Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Viral online show Inky Pinky Ponky proves being the odd one out is totally in

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Alice Lolohea | Reporter/Director/Videographer

When Inky Pinky Ponky first made its debut at Basement Theatre in 2015, it was a triumph. 

Written by Amanaki Faletau-Prescott and Leki Jackson-Bourke, the story followed Lisa as she navigated her way through the obstacles of St Valentine High as a whip-smart, funny and feisty fakaleitī (transgender woman). It is in fact based on Amanaki’s high school years.

As I sit down with Amanaki to chat about Inky’s recent adaptation for the small screen, she gives an almost exasperated sigh, “I’m so over it because I wrote it before Jesus was born,” she jokes. 

Reluctantly slipping back into Lisa’s shoes, albeit her own teenage shoes, Amanaki not only had to relive the story she wrote all those years ago, but relive the trauma she experienced as a teenager. 

Photo: Capture from Inky Pinky Ponky film.

The pointed stares, the hushed tones as you enter the classroom, the sound of laughter immediately following. 

“Small things like having to put on a boys school uniform again for three and a half weeks. I didn’t realise it was gonna trigger me or open doors that I thought I had already shut,” she says.

“Playing the theatre version, there was a comedic element to it that was really strong and I think this time round it was definitely a lot more heavier. 

“I never wanna do that again…it was probably the hardest thing to do to date as an actor,” she admits. 

Inky Pinky Ponky cast.

Already racking up over 300,000 views since its July 20 release on The Coconet, the show continues to be a powerhouse of story-telling, even nine years after its initial theatre debut. 

It’s a rarity to see a Pasifika transgender woman take centre stage for any story. And with gender being an unnecessary political football in debate forums the world over, is she surprised by Inky’s continued success? 

“I have to understand where my community is and I guess that explains why it’s doing so well,” Amanaki explains. 

“It’s a brown fakaleitī story and we’re talking about the toilet issues, and the term non-binary. All this new stuff was an issue in my day in school but it was never spoken about. 

“I just went about my day, got home before 4:30 pm before I get a hiding. Do the dishes, pass school, get a job, pay the bills. But being a trans brown fakaleitī woman nowadays, there’s so much complexity to surviving in a world like ours right now.”

Inky Pinky Ponky is a rarity in Pacific story-telling, centering a beautiful, brown fakaleitī at its core. 

And Lisa’s ‘main character energy’ is infectious. Her fourth wall breaks when she speaks directly to camera to allow us to feel her excitement, her isolation, her mother’s anguish and eventual love and acceptance. 

It’s why so many people find Lisa relatable. Most of us can identify with having a parent who doesn’t understand you, being the odd-one-out in the school playground, falling in puppy love for the first time.

Lisa isn’t an accessory to the storylines of straight characters around her, she’s her own fully realised, well-written character. She’s a human being. 

And while Amanaki understands the importance of telling these stories, she’s ready to move on to other narratives. 

“I do understand, I’m in a position to educate those who don’t know,” Amanaki says.

“But people are always after our traumas and our struggles…can I write something else?

“We have trans brown women who are CEOs, doctors, dentists…if it’s safe to say, I wanna write stories about success.”

Stream Inky Pinky Ponky on Whakaata Māori or on The Coconet TV.

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