What is beauty to you?
Fiti Leung Wai
President S.S.A.B Group
Remarks during meeting with Miss Samoa contestants
I have been asked to give a talk to you girls, the contestants for this year’s Miss Samoa Pageant. I know these past few weeks have been full on for you and you have probably heard too many speeches already.
So when I was asked to do this talk, I had to really think hard about what to share – not only to keep your interest but to also hopefully inspire you.
I will start my talk by giving you a few minutes to answer the questions on the sheet of paper before you. And yes, the pens are compliments of SSAB so you can keep them.
1. What is Beauty to you?
2. What are your Strengths?
3. What are your aspirations/ dreams in life?
Thank you for answering the questions. Don’t worry – this isn’t a test and you can share your answers ONLY if you want to.
A Bit About Myself
You might wonder why I was chosen to speak to you. As some of you may know, I am Fiti Lafaele - Leung Wai. A homegrown teine Samoa who grew up in Samoa. I was fortunate to undertake University studies on scholarship in New Zealand and Australia. I am a lawyer by profession but have opted to become a businesswoman.
I am happily married to Aumua Ming Leung Wai. We have with 4 sons – the youngest of whom are twins who are 4 ½ years old. My eldest is 17 years old and the second son is 14 years old. I juggle life as a mother and running a business which employs 150 people in 3 countries.
My major project at the moment is establishing a bed factory in Samoa to try and employ some of our people who used to work for Yazaki.
Why am I sharing this with you? I am sharing this with you as I want you to know that we girls can do anything when we have God with us. There is a popular Samoan proverb, “E au le inailau a tamaitai.”
This Samoan saying originated from the village of Falealupo. Tautunu, a chief of Falealupo had asked his village if they can build a house for him. After the house was built, the thatching of the roof was divided amongst the aumaga (untitled men) and the aualuma (women). The women worked faster than the men as their row of thatching reached the top first thus completing their side of the house.
Literally, the proverb means “The women’s row of thatch was completed.” But metaphorically, the proverb reflects the strength of the tamatai Samoa whose legacy is that of total achievement. O tatou o teine Samoa, e fai mea mafai ma fai mea maeaea. And that is why I have chosen the saying, “E au le inailau a tamaitai” to start off my sharing this morning.
Support For Beauty Pageants
As you all know, support for beauty pageants has declined in recent years with the rise of feminism. Whilst advocating for equal rights amongst the sexes is a good thing, there are aspects of feminism that I don’t necessarily agree with.
Beauty pageants, in my own personal view, empower women.. The Miss Samoa pageant highlights everything that is beautiful about the tamaitai Samoa – mentally, physically, culturally and spiritually. O ana tu, o ana aga, o ona laufofoga fiafia, amio tausaafia, loto mama ma loto fesoasoani ma le olaga faaleagaga.
That is why I applaud you for having the courage to enter the Miss Samoa Pageant. You will be in the limelight and everything personal about you will be scrutinized and of course, sometimes unfairly criticized.
Pearls Of Wisdom
You are a tamaitai Samoa – one who is strong and whose legacy is that of total achievement. And today, I want to share with you what I have learnt through my journey in life as a teine Samoa by giving you some advice. I didn’t become the owner and CEO of SSAB just because of my pretty face!
1. BE YOURSELF
My first advice to you is to just be yourself. Don’t try to be like Priscilla or Laeimau or Papalii Sonja. God made you unique and special. Every woman is their own version of beautiful. No two people are the same. So look into your heart and express yourself based on your values and beliefs. The Spirit of a True Samoan Girl (tamaitai Samoa moni) is about taking pride in yourself; it is about being proud to be Samoan. When you believe in yourself, you will be confident in everything that you do. This will be evident when you walk on the stage in your evening gown wear, when you perform your talent and when you answer the questions on the night of the pageant.
2. ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF THIS EXPERIENCE
My second advice is to enjoy every moment of it and learn what you can. When my boys have their Boys’ Day Out (such as hiking, swimming, fishing), they are usually asked 2 questions when they return home:
1. What did you love the most about the outing?
2. What did you learn today?
The questions are deliberately asked so they would remember and appreciate their outing but also learn from the experience to make them better persons. I believe the same questions apply to you also with this Pageant. Whether you win or not, the experience is something that would help you grow in confidence and make you a better person.
