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First night of judging for Miss Cook Islands

Monday September 10, 2018 Written by Published in Local
The seven Miss Cook Islands contestants on stage Saturday night in their Rakei Wearable Arts creations made from traditional rauti leaves. 18090919 The seven Miss Cook Islands contestants on stage Saturday night in their Rakei Wearable Arts creations made from traditional rauti leaves. 18090919

The search for Miss Cook Islands 2018 got down to business on Saturday night with the first evening of competition at the National Auditorium.

During this week the seven contestants will have their one-on-one interviews with the panel of judges, then the final night of competition and crowning will take place this coming Saturday.

The four categories that were judged this past Saturday night were: Swimwear; Pareu; Talent; and Rakei Wearable Art.

Whilst everyone in the audience will no doubt have left in awe of what they saw and with their own opinions on who should win, the hard task of judging is being undertaken by five very competent and experienced Cook Islanders.

They are Mona Mato, Halatoa Fua, Michelle Oberg, Jackie Tuara and the current Miss Cook Islands, Alanna Smith.

Mere Darling opened the evening by singing the Miss Cook Islands theme song, Purotu Manava.

She was not to be the only soloist on the night however. In the talent section, both Allandra Donnelly and Abbeylee Dashwood sang – and boy can they sing.

Allandra chose the Jennifer Rush-composed song, made incredibly famous by Celine Dion, ‘The Power of Love’ and hit those high notes with ease.

Abbeylee dedicated her version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah’ to the brother she lost last year. “This performance is for the bro,” said Abbeylee – and she did him proud.

There are seven intelligent, stunning, creative, proud women vying for the three titles that will be awarded next week – Miss Grand International Cook Islands, Miss International Cook Islands, and Miss Cook Islands.

When the contestants came out in their identical heels and three-piece swimwear (classic yellow bikinis (not itsy-bitsy or polka-dotted), and the cutest mini pareu), it was jolly hard to take your eyes off their sparkling necks and wrists – truly mesmerising!

Moana Gems provided the accessories for this category and designed the most glittering pieces, the likes of which are more often seen on Oscar night.

Unique, one-of-a-kind (or in this case seven of a kind!) pieces of art, comprised of black pearls and shimmering crystals appropriately named ‘Ray of the Sun’.

The second category on Saturday night was Pareu. Each contestant was given a three-metre length of pareu designed by Annie Wigmore-Ama, and there was a variety of colours, each one equally striking.

This category provided the “try this at home” option, although I myself might need a bit more than three metres!

Not one of the seven creations had I ever seen worn before. All of them were creative yet classic, and looked fabulous. The ladies all wore their pareu with pride and comfort.

The third category of the night provided contestants with a chance to show off their own special talents.

Each contestant was given a maximum of two minutes to project their chosen talent, and each of them were judged on skill, creativity and choreography.

I’ve already mentioned the two soloists, but the talent did not end there!

Teau McKenzie brought to the stage her passion for sailing, hoisting sails and tying nautical knots, all while controlling her vaka.

Seven-time Te Maeva Nui participant Greta Remuera brought to the stage her zeal for traditional dancing. Wearing a striking black, red and yellow costume, Greta demonstrated her passion and skill and showed us that practice does make perfect.

Mackenzi Wichman re-enacted the “call back home” she got from her late grandmother, June Wichman earlier this year. Her “journey home” combined elements of dance and song, embracing the culture her nana wanted for her. “Nana, I am Kuki Airani.”

Reihana Koteka-Wiki covered the region of her birth and her homeland in her dance composition. Think Arab dance, think belly dance, think Bollywood and you might come close to the first part of Reihana’s dazzling sequence. A clever on-stage costume change brought the island girl home in tamure style.

Three and a half minutes is not a long period of time to demonstrate your talent, culture, creativity and choreography. Timing and control are everything and Louisa Purea nailed all these elements in her self-composed item.

Rakei Wearable Art was the final category in Saturday night’s competition. Each contestant had to wear a garment made entirely out of rau ti.

Each of the individuals wore creations that were extremely personal and all the designs were inspiring. Each costume told a story reflective of the individual wearing it.

Hours and hours of work went into the design, preparation and construction of these incredible pieces of art and everyone involved in each of the pieces should be full of pride.

Seven fine Cook Islanders have been brave enough to enter this year’s Miss Cook Islands.

On Saturday night they each demonstrated their love of our country and their pride in our culture, all with poise and confidence.

Behind each of these individuals are teams, if not villages, of helpers and they should be acknowledged for the hours of work they contribute.

The stage has been set for a tough final night of competition and crowning next Saturday.

As I said, I do not envy the judges their task one little bit.

            - Jaewynn McKay