The nine contestants vying for the McDonald’s Miss Samoa crown 2017 took on Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in a friendly exchange to kick off the pageant on Friday.
The contestants hosted the Prime Minister as their guest of honour at the S.T.A Cultural Village.
The Q&A jump-started the pre-pageant preparations, initiated by the Samoa Events Incorporated (S.E.I) using the week leading up to the event to prepare the contestants through briefing sessions with high-level officials as well as Cabinet Ministers and even the Prime Minister.
The goal was to broaden the contestant’s knowledge on Samoa’s developments, growth, challenges and achievements.
The ultimate aim is for the next Miss Samoa to be more than prepared for the Miss Pacific Pageant in Fiji later in the year.
And the friendly confrontation between the Prime Minister and the nine beauties turned out to be an eye opener for the young contestants.
For them it was an experience of a lifetime as they witnessed firsthand the revered Tuilaepa’s sense of humor.
Issues from gender equality to increasing Samoa women’s participation in Parliament, to Information Communication Technology, family planning, shortage of medical supplies, to criticisms against his leadership, the Prime Minister was precise with his responses but many a times, he was humorous.
For instance; one of the contestants asked why he remains opposed to family planning?
“I was only pulling their legs,” Tuilaepa responded.
“Every time the Manu Samoa loses, I blame our meager population of 180,000 or so which has remained the same for years and yet Fiji’s population is soaring to over 1 million giving the Fijians the advantage when it comes to pool players to select their national side.
“Like every Samoa we hate to see the Manu Samoa lose especially me (as Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union). So I cook up a smoke screen to duck the vile criticisms using our population as a shield. I was only pulling their chain.”
But is reality, its common knowledge that if the Prime Minister had not stepped in as Chairman of the Rugby Union a decade ago, there would be no more Manu Samoa or Samoa 7s today after British Banker and Billionaire Sir Michael Faye pulled the plug in millions of dollars of sponsorship for the national side.
Sir Faye had invested well over $5 million pounds into the Manu Samoa campaigns for a number of years before he withdrew.
On a serious note, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to share the government vision behind the creation of the Pageant as a vehicle to profile Samoa to the world as the best tourism haven and also safe and secure for overseas investments.
As the main stay of Samoa’s economy, Tuilaepa says that tourism remains a government priority and the Miss Samoa Pageant is one of the vehicles profiling the country as a tourism destination.
“The Pageant is more than a Beauty contest.
“It represents the empowerment of Samoa women as achievers and main contributors to our country’s well-being and well fare.
“It’s also an investment to sustain our tourism revenues for the benefit of our accommodation, transport, handicrafts sectors and even farmers who are benefactors of the tourism dollars. And it’s crucial that we maintain the drive and innovation to entice tourists to visit our country.
“That’s why as Miss Samoa, you will be our ambassadors to show the world the beauty of our country through your appearance, your intelligence and your pride as a Samoan lady.”
As for future leaders aspiring to be the next Tuilaepa; The Prime Minister’s response; “Read the Book (Palemia Memoirs.) It has everything they need to know.”