Earlier this evening, the Attitude Awards took place - a black-tie gala event celebrating the achievements of those in the disabled community. As with every year, the nominations are filled with incredible and inspiring stories from both people living with disabilities and able-bodied people who support them.
Tonight the 'Spirit of Attitude' award which is awarded to someone who has had a unique journey and has risen to the challenges of their disability and applied a positive, 'can-do' spirit, was won by Lusi Faiva who is of Samoan heritage. Coco congrats Lusi!
Born with Cerebal Palsy, Lusi was taken away from her birth parents by the state and placed in an institution.
She was adopted by the Jone's who gave her the support she needed and enabled her to have continued development, then at 13 she was reconnected with her birth monther and Samoan culture. Her determination toward taking the spotlight and mic which led her to join the family choir and make steps into musical theatre.
She has since toured with 'Outer Limits' in NZ and Australia and her latest work/short film 'Becoming Masina' was presented in DocEdge's film festival, coming second at DocArts.
A couple of months ago she also co-won the 'Pacific Toa Artist Award' at the 2020 Creative New Zealand Arts Pasifika Awards. This award recognises the contribution of a Pasifika artist with the lived experience of disability to the standing and standard of Pacific Arts nationally or globally.
Lusi shared some of her inspirational story with us here -
I am so happy and honoured to be nominated by people who have supported me over 24 years of experience in the performance industry.
I am originally from Wellington. I grew up living between Levin and Petone, Lower Hutt but have lived here in Auckland the longest.
I have Cerebral Palsy - Spastic quadriplegia since birth. It affects my muscle coordination and walking movements on both sides of my body, especially my speech. My left side is stronger than the right. Growing up with a disability was immensely challenging for me in my own Samoan family, I found myself being outcast. The Pacific community can be intimidated towards someone different who has a disability so I didn't take part in the family activities.
It is sad to say that, however, I adapted to be able to do things that made me feel like part of a group of people who accepted me. It's imperative to be able to share our stories of challenges.
I used to love watching the old black & white movies, so I would imagine that I could perform on stage one day. I like to connect with the audience and I enjoy seeing people's reaction to my perspective on performance. I am a dancer, performer and founding member of Touch Compass which is Aotearoa's leading professional performance company and is disability led. They were also the first company to mix integrated dance with dancers with and without disabilities since 1997.
The challenges when going on tour with the theatre & studio venues for wheelchair access becomes an obstacle when travelling too. However, it has been super teamwork to get it to work out for us all as the company. I guess my most acclaimed performance is "Lusi's Eden" which is based on my childhood story and is also my favourite one.
I had to learn more about my Samoan heritage, and I've embraced it which is a good thing. I plan to do solo work on my own experience with Samoan traditional style in the New Year.
My advice to the next generation of young Pacific artists is not afraid to take risks to the discovery of a passion for anything that they want to do.