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Miss Papua New Guinea wins Miss Pacific Islands crown

Pictured l-r: Miss Cook Islands, Lydia Simonis; Miss Tuvalu Emeli Pelesa Panapa; Miss Pacific Islands 2017-2018 Matau'aina Gwendolyn Toomalatai; newly crowned Miss Pacific Islands 2018-2019 Miss Papua New Guinea Leishina Mercy Kariha; Miss Tonga Kalolaine Talia Fanganitau; Miss American Samoa Magalita Philomena Johnson; and Miss Samoa Sonia Piva.

Nuku'alofa, TONGA — Winner of the 2018-2019 Miss Pacific Islands title is Miss Papua New Guinea (center). The official announcement was made during the second and final night of competition in the Kingdom of Tonga on Friday, Nov. 30 (Tonga Time).

At 18-year-old, Leishina Mercy Kariha, was the youngest of the six beauties who competed for the crown, which was presented to her by outgoing Miss Pacific Islands, Matau'aina Gwendolyn Toomalatai of American Samoa.

Miss Papua New Guinea's win was well deserved.

Her talent brought the house down, when she started off with a full-length modest white wrap-around that eventually came off to reveal a body fitting, strapless, pink-sequined romper that went perfect with her rendition of a popular song by mega superstar Beyonce.

Her smile and demeanor throughout her performance, coupled with her chant: "We are black, we are beautiful, we are the Pacific!" garnered loud roars of approval from the sold-out crowd at the Atele Indoor Stadium in Tongatapu.

Kariha won two special awards: Miss Personality and Miss Tourism. Each of the awards included USD$250.

The honor of first runner-up went to Miss Cook Islands, Lydia Simonis who took home two special awards herself: Miss Internet and Miss Photogenic — each worth USD$250 — and another USD$2,500 for being first runner-up.

Miss Samoa, Sonia Piva was second runner-up.

She won two of the categories: sarong and traditionally inspired wear. Each award was worth USD$250, and she also made off with USD$2,000 for being second runner-up.

Third runner-up went to Miss Tuvalu, Emeli Pelesa Panapa who was awarded a USD$1,500 monetary prize .

Consolation prizes of USD$1,000 each were awarded to Miss American Samoa, Magalita Philomena Johnson, and Miss Tonga, Kalolaine Talia Fanganitau.

After she was officially crowned, the new Miss Pacific Islands offered these words: “From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank the organizing committee of this year’s pageant for a well-coordinated pageant… Most of all, I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to my host village for opening your arms and your hearts to me and my delegation. We have been overwhelmed by your warmth and hospitality. May God bless you all!”

Kariha will be right at home this time next year, as her home country, Papua New Guinea, is set to host next year's Miss Pacific Islands pageant.

Miss American Samoa, while she did not place, did a great job representing the territory.

She appeared on stage in a black shimmery dress during the interview portion of the program, where she was asked: "What are the qualities of a good leader, and how would you incorporate them in your reign if you were to be crowned Miss Pacific Islands tonight?"

Magalita responded by saying a good leader must be humble, have empathy, and always serve.

"When a leader has these qualities, he will understand the people he's leading, how they feel, know what they need, and carry it out."

Magalita, a full time student at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) where she is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society, was accompanied to the pageant by an American Samoa delegation, led by American Samoa Visitors Bureau (ASVB) executive director David Vaeafe and Miss American Samoa Incorporated (MASI) president Simeafou Imo.

Malo lava to all the contestants.