An island beauty queen with Tutuila roots
Whitney Tausala Matagi, a Junior at the University of Utah on scholarship, has catalogued a first in the annals of beauty pageants. On March 23, 2013, Whitney was crowned in Salt Lake City as the first Miss Pacific Islander Utah, and will now go on to represent Pacific Islanders everywhere in the Miss Utah pageant, scheduled for June 2014.
Born and raised in Utah, where she calls West Valley home, Whitney proudly represented the village of Tula in honor of her paternal grandparents, Galu and Misirita Matagi, who live here in the lovely white sand village at the far eastern end of Tutuila. Her parents are Christian and Shantel Matagi of Utah.
The judges for this inaugural contest were Miss Utah pageant committee members, and members of her family here helped Whitney, who wore the sash “Miss Tula”. Among her sponsors and ardent supporters were her auntie and uncle, Eletise and Lewis Wolman of Alega.
Whitney, at 21 years, is already an accomplished young lady. Riding on a full academic scholarship to the University of Utah, she is majoring in Recreational Therapy. She is a member of the U of U Crimson Line, a popular dance group that performs during the school’s sporting events.
Her scholastic honors include:
* Awarded Utah Opportunity full ride academic scholarship to the University of Utah;
*Dean’s List 2010; All-State Academic 2007-2009;
* Graduated with high honors at CHS;
* CHS Debate Team member 2009;
* Mayor’s Award (Top 3%); People to People Student Ambassador.
Whitney’s Leadership roles:
* Utah Dance Team Captain 2012-2013;
* U of U student panel rep. at HS Pacific Islander conference 2011;
* CHS Drill Team Co-Captain 2009; CHS Drill Team Social Chair
Included in her other accomplishments, she is a VA nursing home volunteer; Co-Host of the Nesian Fest Island Concert; spent the summer of 2011 teaching dances and games to youth groups in Samoa; participated in "Hear Today, Tomorrow, and Forever" benefit concert; was CHS Homecoming Queen 2009; danced at DARFUR benefit concert with CHS Dance Co; and was Region Track Champion 2006.
Whitney says she “loves water sports, elderly people, community service and volunteering!”
“More men at nursing homes have stolen my heart than men my age. Although I'm pretty sure I'm tone deaf, I love singing. I'm a hopeless romantic. I enjoy a challenge, which has me accomplish a lot in my life. I traveled to Europe with the People to People program.”
She calls her platform “Embrace Your Ability” and she says, “ With ‘Embrace Your Ability’ I want to share with others the unique beauties of all abilities. I want people to be aware that people without legs do go skiing, a child with a prosthetic loves to play baseball, a little girl with Down Syndrome enjoys going to cheer practice, and the 87 year old at the nursing home can't wait till his next dance lesson.”
“Why even use the term "disability", when we all just have different abilities?” she asks.
“While promoting "Embrace Your Ability" I want to hold events, programs, games, assemblies, and more to bring awareness to the fact that no matter your ability, you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to. Tasks may be completed in various forms or at an altered pace, but the task can still be conquered. I want to motivate people to love who they are, and embrace all that they can accomplish. I want to work with people so they can stop underestimating people of different abilities, and especially stop doubting themselves.”
Looking to her island roots for help in the contest, Whitney turned to her grandmother Misirita.
Misirita sought out Lupelele Lausen, an accomplished dancer, kumuhula and designer in her own right, and it was Lupe who designed Whitney's beautiful island wear, while Zeni of Island Image Creations sewed the dress.
According to her grandmother, “Whitney is grateful and lovingly thanks her sponsor, friends, family and supporters from Samoa” and expresses love for her Samoan roots and heritage.
Two years ago, she visited the territory to learn more about that heritage, and stayed with her grandparents in Tula. “To quote many of her friends, Whitney is beautiful inside and out,” said her proud grandma, Misirita, who hand-carried the dress to Utah for her daughter to wear in the pageant.