“E iloa le teine Samoa moni i lana tu, o lana savali atoa ma lana tautala.”
You can tell in the dignified way she holds herself upright, the way she walks with grace and the eloquence of her speech that Papali’i Alexandra Iakopo is the manifestation of what a beautiful Samoan girl represents.
Returning from the Miss Pacific Islands pageant as a first runner up to the highly coveted crown, Papali’i is still upbeat and optimistic about the results of the competition.
Miss Samoa spoke to the Samoa Observer about how she felt in that exact moment when the winner of the Miss Pacific Islands title was announced.
“Thinking back on the competition, to be honest I was a bit confused but when they put the crown on the new miss Pacific Island, I felt overwhelmed and I also felt blessed,” she said.
“There’s nothing I can do about it, you can only sit back and glorify the Lord for coming this far. You give it your best. Whatever the outcome was going to be, I was always going to be bringing back a lot more in the way of knowledge and more blessings for our country.”
While beauty pageants show the appearance of glamour and style, in reality, the dazzling smiles of our Pacific beauty queens distract their admirers from seeing the crushing challenges within.
“There are a lot of internal challenges that come with a lot of scrutiny. You have all eyes on you and you can’t mess up while you’re in the game. I guess it’s been a lot of stress and pressure because we’re all thinking about how this is a competition.
“A lot of people expect a lot from us but at the end of the day there’s only one crown that we can vie for. So win or lose, we put forward all our efforts and that’s the best we can do.”
Displaying the maturity of one befitting of such a title as Miss Samoa, Papali’i understands the fine balance between her role as Miss Samoa and living her own truth showing that under pressure, she can still hold her own.
“I think as much as people are expecting a lot from me to ‘keu le mamalu’ of being a Miss Samoa, I understand what is expected.
“However at the end of the day, I am human – I can only be myself and that’s the main thing that I can bring to the table because it differentiates me from the previous Miss Samoas’.
“I can only be myself; I cannot pretend to be someone else. Before I came into the Miss Samoa, I told myself that I was going to give it my all – and like it or not that’s all I can offer. I don’t have any money to make you feel satisfied or like me.”
Addressing her circumstances on the recent passing away of her beloved father, Ms. Iakopo shares how she managed to keep it together during one of the saddest times of her life.
“I think it has helped me being a Miss Samoa to keep my mind occupied. In my preparations for Miss Pacific Islands, I had to literally forget that he had passed away. I also thought to myself, well if I grieve by myself and just be selfish ( thinking oh well the country better give me my space) but I can’t be selfish.
“I know my Dad will give me an earful if I was to think like that. But it’s everything to glorify our God. I’m just thankful and grateful that I have such wonderful parents who raised me to be the strong woman that I am today.
“I can only be an entertainer; I only have my personality to give to the country. I was asked ‘Miss Samoa, are you rich?’ I said ‘girl, my sponsors are rich, I have nothing in my pocket’,” she laughs.
With the Miss Pacific Island pageant behind her, Ms. Iakopo is thrilled about beginning her journey as Miss Samoa. She is ready to take on her role as ambassador and is most looking forward to utilizing all of her talents to contribute to community projects.
“I’m very excited to be back in Samoa knowing that I had the whole country and the whole world supporting me while I was in the Miss Pacific Island pageant.
“I look forward to putting something new on the table and looking forward to how I can contribute to community projects. I’d like to work as much as possible to include youth and primary school children.
“Just anyone in the community who would like to come on board and help me and be a part of my journey
“I’d very much like to be around our elders, I just enjoy how they can make you feel warm and with my father passing away, I feel like it’s my contribution to them as well so as much as possible I would like to contribute to our elders but also focus on our youth who are the future of our country.”
As the reigning Miss Samoa, Ms. Iakopo clearly has the beauty gene in her D.N.A. and perhaps time will tell whether she also has ink flowing in those veins too as she spoke about the prospect of volunteering at the Samoa Observer.
“I think I would mainly like to get involved with ‘Street talk’ because I would like to engage with our community in hearing their opinion. I’d like to ask ‘why’, how, where’ and then ask ‘what can we do’?”
From the time our nation was first introduced to Ms. Iakopo to the moment she returned from the Miss Pacific Island pageant, our reigning Miss Samoa not only returned to the respect of her people for a competition well fought, but she reaffirmed the age old Samoan wisdom that true beauty is a power that comes from within.