Last weekend’s hugely successful Miss Cook Islands Association competition show, where confident contestants stepped out on stage in cleverly-tied pareu, mind-blowing and aromatic wearable art garments of flowers and skilfully sewn mu’umu’u dresses, left no room for doubt that behind the scenes of each girl was a team of creative Cook Islanders oozing talent.
Unsung heroes Miss Cook Islands Association president Dianna Clarke says they have contributed to the successful Miss Cook Islands campaign.
“We are thrilled by the strong support given to all our girls and just going by last weekend’s event with the high standard already set, we are looking forward to a spectacular event this Saturday,” says Clarke.
“The high calibre and dedication by our girls and their support team reinforces just how talented our iti tangata are.”
Support teams behind the contestants range from a core group of five dedicated people to a team of 20 or more made up of family and friends.
Family and friends make up the team behind Aloma Moore. She is chaperoned by costume designer Ana Tetevano, who along with her equally talented husband Geoff, has been the creative genius behind Moore’s standout costumes.
For mum Liz Sosene, being the chaperone for daughter Ahlissa Sosene has come with its challenges. It has opened her eyes to the amazing talent behind each contestant.
She has newfound appreciation for pageants and the amount of dedication it takes to prepare a contestant.
Sosene says she has learned much about the dedication behind the Miss Cook Islands show as well as her own daughter’s strengths and talents.
Team Allanah Herman-Edgar is led by chaperone Maeva Henry with the support of Papatua Papatua and the “Mangaia crowd,” with her mother, aunty Keri Herman-Edgar an ever-present figure of support.
Team Allanah also includes the costume designing talents of Kura Taruia and Mena Henderson who is in charge of the designer details and the creative skills of Larry Tumai who will be making Allanah Herman-Edgar’s traditional costume.
It’s safe to say that beautiful Grace Loki, of Fiji and Aitutaki heritage, has the entire Cook Islands Fiji community behind her as well as unwavering support from her mother and extended family.
It’s an international Cook Islands affair for Australia-based contestant Josephine Enjoy, who is chaperoned by Tongia Mato, a former Miss Cook Islands contestant herself and former winner of the Miss Cook Islands Sydney pageant, as well as a contestant in the first Miss South Pacific, staged in the Cook Islands some years ago.
Bringing her experience from the stage to support Josephine Enjoy, Mato says her passion and love is empowering Cook Islands women.
She says the biggest challenge of coming from “outside” was finding the right taunga or key experts to help support Josephine Enjoy.
Team Josephine includes her mother Beverly Akaiti, who along with Tautape Samson are the costume designers while Nini Browne has given her make up and styling expertise.
Tupe Tamatoa, Kendall Brown and James Strickland were the creative minds behind Josephine Enjoy’s fairy-book tiare Maori wearable costume that floored spectators last Saturday with its artistic creativity.
Supporting a contestant willing to follow instructions makes for a smoother campaign and this is the case with contestant Mariana Ngaputa, chaperoned by Francis Willis.
Fashion designer Kathy Healey is part of Team Mariana and says the experience is made easier as Mariana Ngaputa is approaching the campaign with an open mind and is always willing to take on any advice given.
Experience is what Natalia Short has in her team, with cultural expert and experienced Miss Cook Islands campaigner Jane Rubena as her chaperone.
Rubena is no stranger to the countless hours spent behind the scenes preparing a contestant and while she acknowledges it’s no easy task, she says she is personally enjoying the current Miss Cook Islands due the variety of categories in which the girls are competing. She says it stimulates the minds of the creative team in the background.
Team Natalia is made up of around 10 people, with everyone, including the cook, playing an integral part in her preparations.
Reni Roi, chaperoned by Eleanor Goodwin, has a team with strong cultural knowledge behind her and includes Nane Mateariki and cultural taunga Inangaro ‘Love’ Tupuna.
Goodwin says this years more contemporary Miss Cook Islands is a nice positive change.
Talented dancer Tanya Savage is at the helm of contestant Shontay Iro’s campaign, while it is a family affair for contestant Tumanava Wilmot, with aunty Helen Tatuava as chaperone and the entire Karika clan right behind her.
Stepping out in a stunning Tiare Maori rakei tiare last Saturday highlighted the strong family support that is Team Tumanava.