Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Remembering Yolande’s advocacy, humour and community spirit

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Angie Enoka | Guest Writer

Everyone who met Yolande will remember a moment. They will talk about it. Even for those who never met Yolande they will share facets of her personality on Fresh TV, in her sassy appearance in Housewives of South Auckland or Fortune Tala, like they know Yolande very well.

As I write this, the internet is inundated with messages of love, support, and tributes for the late Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong, an extraordinary media personality, community advocate and a friend.

Yolande was like another fa’afafine to me. 

She was a unique individual, full of energy, with an array of vocabulary, a strong sense of self-awareness and authenticity, resilient, courageousness, strong connections, openness, and she knew that her personality was her superpower.

Spiritually, I think Yolande was brought into this world as a healer. 

She was good at encouraging people. She had this warm ability to heal without touching someone. Her energy connected, soothed, and healed. She had this greater sense of authenticity and I often wonder if Yolande was programmed to heal by bringing laughter and smiles to so many people. 

It was 2007 when I first crossed paths with Yolande. She was empathic with a very bright energy. 

Her presentation was always meticulously planned, brilliantly scripted, and convicted with warmth, passion and labels that caused some to cringe, but there was fire and a warrior spirit in her. She was a great champion for connections. 

Photo: Tagata Pasifika.

Yolande was always so proud of being Samoan. That was our strong connection. 

She was a brilliant communicator and her heart for Samoa and the Pacific community was extraordinary. She embraced her Samoaness; proud of her identity and she was exceptional with the fa’afafine dialect. She was funny and hilarious. A true trailblazer.

Many of my interactions with Yolande were in a professional capacity in different roles I held in the public sector. We had lots to talk about. Our friendship, her professionalism and enormous contribution to the Pasifika media industry was huge and community conversations will not be forgotten. 

She possessed heightened empathy and understanding towards those living in poverty and those from lower socio and economic backgrounds and others facing similar challenges.

Aside from being a strong community advocate, Yolande’s passion was education. 

Her dedication to educating our viewers with humour will continue to inspire all those who were privileged enough to work alongside her. 

Her outspoken and courageous opinions meant a great deal to those unwilling to speak up and she built quite a following. To me, her courage was her strength.

Yolande was an epic fountain of laughter. 

Her humour was infectious, and she never lost her good sense of spirit when times were tough, and it showed her true strength. 

Nothing gave me as much joy as catching up with Yolande and being in our own bubble. 

We had a list of how Pacific providers were doing, what they were up to, what initiatives from government agencies were benefitting Pacific people and she constantly pushed for initiatives that she saw benefiting the community or the marginalised communities.

Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong and John Pulu hosted the 2022 Pacific Music Awards. Photo: Facebook.

There are other things in my interactions with Yolande that gave me as much joy – watching her host the Pacific Music Awards where deep down in my heart I knew Yolande would opt for jandals rather than heels to be on stage. 

Our times at the annual SunPix Pacific Peoples Awards screening the different awards recipients to ensure they were worthy to be recipients (or not!) and scanning the room of what other women wore at the event. We were like the Pacific fashion police. 

My fondest memory is the day I received a text followed by a phone call from Yolande when Massey University announced that I would be graduating with a PhD. 

Yolande was pushing for a story for the spotlight to be on me. She ended up sounding just like another fa’afafine bringing out all the many reasons why my PhD mattered and advocating for fa’afafine to be put on a pedestal. Bless you, my sister!

Yolande took great pride in her work, but she was most proud of her community; a fierce voice that spoke for the struggling and the most vulnerable. 

Her heart was in community work. Her devotion to West Auckland, Samoa and the Pacific community in Aotearoa was always front of mind for her. Yolande always embodied the spirit of community service.

Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong pictured as an MC at the 2017 Pacific Music Awards. Photo: PMA.

Life was always full on for Yolande. 

Our interactions were full of warmth, passion, lots of laughter and time to ourselves to unwind and nourish our energies. 

It was always nice being in Yolande’s company, to hear her talking and taking a breather now and then allowing her to pace herself for a few moments. 

She was always on the move, and I treasured our moments together to unwind, relax and strategise what was next on the Pasifika agenda.

Yolande will be remembered, not as a great media personality, but as a friend, a mother, wife, sister, daughter, and a familiar face to many Pacific New Zealanders.

Yolande’s legacy will endure through the countless people she met and the lives that she touched. She was loved and admired by our Pasifika community in New Zealand and Samoa.

I miss you Yolande. Rest in eternal peace my dear friend. Your memory lives on.

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