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 Tahirih Latu

Tahirih Latu. Photo / Junior Laulala @junior.shoots
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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.

Tahirih Latu
Age: 22
Ethnicity: Tongan

Tell us how you were first discovered. 

I was on my last year of uni studying Bachelors of Fashion Design at AUT. Every year we have a graduate fashion show where a selective amount of students are chosen to present their collection and I was one of the lucky few. On the night of the event, I was in the front row unknowingly sitting right across from the director of the modelling agency. At the end of the show, she introduced herself, gave me her card and told me to come into the agency.

How did your family respond when you told them you were going to pursue modelling? 

When I told my parents, they didn’t believe me. They laughed at the idea not because they thought I couldn’t do it but because they weren’t familiar with the concept of being a model. They’re casual about it in real life but on Facebook they are my biggest fans haha. After many jobs and shows, they support my journey.

As a former student and graduate of fashion design at AUT, did you expect to pursue fashion design instead of modelling? 

I had no idea what to expect but modelling was not on the list of things I thought I’d do. It was only a hobby and something fun for me, modelling my classmates’ clothing for their presentations. I had my heart set on creating my own high end streetwear label. I guess you can say the universe had a different plan for me.

Who or what are your fashion influences?

Rihanna hands down. 

What’s the actual prep you go through to prepare for a shoot or a show? 

One word: S K I N C A R E! Day and night cream, face mask, eye cream, you name it! Anything with SPF is my best friend. Looking after my skin a must in my daily routine to prepare for any show or shoot.

As a Pacific model, have you faced many obstacles? How did you overcome them? 

It’s inevitable to face discrimination or comments if you look different from what is normally seen as the norm. But comments of that nature only come from people who are uneducated and ignorant. I’ve learnt that it has nothing to do with me but a reflection of themselves and their experiences. 


Tahirih Latu. Photo / Junior Laulala @junior.shoots

You work in the industry as a model and your partner also does fashion photography work  – what’s it like to work with your partner in the same industry?

Working on a couple projects together definitely has helped us bond. From my fashion and his photography background, it’s really helped push our concepts and ideas. At first, it was challenging to balance our personal and professional lives, but I know it has made us grow stronger as a team and has made me the model that I am now, full of confidence.

Some people would assume that you have to look a certain way to be a successful. Now that the mould is changing, what does it actually take to be a great model? 

Attitude. Period. Modelling isn’t as easy as it looks. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to get the shot. With the right attitude, you can overcome any obstacle, like getting through a shoot outside in winter season for two hours. However big or small the situation is, every little achievement is worth celebrating. 

Name 3 of your favourite Kiwi or Pacific designers and what was it like to work for them.

  1. Afa Ahloo 
  2. Maggie Marilyn
  3. Adrienne Whitewood

You’re still up-and-coming, but in terms of your modelling career – how far do you want to take it? Where would you like to be in five years? 

I want to take it internationally in New York, Milan and Paris. Walking for incredible fashion designers that I adore and respect for their craft and creativity. In five years I hope to be travelling doing what I love and also owning a business. Working around the world sipping tea at a vegan joint on my laptop being a boss A$$ businesswoman. 


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