Nadine Kam photos
Micah Tiedemann and Taliilani Letuli-Goeas won the inaugural Mr. & Miss Polynesia Hawai’i Pageant.
It’s one thing to keep an established event going; it’s another to start one from the ground up and that’s what Ralph Malani has done by creating the Mr. and Miss Polynesia Hawai’i Pageant, and he deserves a lot of credit for doing so.
The hair stylist founded of the year-old Hawaii Polynesian Model & Talent agency to showcase the beauty and talent of Pacific Islanders in Hawaii (my past story here) (pageant preview information here), who he felt were under-represented in modeling agencies that tend to promote a more cosmopolitan beauty. He also wondered why, in Hawaii, there has been no pageant that recognizes the indigenous beauty of Pacific/Oceanic people, when the ethnic groups that followed—the Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos—all have their own beauty standards reflected in ethnocentric pageants.
So he took it upon himself to correct that.
In spite of everything that could go wrong a first time out, it was a wonderful showcase, set up more like a talent and creativity competition than the typical beauty pageant, and all who attended had a blast. All the contestants put on an amazing and varied show, women were revved up by generous quantities of male pulchritude, the dollar bills flew during performances (a Samoan tradition, I’m told), and the spirited audience had to marvel at how many glasses of red wine uncensored emcee Mento Mele Apana could suck up in between risque jokes.
Lucie Wilson was first up in a hibiscus costume that was part of the pageant’s “Fantasy Costume” segment.
This being a fashion blog, I was there to see what contestants would come up for Natural Couture (costumes covered with organic materials), Pareo, Black Tie Polynesia and Fantasy Polynesian dress segments. The latter segment had drag queens scratching their heads, according to Mento Mele, wondering, “You mean they all straight? Not mahu?”
Well, you have to see the videos. There was a whole lot of colorful croton couture in the Natural Couture segment.
Natural Couture competition. iPhone link
Wahine Fantasy Polynesian costumes. iPhone link
Kane Fantasy Polynesian costumes. iPhone link
In the end, Micah Tiedemann and Taliilani Tetuli-Goeas were named Mr. and Miss Polynesia Hawai’i. Both were winners in the talent segment of the program as well, worth 100 points in the final tally versus 40 for the first three costume segments and 80 points for the fantasy costume. Each performance could run up to 7 minutes, with contestants taking charge of music, choreography and casting fellow dancers. Most of the contestants took all the time allotted and I ended up running out of space on my video card and had to kill segments along the way. I never got as much video out of one event before.
Micah is of Tongan/Samoan descent and is a professional dancer for Tihati productions, who says he aspires to be the first Polynesian on Broadway. His talent segment included a lovelorn medley of songs from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin” in a humorous skit. He also won the popularity award, with a prize of a weeklong trip to Mo’orea, French Polynesia, provided by HPMT.
Taliilani is of Samoan, Hawaiian, Portuguese, Irish and Spanish descent. Her mother is designer Tali Goeas of Tali’s Polynesia, who provided the Samoan tattoo-printed fabric for all the contestants for the evening segment. Taliilani’s grandfather, the late Chief Letuli, is credited as the originator of the Samoan fire knife dance, and Tali grew up on stage. She is now performing with the Paradise Cove Dance Group under the direction of kumu hula O’Brien Eselu.
Chanel “Teine” Silva in her pueo, or Hawaiian owl, costume.
The first runners up were two-time world champion fire dance Mikaele Oloa, who primarily grew up in Pittsburgh, Penn., and Orlando, Fla.; and Chanel “Teine” Silva, who gave an intense performance as a pueo in her fantasy costume segment.
People left hoping for an encore same time next year.
Ralph Malani with kolohe emcee Mento Mele Apana. In addition to his lei, Ralph is wearing a strand of 250 black pearls. In the background is Chanel “Teine” Silva, the women’s first runner-up.
The men’s evening wear segment had Micah, right, looking dapper and dandy-ish, and Mikaele Oloa in an outfit that represented a compatible marriage of the Pacific and the West.
Tali Goeas had the honor of also presenting her daughter Taliilani Letuli-Goeas with the evening’s wahine performance award. Don’t worry. With seven independent judges, including Star-Bulletin entertainment writer John Berger, the contest wasn’t fixed.