Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Pasifika Wunderkind Andre Fa’aoso on his Yale success: “I really hope that I’m not the only one”

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Pasifika Wunderkind Andre Fa’aoso
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Alice Lolohea | Reporter/Director/Videographer

An acceptance email into Yale, one viral video to announce it all and a flurry of media interviews that followed; Andre Fa’aoso went from an average West Aucklander to an online sensation overnight.

“I had a woman who was riding on a Beam scooter and she sped past, she was like ‘congratulations on getting into Yale!” he laughs.

When I first sat down with the 18-year-old for a quick Zoom chat, Fa’aoso had already been through a media whirlwind, appearing on a few of New Zealand’s major TV morning and evening shows, print and digital, all within the space of a few weeks. 

“I’m feeling just a bit tired, but also very excited and anticipating the next few months.” 

Last year, Andre was worked as a Youth Press Gallery reporter, speaking to Pasifika Youth MPs attending Youth Parliament. Photos: Andre Fa’aoso

And while a career in Journalism is his future field of choice, perhaps the media furore is good preparation for Fa’aoso who got a taste of it when taking part in the Youth Parliament youth press gallery. 

“I think there are tons of rangatahi that are inspirational that just don’t get the attention or coverage that they deserve. When you are given that opportunity and that power to tell a story and to take control of the narrative, then you need to consider what isn’t being told.”

The need to tell these untold stories has fuelled Fa’aoso’s passion for story-telling. His upbringing was filled with negative connotations associated with Pasifika, and is why he is deeply passionate about positive brown representation.

“When there are stories of our people succeeding, they ought to be treasured and valued,” Fa’aoso says.

“I think it’s detrimental to the self-perception of a lot of Pasifika young people.”

A video of Fa’aoso opening his acceptance email went viral on TikTok, and support from the Pasifika community has been overwhelming. “It’s just been so surreal, the amount of interest in my story and, and support and also just congratulations from people and I’m so grateful, uh, for the amount of support that I’ve received.

His own self-perception was something Fa’aoso struggled with as a child. He shares that his time in primary school and intermediate “were not good times” for him due to his lack of belonging, bullying and discomfort with his surroundings. 

However, high school gave him the opportunity to begin with a fresh slate, where he learnt to accept his mixed heritage and give everything a go. 

His love for community and academia excelled, with his parents and his friends to push him to greater heights.

Photo: Rutherford School.

“I’m very blessed to have a very close circle to drive me and to motivate me…for lack of better words, I’m surrounded by brown excellence.”

A category which he sits squarely in – Head Boy of Rutherford College, News Producer at 95b FM, an Outreach Officer for UN Youth in NZ. And now, an Ivy League student. And it’s this excellence and success which Fa’aoso wants to see emulated.

“I really hope that I’m not the only one, I hope I’m not that Tongan boy that got into Yale,” he emphasises.

“I want to make sure that other people get that opportunity…I’ve been told this is gonna be an experience of a lifetime. And if it is gonna be an experience of a lifetime, I really want other people to experience it as well.”



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