and are ambassadors of goodwill for their respective countries and territories.

For example, Samoa News points out that Miss Fiji, Drue Slatter, is seeking a bachelor's degree at the University of the South Pacific, where she is majoring in Journalism and Marine Affairs.

“I strive to be an influential part of the next wave of environmental conservationists, utilizing both the media and sustainable resource management to inform Pacific Islanders of the importance of our natural environment,” said Slater in her bio released by the Visitor’s Bureau. “All things we hold dear to us; our culture, our food, our children, our arts are all inspired or sustained by our lands and our seas.”

THE CRITICISM

Edwina Kotoisuva, from the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre told Radio New Zealand International that the pageant promotes a concept of beauty which Pacific women often don’t fit into.

“We are promoting through these pageants messages that women are supposed to look a particular way, act a particular way, whereas when you look at Pacific women, they don’t all fit into that. In fact, the way Pacific women are, are quite the opposite to what is being promoted through these pageants,” she said.

Kotoisuva says over the past 20 to 30 years Pacific women have become more vocal and assertive but engaging in things like beauty pageants sets women back.

However, reigning Miss South Pacific Alisi Rabukawaqa of Fiji disagrees with the critics, saying that confidence and intelligence are important ingredients to winning the title.

“In the Pacific I have found that that’s not what the pageants are for, it’s more a celebration of our culture and our traditions, than the celebration of the physical beauty of a woman,” Rabukawaqa told RNZI yesterday. “The feminists who like to spout their mouths without even actually experiencing it for themselves — you know, just try it for yourself.”

WEEK LONG ACTIVITIES,

The first contestant of the pageant Miss Hawaiian Islands arrived last Thursday night and the final arrivals were yesterday with Miss Papua New Guinea and Miss Tokelau.

Under the theme, ‘Treasure of the Pacific”, the contestants in this year’s pageant will compete in a number of sections including pre-pageant interview, traditional wear, sarong, talent and interview questions, says the Visitor’s Bureau, and it's during the pre-pageant interviews and the interview questions on pageant night, where the intelligence of Pacific island women is showcased.

According to this week’s schedule of events, the contestants will hold a pageant briefing this morning following by a news conference this afternoon and later there will be a tour of the Tauese P.F. Sunia Ocean Center.

Tomorrow’s activities call for interviews on local radio stations, a visit to Hope House for  presentation of gifts; and later in the evening is the Governor’s dinner.

Another round of local radio station interviews are on the agenda for Wednesday’s activities, and a visit to  the LBJ Pediatric Ward, with gift presentation there. Thursday’s activities include pre pageant interviews with a panel of judges in the morning and later a tour of the Ulu Festival at the Fagatogo Market Place.

Friday’s major activity, is the pageant Float Parade, and according to the event schedule, the Float Parade is to get underway at 10 a.m. from Pago Pago heading towards Utulei Beach. A police escort will lead the way.

Saturday’s main event is Pageant Night and the crowning of the new Miss South Pacific at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium, where there will be only corporate seating and no general administration seats.

This decision has caused many in the community, as well as visitors to the territory for the pageant to cry ‘foul’ — noting that public supporters and fans of the event cannot afford the $750 price for a corporate table, which usually seats 8 people.

To make matters worse, it's not yet known if the pageant will be aired live on KVZK-TV, who did broadcast live in 2008 when the pageant was last hosted by American Samoa following the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts.

Samoa News understands permission to air the pageant live has yet to be received from the MSPP, which owns all rights to the pageant. According to its website,  the Miss South Pacific Pageant (MSPP) was established by the Government of Samoa in 1987 “to recognize and promote the attributes, intelligence, talents, cultures and tradition of young Pacific Island women.”

The contestants will gather on Sunday, Dec. 9 for their last get-together, which is the prize giving breakfast, and also includes contestants exchanging gifts and their farewells.

As the ambassador of goodwill for the host country, Miss American Samoa, Arrielle Maloata, who is also the host to her sisters from the region during their stay in the territory, said this regional pageantry is “a great opportunity for me to share my culture, traditions and customs.”

“I can only imagine the new friendships, memories and endless laughs I will have with the contestants at the end of the Pageant,” she said in her bio.



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