Personal trainer and artistic gymnastics coach Miss Samoa New Zealand, Cecilia Tufuga-Fatu, is on a mission to promote empowerment.
As one of the nine contestants in this year’s McDonald's Samoa Miss Samoa 2018 Pageant, she is using every opportunity to encourage Samoans not to settle on the ordinary but to aim for the extraordinary.
"Empowering our Tamaitai Samoa and the younger generations, I want to encourage our people to not settle being ordinary but to be extraordinary.
“Starting from within, empowering the hearts of our people so that their well being is connected mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally which will only lead to producing greatness in our people and will lead to potential being discovered and vocations in life being fulfilled,” said the 23-year-old daughter of Onolina Leiataatimu Tupe and Momoti Soifua Tufuga-Fatu.
She is embracing the experience and meeting leaders in both the Government and the private sectors. Together with her cohorts, they have paid courtesy calls to the Acting Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Minister of Finance Sili Epa Tuioti, Tourism Minister Sala Fata Pinati, Minister of Public Enterprises Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell and successful business woman and founder of Samoa Stationary and Books (SSAB) Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai.
"It has been a humbling experience so far as we have heard testimonies from influential people in Samoa who started from nothing into becoming successful in their fields.
"It has given me wisdom and hope as a young Samoan woman, to have confidence in my abilities and talents and to really believe in whatever future plans I want to pursue. Anything is possible if you give your heart to God, and he will do the rest,” she said.
But there is a lot more to this story on the personal trainer and artistic gymnastics coach-cum-Miss Samoa New Zealand, who got on a one-way ticket to Samoa after graduating from the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (N.A.S.D.A.) in New Zealand.
"After I graduated from N.A.S.D.A., I booked a one-way ticket to Samoa last year. With no plans whatsoever only God guiding me.
"I worked in Samoa for Australian Survivor but while living here, I got to witness the struggles and hardships are people were facing,” she said.
Issues in Samoa such as health service, unemployment, working poor, child labor and land marches attracted her attention and compelled her to raise her hand to become a contestant.
But there are also personal reasons. Her late grandfather, Tonumaipe’a Tufuga Fatu, was Samoa's first Minister of Health in the first Cabinet, when Samoa gained Independence in 1962.
Calling her late grandfather as "a man of pure service to Samoa”, Cecilia remembers him as a man, who created employment opportunities for Savai’i residents through his business investments.
"He was able to give the people of Savai’i work so they could give their children an education and provide for their families and so much more.
"Seeing the legacy he left behind in Savai’i really made me want to do the same and serve our people just like he did. He was given the name ‘Fatuatia’ because he gave his whole heart to the people of Savai’i and I too want to do the same for Samoa,” she added.
Win or lose, where to from here?
"I will go back to NZ as Miss Samoa NZ and continue to serve and fulfill my duties there," she said, in response to the question.
"If I am crowned, my plan is to be the best Miss Samoa I can be. I want to be used as an instrument of service to our people by getting involved with the communities in any shape, way or form especially in empowering our women."
With roots in Asau and Salelologa Savai’i as well as Toamua, Saleimoa and Sololosolo, Miss Samoa New Zealand graduated from Villa Maria College in 2013 and holds a Bachelors in Performing Arts from the N.A.S.D.A. in musical theatre.