The excitement ahead of the 2016 Miss Pacific Islands Pageant continues to grow as the day of reckoning draws near.
One of the contestants, Laura Melaia Rene Lauti, is proudly representing the Kingdom of Tonga.
The 21-year-old who was born and raised in California is the youngest in a family of four.
Despite the fact she was raised in the U.S., Laura said she always had a strong passion about her Tongan culture; hence she joined Miss Heilala this year.
“I joined for my mother and also mainly to learn more about my culture,” she told the Samoa Observer. “My mom was very passionate about her culture. So I was fortunate enough to learn about our culture and way of life.
“So when she passed away, I realised how important it is to preserve our culture and that’s why I thought I would embrace my culture and get to know it and represent it with so much pride.”
Laura also wanted to be the voice for Tongans in the United States and people outside of the island.
“There are a lot of Tongans back in the States, and I want to be able to represent not only the Tongans living overseas but also Pacific Islands living overseas.
“Being here is such a huge blessing because I am here representing my country and culture but I also have the chance to meet all the other girls.”
Laura says she wants to be an inspiration to the young generations of the Pacific.
“I want to inspire them and encourage them to embrace their culture and identity. I do hope that if I win, I would want to help and encourage our youth to pursue their entrepreneurial and educational dreams.”
Why should we vote for her to be the next Miss Pacific Islands?
“I think the Pacific should vote for me because my main aim is to help the youth pursue their entrepreneurial dreams,” she said. “They are the future of our countries and nations, and if we help one another to build strong and great leaders for the future, then our Pacific countries will be stronger as well.
“I started an organisation for the youth of Tonga, helping them and giving them ten scholarships. And so if I win the Miss Pacific Islands, it would be a good chance for me to extend and expand this organisation so that more youth can benefit from it. I think it is very important to focus on the youth.”
Laura said preparations for the pageant have been good so far and she is very much looking forward to it.
“I am so excited about the pageant.
“I only get nerve wracked when people interview me, because you don’t want to say the wrong things because we are trying to represent our country the best way we can.
“But I am so excited about the pageant because it is my first time in Samoa, and people did not lie to me that Samoa is such a beautiful country. It is a beautiful country and it reminds me a lot about home in Tonga.”
Laura has a great passion for music and dancing. She is your contestant number 4 for the pageant and she picked the topic ‘Climate Change’ for the Pre-Pageant’s interview.