New Zealand’s Annie Kaio Crowned Miss Samoa Fa’afafine 2023

New Zealand’s Annie Kaio Crowned Miss Samoa Fa’afafine 2023
Image: Annie Kaio. Image: Amao Leota Lu/ Supplied.

New Zealand’s Annie Kaio was crowned Miss Samoa Fa’afafine 2023 at the beauty pageant held last week in Apia, the capital city of the South Pacific island nation of Samoa. 

Organised by the Samoa Fa’afafine Association, the pageant has been running since 2006 as both a contest of creativity and a forum for discussion of fa’afafine issues. The annual event is a celebration of fa’afafine, a gender identity unique to Samoa that refers to people who were assigned male at birth but live as female, or embrace feminine attributes. 

In the week leading up to the pageant, contestants participated in community events and cultural activities, including a church service commemorating World Aids Day, and a rubbish clean up around Apia. 

‘Not Just About Gowns And Heels’

Miss Samoa Fa’afafine 2023 Contestants. Image: Amao Leota Lu/ Supplied

Fa’afafine community advocate Amao Leota Lu has attended the pageant twice, and said it was an important reminder of the contributions that fa’afafine brings to society. 

“I just get astounded and amazed at the support that there is for the fa’afafine community. It seems to grow in abundance, and I think it speaks volumes for the work that community does,” she said.

“It’s not just about gowns and heels, it’s about bringing our creativity, being able to celebrate our culture, but also looking after the wider community such as monetary contributions that the fa’afafine associations give to old peoples’ homes.”

Transformative Journey

Melbourne’s Kitana Lemalu dazzled the judges at the beauty pageant. Lemalu was one of seven fa’afafine contestants to present a talent performance, creative wear, swimwear, an evening gown, and a live interview, in her pursuit of the crown.

While Lemalu didn’t place in the competition, she said the experience was a “remarkable journey of personal growth and empowerment”.

“This transformative journey allowed me to not just celebrate who I am but also to inspire others to embrace their uniqueness. It’s been a privilege,” she said.

Lemalu donned a series of fashionable ensembles, from regal couture gowns to a ‘Barbie’ themed swimwear costume. For the talent category, she performed a lip sync number telling the story of people marginalised for their queerness. 
Annie Kaio’s win is a celebration not just for her but for our entire community, and I’m eager to witness the positive impact she’ll bring during her reign,” Lemalu told Star Observer.

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