Tagata Pasifika

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Cook Islands Beauty crowned Miss South Pacific Plus

Source: Miss South Pacific Plus AU. 18 September 2019 – Sydney Australia

Miss South Pacific Plus Mariana Taia. Photo / Phoenix Vaiotu, Miss South Pacific Plus AU

It was a night of women empowerment and “curves” in Sydney last Friday night as a new Pacific beauty queen was crowned. 28-year-old Cook Island beauty Mariana Taia walked away the winner of this year’s ‘Miss South Pacific Plus’. The unique pageant now in its second year running, celebrating curvaceous Pacific young women and promoting ‘self-love, self-worth and self-confidence.’ 

Mariana says winning the title means so much to her and her family, especially after a tough year. “Earlier this year I lost my newborn son and not long after that, my grandmother too. So this win is dedicated to them. They inspired me along with my mother to enter the pageant.” 

She admits it was good to finally have some ‘happy news’ that gives her a glimmer of hope and a more positive outlook on life. “It’s like my son and my nana were watching over me, and it makes me want to do better for them and for the rest of my family.” 

She will now prepare to head to the Miss Plus World competition in Dallas Texas, USA next year. Mariana says that she will not take the world pageant lightly, as she will be representing all of the Pacific Islands. “My family ‘entourage’ will all be coming to America,” she laughs. “But I want to make sure I do a great job as a Pacific Island representative. It’s something that I am taking very seriously and I will be planning meetings soon and collaborations.” 

For Australia-born Mariana, whose parents are from the islands of Aitutaki and Penrhyn, she says women of all shapes and sizes should embrace their bodies. “I want women to know that it’s ok to be a size 26 or what not. What matters is that you love yourself.” 

She adds that as the eldest of seven children, she was used to taking care of others before herself. “But I never thought anything of it, that’s just the way it was and I accepted it and I loved being that example for my family. But it’s so important to look after yourself too.” 

Contestants on the night represented the islands of Tonga, Fiji and Samoa and formed a strong sisterhood throughout their pageant journey, making appearances at Pacific Island events during the year and participating in community work.

The night saw a 300-strong crowd of vocal support for all the participants. The plus-size beauties opened up the show in colourful dresses designed by popular Samoan designer Arilei Couture. Traditional and sarong wear were on display as well as cultural performances, including a memorable entrance by Mariana who was carried onto the stage like a queen. “It may seem ‘extra’ to be carried in like that but it’s actually a Cook Island tradition and authentic in our culture,” she explains. Her crowning was also welcomed by her family members, who performed a rousing Cook Island haka. 

Director of Miss South Pacific Plus Victoria Malaga says this year’s pageant success means momentum is growing, and she has already received expressions of interest for next year’s Miss South Pacific Plus event. “I have seen these girls work tirelessly this year and they walk away from this experience feeling more empowered.”

Just before crowning Mariana, Victoria’s friends and family surprised her with an announcement that she had been appointed the Australia director to the Miss Plus World pageant and that they had submitted her application for her. “To be appointed the Australia director to Miss Plus World is a dream and a testament to the hard work by my team and I over the last two years. We are so excited to go to Dallas. “I am blessed that Miss South Pacific Plus is able to provide a platform that allows our young women to believe in themselves and to strive for success.” 

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