3. DO YOUR BEST
My third advice is for you to do your best. To give it your all. Not every Samoan girl can enter the Miss Samoa pageant. So don’t just cruise along but work hard and give it your everything. So that when the results are announced this Saturday night – whatever they may be, you will sit back and say, “I gave it my best and I have no regrets.”
At the moment, I am so busy not only with running my business and managing my family but in setting up Samoa’s first ever bed factory. I am giving it my best as I want the factory to work so as to provide employment for our people, especially those who used to work at Yazaki but now have no jobs.
I did a presentation for them a few weeks ago about what to expect if they work at the bed factory. My heart really went out to them. So I am giving it my best to ensure so that the factory is established.
4. DO GOOD!
My fourth advice is for you to do good. Whether you win or not, the contacts you have made and experience and knowledge gained from this Pageant should be used to do good. For an example, start reading classes at your village or church once a week for kids who struggle to read. Come ask me for books to start such a class now that you know me.
I was partly raised by my aunty who, whilst a nurse, struggled financially to put food on the table. If my shoes break, I have to wait until my aunty’s next pay day so she can buy me shoes – I am not talking about Prada designer shoes, no - I am talking about the good old reliable se’evae tosotoso type (jandals). Obviously, this meant that my aunty also cannot afford to buy me books to read even though I love reading. I would ask the rich kids at school to lend me their books. Now I am a businesswoman I try to do good by giving out books to set up libraries around Samoa. I have book fairs so that families can afford to buy books. I sponsor the Annual National Literacy Week to encourage kids in Samoa to read so they can succeed in life. I try to do good with what God has blessed me with.
5. BE HUMBLE
My fifth advice to you is to be humble always. The Bible says that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” in James 4:6. He says the same thing about opposing the proud about 22 times in the Bible. Surely he is trying hard to tell us something if he said 22 times that he hates arrogance!
Unfortunately, some say that it is human nature for us to become arrogant when we gain riches and power. If you were to win the Pageant, then please don’t forget where you came from and never be arrogant. My advice to you is to be humble always. O le tausala Samoa moni e tausaafia ma loto maualalo.
I am Fiti, the girl who grew up at Moata’a and Togafuafua. Now, I own SSAB, but I am still Fiti, the girl who grew up at Moata’a and Togafuafua. I have not changed.
6. HAVE A GOOD HEART
My sixth advice to you is to have a good heart. God blessed King David because his heart was that after God’s own heart. David had seven brothers and they were better looking and taller than him. But God chose David to be the King of Israel because of David’s heart.
Having a good heart requires you to do things with good intentions and motives. When I interview candidates for positions in my company, I not only listen to the answers, I also try to feel their “spirit”. This will help me determine whether they have good hearts.
I can hire a person who has a masters or PhD degrees but they will be of no value to me and my business if they don’t have good hearts. One of the reasons why SSAB is so successful is the fact that I have very good staff who are good spirited and good hearted people.
7. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A VISION
My seventh advice to you is to have a vision. Proverbs 29:18 say that “where there is no vision, the people perish”.
A vision is where you see yourself in the future. To achieve your vision, you need plans and strategies. In January every year, I sit down with my husband and sons and write down our goals – both short term and long term. And then we pray over our goals and leave them in our prayer room at our house. SSAB here also has a prayer room on the 3rd level of our Megastore.
SSAB’s vision is “Excellence in the provision of office and school supplies in Samoa.” What is your vision? What do you want to achieve in life?
8. BE CLOSE TO GOD
My eighth and final advice to you is to be close to God. I know that you hear this all the time from your parents and your pastor. But this is the most important of the advice I have already shared with you.
Romans 8:31 stipulates, “…when God is for us, who can be against us.”
When you have God you have everything: strength, wisdom, courage, and especially His Holy Spirit that guides and comforts you. No problem is too big for our God.
To conclude, I hope that what I have shared with you today will help with your journey through life. I wish you all the best with the Pageant and may God be with you always. Soifua and God bless.