LIFE-Con pushes boundaries for models

The 2020 LIFE-Con Fashion Explosion event in December is set to have a transformative effect on sign language teacher, Miracle Seuula Afele.

The 23-year-old of Vaitele is “scared” because there is no other like her as she has hearing loss and uses sign language to communicate.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Ms. Afele’s half-sister, Perise Leulua’i translated this newspaper’s questions into sign language to enable her sister to respond.

“I can translate your questions into sign language,” Ms. Leulua’i said. “Oh LIFE-Con, I’ve been there before.”

“This is her first time. She said she is scared but not really scared. She’s scared right now but she won’t be in December. She is confident that she will be ready to model.”

Ms. Afele is one of two models with hearing disability who will work on the LIFE-Con show.

Her counterpart is 23-year-old male model, Faofua Leleiga, who is a student at the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (A.P.T.C.).

“They are the two chosen people with disabilities whom we have selected to be part of our Models for LIFE-Con 2020,” said LIFE-Con Director, Kevin Schuster.

“It’s the vision of the event to be an ‘all inclusive platform’ to promote our people, their skills and talents and especially our arts and culture. 

“And with this mantra of the event and its organisers, this has always been the plan and we are glad to have moved with its implementation this year.”

Mr Schuster said Ms Afele and Mr Leleiga expressed excitement about the show and their participation.

“[They both] expressed they are excited about this – a bit nervous because it’s actually a first, for not just them, but for the disability community here in Samoa given this initiative by LIFE-Con,” he added. 

“We have never been a part of this and it’s really pushing visibility and boundaries for our community.”

Close to 200 applications were received when LIFE-Con put out its expression of interest notice that closed on 30 September.

Ms Afele and Mr Leleiga are among a short list of 50 models, men, women and faafafine. All models will undergo further screening, coaching sessions, rehearsals and some sessions to understand the LIFE-CON event and its overall vision.

The duo will model all LIFE-Con brands of designers, hair stylists, make-up artists, jewelers and shoe suppliers.  

About 30 businesses or brands have registered for the show, but Mr Schuster says they are prepared to accept designers and participants who come in at the last minute.

“We have a strategy for that in place because at the end of the day, whoever is genuinely needing the platform, we would like nothing but to share [it] with them,” he said. 

Ms Afele and Mr Leleiga were a bit apprehensive about not having an interpreter with them, said Mr Schuster, who added that LIFE-Con plans to communicate with the duo through a Facebook group chat for models.

Communication with Ms Afele and Mr Leleiga is also one of integrity, he emphasised. 

“This is integration of people with disabilities…being able to interact directly with them, at least through writing on social media,” he said.

And speaking through Ms Leulua’i, Ms Afele said she feels happy, though not one hundred per cent happy.

“She [Ms Afele] said she feels happy but not really happy, because it will only be her, because there is no other deaf model,” Ms Leulua’i said.

“There’s no one like her. Oh she [Ms Afele] said everything will be absolutely perfect and I hope I get to be her interpreter.”

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