Miss Samoa, Papali’i Alexandra Iakopo, has touched down in Fiji for the Miss Pacific Pageant. It has been a while since a Samoan contestant has worn the crown. She will be hoping to break the drought. Papali’i is accompanied by a strong contingent from Samoa including Nanai Laveitiga Tuiletufuga who provides the following story from Fiji:
Miss Samoa, Papali’i Alexandra Iakopo is mindful of the responsibilities she is shouldering as one of the nine regional contestants vying for the Miss Pacific crown taking place in Nadi, Fiji this week.
She has been forewarned by her Prime Minister before heading for Nadi that she will shoulder the high expectations of her country, in particular the pride and reputation of a Tamaitai Samoa.
She knows full well that Samoan women are famous when it comes to their identity as achievers, decision makers and as the pillar or foundation of families, societies and our country.
And she needs to meet these high expectations. For the 23-year old Qualification Officer with the Samoa Qualification Authority (S.Q.A.) she is in Nadi for a reason.
Her personal journey is a telling one, having cheated death twice after surviving two life-threatening heart operations.
And in recent weeks the passing of her father, the late Deacon Isaako Iakopo.
But she is in Nadi and she remains firm in her resolve that after everything, there is a reason why her father in heaven wanted her to be where she is today.
In memory of her later father, she dedicates her participation in the Miss Pacific Pageant to him.
“When I was crowned Miss Samoa, my dad encouraged me to do my best and said God will take care of the rest,” she says. “I know he is with me in spirit and I will fulfill his wishes to be the best that I can be.”
A vocal and outspoken advocate for universal education, Miss Samoa disagrees with the notion the annual pageant, now celebrating her 31st anniversary this week, is “just another beauty pageant.”
“I disagree entirely with that thought,” she said.
“The Miss Pacific Pageant is a testament to the pivotal role played by Pacific women in their respective countries.
“The Pageant is about woman’s perspective and to recognize and respect their contribution as family makers as well as decision makers in all sectors from none government to government and civil.
“And in many cases, they are also the breadwinners for their families, churches and societies.
“So to label the Miss Pacific Pageant as a fashion show with beautiful faces and glamour, is an understatement.”
Papali’i also acknowledges the pageant as a platform for Pacific fashion designers and artists to showcase their talents and natural flairs as original creators.
“It’s about encouraging young ladies that they can be anything they want to be if they believe in themselves,” she added.
Educated in Samoa and a graduate from the Colorado Monarch High School in California U.S.A., Miss Samoa is ready for the unexpected.
“I have faced challenges that have strengthened my faith, eager to grow as an individual, serve and share my culture with the world, and contribute to the sustainable development of Samoa,” she says.
Now armed with a Bachelor of Arts from the National University of Samoa, Alexandra started as a hotel receptionist before taking up N.U.S. studies where she did an internship with the N.U.S. Governance Policy Planning Unit and as a Support Officer with the House Disability Division with the Australian High Commission.
She is the second youngest in a family of three brothers and one sister.
Papalii is contestant five.
The Pageant finale is next Friday.