Congratulations Haylanni: The Journey to Miss Samoa

By Enid Westerlund. 04 June 2023, 1:00PM

Thanks to Miss Samoa for inviting me to her book launch yesterday morning. The Journey to Miss Samoa is a book written by the beautiful Haylanni Kuruppu and Falefitu Tony Laulu. Illustrated by Tomasi Greentree. It’s always good to not only remember the authors but also the artists behind the amazing illustrations. You never know when you are going to need an artist for your next promotion. Congratulations to you, kindred spirit and beautiful soul. Writing a children’s book is no easy feat and you have done it in less than two months. An achievement in itself and another milestone added to your accolades.

A story about a girl who recognised that she was different early on, at times unsure of herself, but with her faith persevered through the challenges. She discovered her talents and used them to help herself and others. Sports, dance, respect, faith, and acceptance of both Samoan and Sri Lankan cultures are all gems shared in this book. Having a Christian mother and a Buddhist father meant she is part of two faiths and also two worlds. "At times though, going to a Samoan church made her feel anxious because she knew she couldn’t speak Samoan as well as the other kids there. She felt a bit out of place." So many of our overseas-born children can relate to this as those who moved away as infants. They struggle with this identity and is an ongoing challenge.

It is easier for us growing up here knowing and learning the language. Sometimes, we take this for granted until we move overseas. I hold my Samoanness a little bit closer when I am the only Samoan in a room. I’ve been in many of these settings for education and work. It’s our point of difference and our unique gift to the world. 685 to the world they say. This cannot be any more true today.

I enjoyed how relatable this book is to all of us. Haylanni is honest in sharing her struggles and setbacks. Particularly, sharing about entering the Miss Samoa Pageant and how many relatives and friends were not supportive. Her honesty about being hurt by their negative comments and using that to motivate herself is encouraging. It highlights the struggle with trying to fit in and needing approval from those we love but at the same time still pushing through regardless.

There are many times we too want to step out of our comfort zone and that negative voice from family or friends will stop us in our tracks. She enjoys sports and contemporary dance but self-doubt would always stop her from committing to it. So, she stuck to sports, where she felt comfortable.’ Afraid to step out and take risks or try something she was interested in happens to all of us. No matter what age we are, we all feel hesitant at times to dive into anything new but once we get the hang of it, confidence will come and it becomes second nature after some time.

At the launch, even though her voice shook and she was teary, she was encouraging with her message “Culture through language, shows my God-gifted talent, embraces diversity, talks about having absolute faith in the Lord, the challenges about being half Samoan and Sri Lankan. This book is about being bold, it is about being fearless and knowing that being different is beautiful. It is about putting in the work. Inspire the person next to you and create something that will last forever. All you need is a few good people and your unwavering faith in God and you can achieve anything. 

By Enid Westerlund. 04 June 2023, 1:00PM
Samoa Observer

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