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Contestants agree pageant gives voice to Pacific women

An opportunity to showcase Pacific culture, tradition and inner beauty
fili@samoanews.com

All ten contestants in the 2012 McDonald’s Miss South Pacific Pageant are united in their stand that pageantry is not just about physical beauty, but it is about the Pacific woman’s inner beauty, sharing Pacific culture and showcasing Pacific traditions.

Their unanimous reply was made during a news conference yesterday when asked to comment on the stand of a Fiji women’s rights group that say the Miss South Pacific Pageant is outdated and promotes a concept of beauty which Pacific women often don’t fit into.

A response to the criticism from the Fiji group was one of three questions posed by the media during the news conference. In tomorrow’s edition, the second question put to the contestants asking for their views on Non-Communicable Diseases, a major concern in the region, will be published.

The MSPP is owned by the Samoa government and was established in 1987. Since its inception, it has become the major beauty pageant for the Pacific islands, with member island-nations and territories sending their contestants annually to the event to vie for the crown of Miss South Pacific.

MISS TOKELAU

Twenty-five year old Peki Teata said that if the pageant is outdated that means that owners of the pageant “are not doing their duty or job in promoting the Pacific islands” and it’s something to look at in the future for a better outcome.

And as Pacific nations, she  says it’s also important “for us to promote” to the world that the pageant is not just about beauty but about “our culture as well”.

MISS FIJI

Drue Slatter, 19, admitted that back in Fiji she faced a bit of criticism from several groups for being part of the pageant. “I’m not going to lie, I had my own previous misconception about the... Miss South Pacific,” she said, and pointed out this pageant is not like any other pageant. “It’s not solely focused on physical beauty, but it’s cultural, it’s intellectual and I see so many smart women here.”

“And I don’t think its demeaning to women in any way, because if it’s a personal choice and gives us a platform to talk about something we like to talk about, then more power to us, and it goes completely in line with the Miss South Pacific,” she said.

MISS COOK ISLANDS

“Pacific women are beautiful in their own way and we have a lot more inner beauty than a lot of countries that I have witnessed,” said twenty-two year old Kate Ngatokorua. “We have unconditional love for our children and our family. We are generous, we are there whenever we are needed. And we are strong in our culture and our traditions.”

Therefore, she disagrees with the Fiji critics. She believes that the pageant, “gives us an opportunity to represent our country and be good ambassadors for the youth... and the women of our country.”

“I know back home, I have in my family my nieces who will be looking up to me in this pageant and hoping that one day they can represent their country well as I have, here,” she added.

MISS HAWAIIAN ISLANDS

Twenty-six year old Joy Saleapaga said this pageant “gives women the opportunity to voice their opinions, to come and show how strong they are, inside more than outside.” She pointed out that a person can buy products to make her beautiful “but what you have inside is something that money cannot buy.”

“And Miss South Pacific gives us that opportunity to come here and share that with other cultures,” she said, adding that there are aspects in the Hawaiian culture as well as the cultures of the other South Pacific islands that other contestants don’t know about and the pageant is an arena where they share each other’s culture.

In a male dominated South Pacific community, she said this pageant, “gives us women a voice and I’m thankful for this pageant and for the women who are here today and are strong and able to represent their cultures.”

MISS TONGA

Ebony Nuku, 24, said she had misconceptions about this pageant before she joined Tonga’s Miss Heilala pageant as a contestant, later winning and now representing Tonga.

“I think some people have the same misconception, but what I saw when I was actually able to join and get involved was that it was about your view and your angle, how involved you are in it,” she said.

Once she was fully involved in the Miss Heilala, “I was able to see how much more this actually is. It’s not just a beauty pageant. It brings to light your culture, it’s about grasping the concepts of what your culture and your traditions really are.”

MISS PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Ruby-Anne Laufa says the claim that the pageant is outdated, is a “misconceived conception”, adding that “this pageant is unique in its way because it provides us the opportunity and the platform to showcase the various cultures that each one of us represents.”

“If someone was to say that the pageant is outdated, then basically what they’re saying is that our cultures are outdated - which is not the case,” said the 20 year old university student, who added that the pageant provides an opportunity to “preserve our culture” in an ever- changing world.

MISS AOTEAROA NEW ZEALAND

Twenty-five year old Marlena Martin says there is a “misconception” that women are not as smart as men and women don’t have as much to bring to the table as men.

“And this pageant gives us the opportunity to show our intelligence and show forth our culture. We are here on behalf of our people,” she said. Additionally, the pageant should be looked at with “more appreciation of the concept that the platform is here for us to stand on behalf of our people and show case our culture.

She said Pacific culture should be celebrated and she is thankful for the opportunity to be in the territory and share her culture and to learn from the other contestants’ their culture.

MISS SOLOMON ISLANDS

Stephanie Prince, 22, said it’s “our responsibility” as representatives of each Pacific island country “to showcase what we have as talents and what are cultures and difference in traditions” are all about during the pageant.

As representatives, she said it’s also a challenge that they must face when it comes to this type of criticism “because not everyone has a positive view of beauty pageants  such as this. So we must make ourselves ready for these criticisms” and bond together “to uphold and project a strong” view against such criticism.

MISS AMERICAN SAMOA

Twenty-one year old Arrielle Maloata said this pageant gives the ambassador of each country the chance to showcase their culture and outline what each person stands for through their platforms.

“The reason why people may think that the pageant is outdated is only because we don’t showcase the Miss South Pacific as much. We don’t advertise it to be what it really is. The value isn’t there anymore,” she said. “So to the critics, it’s just another beauty pageant. You have to give it a value, so that way, people would understand that the Miss South Pacific is another way, an opportunity for women from different cultures, to showcase the people that they stand for...giving those people they represent a sense of pride.”

On pageant night, each contestant will “showcase something they know that empowers the women, empowers their country and empowers the sense of pride of the people, who make the South Pacific possible,” she said.

MISS SAMOA

“The Miss South Pacific pageant encourages free expression of dialogue and opinion. It is not outdated,” said 20-year old Janine Tuivaiti, who believes that the pageant is a regional platform which “allows us to promote our culture, our traditions, and our customs.”

And “as Pacific woman, we possess a power - we not only possess beauty, intelligence, humanity, compassion and generosity, but we are able to express ourselves and this empowers us,” she said.

She said Miss South Pacific “allows us to express our culture and allows us to show you that we are not only beautiful but also bright” Pacific women.



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