I aspire to be a better boxer (do a few more fights and hopefully, and basically ride out all the corporate cards I can get), a better dancer (I still want to perform in my island’s te Maeva Nui squad and create my own dance atlas exploring body language and gender roles in different indigenous cultures – or at least learn a little about it), a better advocate (fortunately I have a great network of role models regarding that goal), and a better person in general. I have specific reasons why I’ve tried to make these my “things” fueling me towards this vision of myself and the world I want to create, but that’s not the point of this post! It’s to celebrate women that inspire me to be better at these things.
Below is a mish-mash of women I think are impressive, well regarded, and are at the top of their craft or heading in that direction. They are in no particular order. However, most of them are based in the Australasia/Pacific region, otherwise, I’ve had some engagement with them. This is no discredit to other writers/authors/artists which I adore and are based further abroad (i.e. Roxanne Gay, Michelle Obama and more) but this list is a bit more specific to my world.
Not every woman here is a woman of colour. And I have no further comment on that point. All photos are taken from google and the internet in general, I take no credit for them.
Also, because the internet is the internet and we all love to be offended – I may have simply missed some women which I haven’t come to know or read enough about. The internet is a great tool of information but it doesn’t mean I’m endlessly trawling it, so if I haven’t included someone it doesn’t mean I’m intentionally excluding them.
Edit: I aim to continually update this post when time allows. There are some women not mentioned here, especially some of the friends I’ve made over the years. I want to keep celebrating female peers and leaders because
- It offers a counter-narrative to female intra-sexual competition and competition in general (because unless you’re competiting in an actual competition i.e. sports, education, or science, what is the constructive benefit and point for competing for the male and patriarchical gaze when it’s destructive to the equality and human dignitiy of women?)
- Female peers are often my sound-boards (like “peer-mentors” almost), will sometimes call me on my bs if they care about me enough and will help influence/shape me since they’re part of my vā/ close social-environment
- Sharing life and breaking bread with women that have shared values is a blessing and privilege that shouldn’t go unappreciated!
So, heres my list:
Moena Maiotui – Ori Tahiti expert
I managed to take a Ori class when she was here with my old Ura Tabu girls and my Ori cup was definitely full after that. She did some more warrior-inspired choreography in that set she taught and I am here for it e va’ine toa.
Genah Fabian – Muay Thai/MMA Fighter
She is just an all-round bad-ass and I admire women in combat-sports. It’s a lonely but character-defining and tough journey in my opinion.
All the female fighters at Mayhem Boxing – some of them have punched me in the head and given me tips/direction, which I’m grateful for. No photos because I’d die of embarrassment if they found this post lol.
Rachel Reed QC – Lawyer
In my first legal role I had the privilege of meeting Ms Reed. I’ve said something really embarrasing in front of her which makes me cringe regularly to this day; and sometimes I can’t sleep because of it. It serves as a lifelong reminder to read the room and try to know influential people before you meet them. It’ll have that timeless effect for as long as I’m an advocate -_-
Julie-Anne Kincaid QC – Lawyer. Again, privileged to know her. She is a fantastic advocate in my opinion.
Lisa Taouma – Writer & Producer
She’s produced Marks of Mana, was the founder of Coconet and many other amazing projects. Plus she’s also from Faleasi’u (village represent). ‘Nuff said lol
Parris Goebel – Dancer, Choreographer, Business owner
Several reasons. And also, how could I (and others) not admire her?!? She has given the world enough reasons.
Tyla Va’aefou – Tattooist & artist
I’ve happily been inked by her and am looking at more ink for my annual birthday ink session. I may have also drunk snapped her through a friend which is slightly embarrasing now that I think of it.
Tapu Misa – Journalist & writer
I have never met her personally but I have a memory of someone in high-school telling me that she called the highschool asking why her daughter hadn’t been crowned head-girl, and then I saw her for the first time in our school hall in the front row for an awards presentation at an assembly where I was doing my head-girl weekly announcements. I don’t know if the phone call was true, but maybe one day I’ll get to ask her. I was slightly horrified when I found out because, my parents come from a humble background when I found out she was elan educated woman. In any case, I admire her and what she has done for Pacific journalism. To put her kaupapa into perspective, here is what she said in a recent article:
“You don’t have to be a particularly sensitive person to be profoundly affected by this [how Pacific people are framed in mainstream media]. How we, as a society, tell stories about ourselves and each other, makes a difference. Our stories create the lens through which we see ourselves and our neighbours and the world around us. Storytelling has the power to shape who and what we are.
I know first-hand the impact that an unrelenting onslaught of bad news and negative stereotypes can have. For me, an immigrant who arrived here at the age of eight, it’s meant a sometimes crippling lack of confidence, and a sense of never quite belonging.
I want better for the next generation of Māori and Pasifika women.”
Faumui Penelope Ginnen & Judge Ida Malosi – District Court Judges and part of the pioneer Pacific Maori female lawfirm King Alofivae Malosi.
I didn’t make it to the swearing in ceremony for Judge Ginnen because I was working that day but it was a pensive moment when she sang Ua fa’afetai in the Northern Club given the history of that place.
Ladi6 – Musician. I respect her for all the free concerts she did during the Ihumatao campaigns.
Aarahdna – Musician. She sings and speaks with conviction, which I love.
Maisey Rika – Musician, as above with Aaradhna, her soul pours through her voice. It’s beautiful to hear and witness.
The women of Ura Tabu – Polynesian dance. The collective learning and culture in this crew has always been a joy to watch and experience.
Leonie Pihama – Scholar & activitst
My friend admires her way more than I and has a lot more to do with her. I’ve only had the privilege of hearing her speak at the Mana Wahine event run by the Women’s Centre in Tamaki Makaurau. She speaks with conviction. I have yet to go through her works.
Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong – Media personality, Pacific Media Network broadcaster
I will forever stan her comment on the Pacific vote. She has been around forever and has done a lot of work in Pacific Media. I just admire her MC ability.
Chlöe Swarbrick – Member of Parliament
Jacinta Ruru – Academic
Soana Moala – Judge
Helena Kaho – All-round amazing woman
Loana Tanielu – Doctor, mother and my ex-Sunday School teacher. I fangirl her mum, Dr. Lonise Tanielu. That family is just full of brown excellence.
Moana Maniapoto – Singer & activist
Emaline Afeaki Mafile’o – Social entrepeneur
Pania Newton – Advocate and activist. Her conviction and fearlessness is unmatched, and she is a definition of va’ine toa if I ever met one.
Angela Tiatia – Artist
Luti Richards – Poet
Tessa Temata – HC to the Cook Islands
Jahra Wasasala – Dancer
Olive Asi & the other women of the South Auckland Poets Collective – Spoken word artists
Honor Ford – Lawyer. She is eloquent, caring and fierce. And I’m grateful to be able to call her a friend.
Vea Mafile’o – film maker
Belinda Sellars QC – Lawyer. She helped pioneer the Public Defence Service.
Indira Stewart – Journalist
Teresia Teaiwa – Scholar, Poet & Activist
Selina Tusitala Marsh – Writer
Sia Figiel – Writer