The recent Miss Heilala pageant has had rumours run rife and huge shade being slung all over social media about the controversial winning decision.
Miss Heilala 2018 Kalo Funganitao was crowned to a cacophony of boos from some of the audience, and allegations of rigging with her sponsor Apraxus also being a main pageant sponsor.
The Tongan community from inside and outside of Tonga had this to say about the Miss Heilala 2018 pageant, but also Island pageants in general -
Lisiate T Wolfgram
The problem is that I feel pageant organizers for a while now are unclear of their mandate and vision. They also have not factored in that, globally, gender roles for women have evolved, women are gaining more equality, women are more empowered and are owning their own voices and speaking their truths. So, while it is encouraging to witness that some contestants were doing this, speaking about uncomfortable topics such rape, sexual violence and youth violence, this contestant was able to articulate these talking points from a position of privilege as a diasporic Tongan, whereas this would be much more difficult for a local Tongan because she is culturally bound to social taboos when speaking about sex.
So if pageant organizers are more cognizant of power dynamics in a cultural and social context, the more effective solution that would have long term positive impact on Tonga society would be empowering local Tongan young women to advocate for themselves, because diasporic winners of the pageant are not bound to live in Tonga after they serve their one year, and even then, they haven’t grew up in Tonga to fully develop meaningful insights so they can articulate these issues in their platforms in a way that is meaningful. That’s just one example of how the pageant needs to evolve to meet the reality of a changing world and changing values.
Watching the way the contestants behaved once this year's Miss Heilala was crowned was shocking. Politics or not, whether you agree with the judges or not, there is something special in keeping your dignity in public defeat. Humility, modesty and respect are values expected of Tongan women and those competing in Miss Heilala should know that they are on a platform as role models to other young Tongan girls. The behaviour they displayed was revealing of their character and their low standard of faka'apa'apa (respect) and fakatokilalo (humility).
Ofakilevuka guttenbeil likiliki
Beauty pageants are outdated. If what we are looking for are young empowered women who can give voice to the issues faced by the youth and in particular, young women, then we need to shift the platform from beauty pageants that judge girls on things that are totally irrelevant in today’s society. We need to be creating spaces that embrace a holistic definition of beauty: and dismantling what beauty pageants have created all over the world - a one perspective or view of beauty that all women and girls should be measured against. There are so many other ways in which we can indentifying young women ambassadors.
I never comment on Miss Heilala but something is bugging me...
Why are people, who are defending the recently crowned Miss Heilala 2018, contradicting themselves saying things like:
* it’s not all about beauty
* she’s not the prettiest, but....
* the runner up was prettier, but....
Who defines beauty? On what basis is beauty defined? Is it through a western concept of beauty - looking for the more sharper and fairer features, or lighter hair shade as opposed to Tongan features?
She looks very Tongan to me. Would have loved it more had she let her hair down in its natural curls. But that just goes to show how even with our #PolynesianHair we are taught to believe that straighter is better.
We got to embrace #TonganBeauty and stop looking for a diluted western concept of beauty... there are millions of western looking women - what we need to do is celebrate and be proud of #TonganBeauty before it becomes something we don’t recognize anymore.....
Bullying and online violence should never be condoned. If this is what our young people are exposed to - and is their experience of what a Miss Heilala pageant is - the. We really need to rethink about why we are still holding these events.
What about bringing back the National Youth Parliament and holding it during Heilala? The winning Miss Heilala, Kalo, said she wanted to use the Heilala pageant as a platform to raise issues. I totally respect and proud of her for saying that. BUT here’s the thing; I cannot name one Miss Heilala from past years who had advocated or lobbied for a social or youth issue in Tonga. So maybe we have to face the harsh reality and accept that perhaps the Miss Heilala is just but a ‘Beauty Pageant’
This is NOT the Tonga or Samoa 20-30 years ago when beauty pageants were just what it was. There is a growing destructiveness about them now - just like we have witnessed over the last 48 hours
Something needs to be done!