Tagata Pasifika

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NZFW: Meet Samoan-Māori model and musician Sione Luke Roberts

By Alice Lolohea

Photo / Kate Jenkins

Sione Luke Roberts 
Age: 19 
Ethnicity: Samoan/Māori/NZ European
Occupation/s: Student

Tell us how you were first discovered as a model

One night after school last year I decided on a whim to send some photos into a few agencies based in Auckland, as I was planning to study at Auckland University in 2019. I didn’t actually expect to get a reply, but I was lucky one agency looked at my application and got in touch with me. I was extremely excited and flew up to Auckland to have a meeting with them last year in July. A few weeks later I was signed with Unique Model Management. 

Tell us a little bit about your background

I was born and raised in Hastings, Hawkes Bay and lived mostly with my mum Shelley and my sister Willa. Both my sister and I always loved performing and the arts, so it wasn’t a surprise that we would both be studying performance at university. My home town is very small, and although there were opportunities for music and academics, I didn’t think that modelling was a profession I would follow. At the moment, I am studying hard in my first year of a Music and Law conjoint degree at the University of Auckland, with modelling being a hobby/profession I do between classes. The last few weeks leading up to fashion week have been amazing. I have loved the social side of modelling, and my first fashion show (NAC fashion show) was an experience I’ll never forget. 

Name 3 fashion or modelling inspirations, or people who inspire you in general 

I’m quite new to the fashion/modelling industry, so I don’t really know too many models or designers. However, I do admire a few multi-faceted entertainers such as A$AP Rocky and Tyler the Creator. I also really enjoy watching various fashion YouTube channels and taking inspiration from their style. In all honesty, the one person who inspires me to do my best in everything I do is my mum. Without her I would not be half the man I am today. 

Name 3 of your favourite Kiwi / Pacific designers you have worked for or would like to work for. 

I am lucky enough to be modelling for Zambesi this fashion week, a brand I love and have followed over the last few years. Wearing their art is honestly a dream. I would also love to work for Cecilia’s Fashion House Samoa, as the clothing is beautiful and wearing clothing created in Samoa would mean a lot to me. Lastly, I would love to work for Huffer, as I think half my wardrobe consists of the brand. 

We don’t have many Pacific models, let alone Pacific male models. How did your family and friends react when you told them you were going to model? 

Up until I was 15, I was quite a chubby kid. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I grew about half a foot, lost 15kgs and began eating healthy that my mum realised I could actually do modelling. When I was signed, my family was chuffed and were super supportive. I did receive a bit of banter from my friends, but I expected nothing less from them and that’s what friends are for. Everyone was honestly really supportive and positive. 

You’ve started your modelling career quite young. Was it ever your intention to get into the fashion industry? 

I think that New Zealand models in general begin extremely young. At my first fashion show, it seemed like a huge portion of the models were still at secondary school. I never thought of seriously modelling, but I liked to dream of one day following the profession. 

Besides modelling, you’re also a talented musician. Are you hoping to pursue both a music and modelling career? 

To be completely honest, I haven’t thought that far yet. I’m absolutely loving the experiences from both professions and I am going to keep performing in both areas for as long as I’m wanted. I would love to make a living out of two activities I love doing, but I am keeping my goals rather short-term and focussing on achieving these goals to the best of my ability. I also study law, so if there’s an occupation which incorporates modelling, music and law, I’d be the man for the job. 

Have you faced any obstacles so far during your time in the business? How have you overcome them? 

The only obstacles I can think of are balancing my classes and the castings, auditions and shows. I have quite a busy life and my degree is rather demanding, but I always manage to keep a balance. I believe being multicultural has helped me in the profession of modelling, as I have a unique look and name which I think helps distinguish me from the hundreds of models in New Zealand. 

Now that the mould for the ‘traditional’ model is changing – what does it actually take to be successful in the business? 

I’m still trying to figure that out myself. My best advice (as cliché as it sounds) would be being true to yourself and expressing your own unique personality. I don’t think designers and companies want models that try to embody other models. I think the modelling industry is much more accepting and open to variety and the result of this is a more diverse, beautiful and loving profession.

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