June Taringa was just 16. She had never before worn lipstick or high-heeled shoes, when she stepped onto the stage at the Victory theatre in 1960 to be crowned the first Miss Cook Islands.
“At the time it didn’t really mean anything to me,” she says.
She was encouraged by Titi Numanga and Naomi Iro to join and represent their village of Titikaveka, so she did.
Many girls signed up to be part of the event, but one of the biggest religions on the island intervened opposing the swimsuit category, and some pulled out, she recalls.
The revealing section didn’t bother her. “It was only a one-piece – togs, I was a tomboy and into athletics and wore rompers most of the time,” she laughs.
“All we had to do was parade in a gown and a swimsuit, and do a talent section, it was fine.
“We all grew up dancing and singing, this was part of all our lives, and I joined in the public speaking at school.”
As it was in those days, everyone in the community who could help out did, the women never hesitating to do what they could.
She had never worn a gown, and borrowed a garment for the pageant night from Utariki nee Miria Mateara.
“Oh it was beautiful, long flowy and puffy, when I put the belt on, I felt like a queen,” she giggles.
Her dresses after the pageant were sewn by Naomi Iro, the seamstress in the village. “She was a lovely dressmaker.”
Never owning a lipstick in her life or knowing much about beauty products, Maria Henderson came to the rescue.
“She even cleaned my nails and tidied them, and put on my lipstick, showing me what to do.”
“I prefer the natural look,” she says.
And still today, her glowing features barely have a trace of make-up, just the usual lipstick.
Having got her first pair of running shoes at age 15, wearing feminine ones were going to be a bit of an ordeal. Then came the shoes. “It was hard, I was used to going bare foot, but I managed, they were only medium heels.”
Her swimsuit was special too.
June didn’t know her mother, who was living in New Zealand at the time. She was raised by her grandparents.
She received news that the captain of the MV Maui Pomare, Andy Thompson, would bring her swimming togs from New Zealand to wear for the event, from her mother.
“I had never met her,” she says. She was very touched by her motherly gesture.
And the grand prize at that time? “A huge tea pot, seven pounds and a bouquet of flowers – the lily of the valley.”
“We had a lot of use from the teapot and the flowers were beautiful.”
Leaving town that night with her tiara, she sat on the front bonnet of a huge truck with the village following her singing, all the way home.
June Baudinet, as she’s now known, had some advice for the seven Miss Cook Islands contestants today is, “be yourself, don’t be too pretentious, be natural.”
Everything back then was so simple. “We lived off the land, we ate from the plantation and the sea, all healthy foods, everything was fresh and we didn’t have refrigeration.”
That year the district also won the annual Kumete sports, held annually every Queens birthday weekend.
June was a fit and fast runner.
“We had fast runners, us women – Ritia Toko Tuainiti, now Hosking, and Tereau Purea.”
Prior to the athletics competition, June was involved in an unfortunate accident en route to pick up her best friend Jane Marsters, who lived in Arorangi.
She still bears the scar above her left eyebrow.
“I stole my brother’s motorbike, to pick up my friend to stay the night with me before the Kumete games on the Monday.”
She crashed into a couple turning onto the road; her injuries were attended to by the late Dr Steven Kavana.
Determined, she competed on the sports day running in her favourite shorts, winning every race she entered– 75 metres, 100 metres, long jump and high jump.
In February the following year, June departed the island for the first time, on a Maui Pomare scholarship to Wairarapa College in New Zealand.
Sadly, that year, her beloved grandfather Papa Taringa, passed away.
She returned to Rarotonga in 1966 starting her career as a teacher at Tereora College, later opening her own “June’s Boutique” that was located in Browns Arcade.
Today, June manages her business Raina Trading, trades pearls, produces natural coconut and herbal oils and more.
She is the mother of Tanya Savage, Cleveland Savage and tennis player Brett Baudinet, and is a doting grandmother.
MISS COOK ISLANDS
1960 June Taringa (Baudinet)
1961 Tara Utanga (Scott)
1972 Joanna Taria Rere
1973 Ina Manuel Karika
1979 Ellena Tavioni (Pittman)
1980 Moari Luka-Fortes (Ngamata)
1981 Celine Tommy
1982 Carmena Blake (Wong)
1983 Margaret Brown (Numanga)
1984 Essie Apolonia Mokotupu
1985 Lorna Sawtell
1986 Michelle Leone Oberg
1988 Annie Wigmore
1989 Angela Manarangi
1990 Raema Chitty
1991 Jeannine Tuavera (Piri)
1993 Leilani Brown
1994 Tarita Brown
1995 Victoria (Vicky) Keil
1998 Tina Marie Vogel (Mitchell)
2000 Louisa Maire Browne
2002 Donna Tuara
2004 Noovai Tylor
2006 Krystina Te-Rangi Elizabeth Kauvai (Tatuava)
2009 Engara Melanie Amanda Gosselin
2012 Teuira Napa
2014 Felicia Rose George
2015 Natalia Short
2016 Lydia Simonis Tariu
2017 Alanna Smith
2018 Reihana Koteka-Wiki