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The Kiwi ‘Sa-Maori’ entering Samoa’s fa’afafine pageant to advocate for sexual and mental health

Grace Fiavaai

Samora Kake, a bicultural beauty ‘kween’ from West Auckland, is competing in this year’s Miss Samoa Fa’afafine Pageant in Samoa

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Drag queen make-up and long eyelashes that could calm a sandstorm are the norm for a transgender beauty pageant.

Samora Kake, a bicultural beauty ‘kween’ from West Auckland, is competing in this year’s Miss Samoa Fa’afafine Pageant in Samoa.

Samora Kake, pictured during a model shoot Photo / Edith Amituana'i

Miss Fa’afafine is unique as it honours the island nation’s third gender tradition.

Kake, who was raised in West Auckland, is also unique. Her mother Lonise is Samoan, and from the villages of Falevao, Vaovai Fagaloa, Sasina and Fogatuli. Her father Dennis is of Nga Puhi and Ngati Hau descent.

This makes her the only bicultural contestant in the pageant.

“It’s a perfect time for me to enter because I feel ready for new challenges in this season of my life. I feel like I have conquered a lot already here in Aotearoa,” Kake says.

“To be given the opportunity to go to Samoa, the homeland of my mum and grandparents, I feel that this journey is in honour of their rich motherland and a way of celebrating ‘Sa-Maori’ fa’afafine who live across the diaspora.”

Kake works as a health promoter and community educator at Auckland Sexual Health, where she delivers workshops and programmes for tamaiti talavou (youth).

Kake finished Kelston Boys High School before going on to university, and has a Master’s degree in mental and sexual health advocacy.

Although the pageant’s official dates will not be announced until August, it has been regularly held at the Tuanaimato Gymnasium.

The SFA (Samoa Fa’afafine Association) oversees the pageant. Contestants participate in pre-pageant events such as church services and blessings, speech contests, health organisation panels, and TikTok challenges.

“Since the start of high school, I have been comfortable identifying as fa’afafine,” Kake says.

“My family was always aware of my feminine nature and has supported me ever since. When I left school and began university, I began identifying with the term ‘trans’.

“Like some, I don’t believe I had a true coming out story, but once I left school, I made the decision to live in my true self without needing anyone’s approval.”

Going to an all-boys school had its challenges.

“However, it was safer for me to be exposed to many other fa’afafine already attending, (it) therefore made my school years a lot better.

“These challenges are the reasons why I want to advocate for my fa’afafine community not only here in New Zealand but also abroad. This pageant is a perfect platform for me to showcase that.”

There hasn’t been a pageant for two years, due to Covid.

Friends have told her: “Samora this is the perfect time, you have something to say on behalf of all us New Zealand-born (Samoans)”.

Kake is sponsored by Burnett Foundation Aotearoa - formerly the NZ AIDS Foundation and Ending HIV NZ.

Blaise Clotworthy, marketing and engagement specialist, says the foundation is “thrilled to support Samora in her journey to the Miss Samoa Fa’afafine Pageant.

“We are humbled to watch our communities thrive in the pursuits that they strive for.” (edited)

Hero image: Samora Kake with parents Dennis and Lonise Kake at her graduation. Photo / Samora Kake

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