As Porirua-based model Tuvaine Samuel prepares for the London Pacific Fashion Show 2022, it is her Cook Islands Māori culture and heritage which keeps her firmly grounded, and aware of who she is.
The proud Cook Island Māori 16-year-old stems from the islands of Mauke Akatokamanava, Rakahanga, Rarotonga and Mitiaro Nukuroa, although Porirua is where she calls home.
Along with her two sisters and four brothers, Tuvaine has been fully entrenched in the vibrant Kūki 'Āirani community in Porirua since she was little.
“I would perform Cook Islands cultural dance and song for Akatokamanava Organisation of Wellington Inc (AOWI), and more recently with Rakahanga Manihiki Association (RMA) along with my cousins,” Tuvaine says.
“For the past two years, I danced as part of AOWI group which opened Wellington Pasifika Festival, as well as many other cultural events and celebrations over the years.”
Playing a variety of sports has proved an avenue to connect with her community also, and Tuvaine has represented Kapi Mana Netball Club at representative level.
The Aotea College student says culture will always play a very important part in her life.
“Being a part of the wider Cook Islands Community in Porirua has taught me more about who I am, where I come from, why I like and enjoy the things I do and what being Pacific, Kūki 'Āirani means to me.
“Both my parents are Cook Islands Māori, and both come from very big families, so I am constantly surrounded by family, both in New Zealand and in the Cook Islands.
Her upbringing has always been centred around family values, including respect, service, humility and love and Tuvaine adds she has a lot more to learn about her culture.
“So, my journey continues.”
Modelling for London Pacific Fashion Show – or modelling of any kind – is not something Tuvaine has ever dreamt of doing.
However, thanks to her mother Liz Pepe, who answered a call for models from talented Kuki Airani Fashion Designer Toka Toka on an online group chat, Tuvaine has discovered modelling is something she wants to pursue.
Not only did Liz put Tuvaine’s name forward, but she also nominated three of Tuvaine’s closest cousins.
“We just turned up, did what we were told, learnt what we needed to know to prepare us for a fashion show held in our very own hometown, Porirua.
“The Rakei Toa Fashion Show was held at Pataka Art and Museum, proudly presented by Toka Toka and Ina Ropu-Tengaru (another very talented Kuki Airani Fashion Designer), put on for the Porirua Community.
“I did not know this at the time, but this great opportunity opened doors to fantastic opportunities for myself and other Rakei Toa models.”
Following the Rakei Toa Fashion Show, the Rakei Toa models, including Tuvaine, were invited to be a part of the London Pacific Fashion Show and other photo shoots organised by Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director of London Pacific Fashion Week Ana Lavekau.
Tuvaine is the youngest female model at Rakei Toa and she says she has met many great people, gained a lot of confidence and received so much support from her friends and family.
While simultaneously completing her college education, Tuvaine will continue doing photo shoots for London Pacific Fashion Show and model at next year’s fashion week.
Although the opportunity to model came out of leftfield, Tuvaine says it was something she could not pass up.
“I like to take advantage of all the opportunities that come my way, whether you know something or nothing at all about it.
“You need to go find out if this is you, and for you.
“How do you know if you don’t give it a go?”
Working alongside other Pacific models, wearing Pacific designed outfits made by Pacific designers, walking and dancing down the runway to Pacific music with her Pacific heritage and family supporting and guiding her is incredibly amazing, Tuvaine adds.
“Wherever this journey takes me, I will forever be grateful to all those who worked with me, worked for me and believed in me.”
Follow all the action on the London Pacific Fashion Week Facebook page.