THE first-ever Australian beauty pageant celebrating Samoa’s fa’afafine third gender was held in Sydney last weekend with the winner now set to compete for the global crown.
Before a crowd of around 300 people, including Australian and Samoan politicians, Ella Collins from Merrylands in western Sydney beat four other contestants to become the inaugural holder of the Miss Fa’afafine Australia title.
[showads ad=MREC]Next month, she will head to the Samoan capital Apia as the first-ever representative of Australia in the finals of the Miss Fa’afafine International contest – one of the highlights on the Pacific island nation’s cultural calendar.
In her acceptance speech, Collins said she hoped her victory would be a positive example to young trans* people.
Fa’afafine, which in Samoan means “in the manner of women” are biologically male but express female gender identities.
However, fa’afafine – who are also a feature of other Pacific island cultures – generally do not identify as being either male or female but rather are regarded and accepted as a distinct gender.
Last Saturday’s event, held at the Croatian Club in Punchbowl in south western Sydney, was attended by senior members of the Australian-Samoan community as well as the East Hills state Liberal MP Glenn Brookes and City of Sydney Liberal councillor Christine Forster.
The Samoan Consul General Fonoti Manogiamanu Etuale Ioane, who opened the competition, praised the role played by fa’afafine in Samoan society.
“Tonight is not only a showcase of fa’afafine’s talents as designers, artists, singers, dancers, waiters, housewives, househusbands and many, many more but most importantly for Samoans here and afar to promote our awareness that fa’afafine’s were created in the image of god,” Ioane said.
“They may opt to wear clothes that declare your attention but bear in mind it is not the dress or the outfit you may see on the outside, it is the inner self that determines their personality.”
The pageant mixed elements of a standard beauty contest, such as swimwear and talent heats, as well as traditional elements including a round where each contestant performed a Samoa Siva dance on stage surrounded by family and supporters.
Costumes ranged from elegant evening wear to outlandish creations including a dress based on the Sydney skyline – complete with Harbour Bridge and Opera House – and a costume with giant golden wings echoing Cleopatra’s Egypt.
Collins’ routine caught the judge’s eye for it’s high-energy mix of Beyonce and Samoan war dancing.
Talking to the Star Observer, Collins said her win was a dream come true.
“At the end of the day, I just wanted to be myself and the crowd really responded so I’m feeling blessed, I’ve never felt better,” she said.
Asked what she hoped the message of her win would be, Collins said: “I’m just all about saving lives and knowing there is a high suicide rate among transgenders I want to be an advocate to stop that and bring awareness to help those kids.”
She added it was back to the drawing board for her routine so she could ensure she had the best show possible for her upcoming appointment in Apia.
“I’m ready to do Australia proud,” she said.[showads ad=FOOT]