Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

NZFW: Meet Tongan model Louis Ova

Brand / Sweepstake Winners. Photo / Junior Laulala @junior.shoots
Avatar photo
Alice Lolohea | Reporter/Director/Videographer

With NZ Fashion Week in full swing, Alice Lolohea speaks to some of the Pasifika models strutting their stuff on on the catwalk this year.

Louis Ova
Age: 27
Ethnicity: Tongan
Occupation/s: IT Professional/International Rugby Player/Stuntman/Actor/Model

Tell us how you were first discovered as a model

I was first discovered on the runway in 2017 at New Zealand Fashion Week. I was walking for Russell Athletics.  Jo Mickelborough was the choreographer of the show and happened to be an agent from Red11. She gave me her business card and told me to come in and see them. I went in the next week with my son, Jake, who was 3 years old at the time. I got signed on the spot after a short interview, and they asked if they could sign Jake too, which I also agreed to! Before I was signed I was a freelance model since 2013.

Name 3 fashion or modelling inspirations.

Most of my fashion inspirations come from my culture and tradition of being Tongan. I love our unique style, especially with the Ta’ovala and Kiekie, as it is being worn to show respect. 

Sammy Salsa is a Samoan stylist who is currently the top stylist in New Zealand. He inspires me not only with his work and style but most importantly by bringing diversity into the industry. 

My mother Losaline and Aunty Felenisia both have very similar styles. What inspires me the most is that all year round I never see them go shopping but rather work with what they already have. The only thing they would have new is a kahoa kakala, such as kahoa heilala or kahoa paongo.

You’ve moved from the entertainment industry to fashion to sport – what other roles or jobs would you like to try out?

It may sound crazy, but I have a lot in mind. I recently got asked if I wanted to be a rugby coach for kids in New Caledonia, which is something I would love to do. I would love to work for one of the intelligence agencies here in New Zealand. I previously tried but I have to be a citizen for at least 10 years. I also haven’t ticked off a childhood dream of being a soldier for the New Zealand Special Air Service, so that’s still on the list too. And lastly, I would love to go back home to Tonga and give back to the community (literally my dream job ?).

And out of all your different jobs, which one gives you the most satisfaction?

The first is modelling, because even though there have been so many changes from when I first started back in 2013, there are still not many of us. So being able to represent our people in modelling is huge for me. 

Playing rugby for Tonga is probably the best thing ever apart from having a hot lu sipi and manioke straight from the ‘umu haha. But in all seriousness, it has been a dream of mine for a very long time, and there are no better feelings than representing my home country, family and friends by donning the red jersey.

Louis represented Bronze Medalists Tonga in the Rugby 7s at the 2019 Pacific Games. Photo / @LouisOva

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?

I think you can probably have a sense of what their reaction was like, especially as modelling was not really a thing for our people. We have come a long way now, but when I first started I was getting mocked and teased not only from family members and friends but also our very own people. I really didn’t mind because I knew that there would come a time when it would become normal, and I was right. As of today, we have quite a lot of us – not only Tongan models but Pasifika in general.

As a Pacific model, have you faced any obstacles during your time in the business? How have you overcome them? 

I’ve faced a lot of obstacles during my time. I would say probably more than my successes. These obstacles are extremely important because they drive me to stay on top, to keep improving and reaching new heights. I’ve overcome these obstacles by learning from what happened, making amends and trying again and again. 

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

I agree with that statement only to a degree. Yes, it is true that there have been some changes to what a traditional model could/should look like, which is great. That means you have the sample size models on one end and plus size/curve models on the other end – but what about the models in between? The ones that are too big to be a sample size and too small to be a plus size/curve model? Or the ones that are slightly too muscly? 

To be successful in the business you need to have a strong presence on social media, especially in this day and age where everything is digital and you get paid to post about products and services. Build a good relationship in the industry with the people you meet in every job, whether they are models, designers, stylists, make-up artists… Most of all, just have really good manners, because a simple hello and thank you can go a very long way. 

Brand / Zuber Fiji. Photo / Ilai Jikoiono

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

One of my favourite designers I have worked for is Zuber Fiji (Fiji) and MOO.DY (NZ).  I would love to work with Zambesi (NZ) because I love their style, and I don’t think they have worked with any other type of model except sample size models. 

You’ve mentioned in the past that it’s easy for up-and-coming models to be taken advantage of, and you’ve encouraged a lot of Pacific models to know their worth and understand what they’re getting into. What advice would you share for anyone who’s considering a career in the fashion industry?

For anyone who’s considering a career as a model, please do your research first and foremost. Make sure you are aware that there are different types of modelling and identify which one suits you best. Also, make sure you find a good modelling agency that specializes in what you want to do and is reputable. I can tell you now that modelling is not as glamorous as it looks. It’s just like any other job out there where you have to be professional, punctual, take direction well and be a good communicator. But the biggest thing to me is being mentally tough. When you’re attending a casting/audition, it is not guaranteed that you will get the job. Make sure you understand that if you don’t get the job, that doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. Use that as a learning experience to get better and prepare for the next opportunity. 


Stay Connected

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive daily updates direct to your inbox!

*we hate spam as much as you do