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Profile: From coup to crown – Kabakoro proves more than a beauty queen

Fijian American teen Hosanna Kabakoro competes in Miss Teen USA pageant on July 24. (Photo supplied.)

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Josephine Latu.

After witnessing 30 machete-armed men raid her home during the Fiji coup in 2000, an eight-year old Hosanna Kabakoro relocated with her family from Naweni village in Cakaudrove to the northwestern state of Idaho, USA, almost 10,000km away.

“For a long time, it was horrible,” Kabakoro, now 18, says of her experience.

She adds that the man responsible for the takeover of their land is still living in her childhood home today and authorities have failed to resolve the issue: “We are left not being able to return to the home we worked so hard to build.”

But while the memory is painful, the budding journalist has since made a name for herself in her new domicile. After winning the Miss Teen Idaho contest last October, Kabakoro is revved up to represent her home state in the Miss Teen USA pageant next week.

The Fijian-American teen, who holds dual citizenship, currently leads the online voting poll out of 51 contestants.

“I know people sometimes think pageants are filled with transformer-like-Robo-Barbies, who smile and wave and give automated answers to questions. That has not been my experience at all,” Kabakoro told Pacific Scoop.

Breaking stereotypes

She added her hopes are to “represent the ever-changing face of the American teenager.”

Her track record is far from a stereotypical beauty queen. In addition to being a 4.0 homeschooler, she has been recognized as one of American’s top 50 high school volunteers, a Congressional Award Gold Medalist and winner of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, Jefferson Award and Girl Scout Gold Medal Award.

Kabakoro also founded ‘2 Way Street’, a programme to help refugee and at-risk immigrant youth adjust to life in the U.S through mentorship and community service.

“I volunteer because that is how I was raised… Community service is a way of life in our family,” she says.

Her parents, Ratu Lavisai Kabakoro and wife Summer, originally from Hawai’i, ran a free medical clinic and a learning centre while in Fiji.

“Other than the coups, every memory I have of Fiji is fond… Being Fijian, and having spent my childhood in a rural village has made me recognize that wealth does not automatically result in happiness, nor does not having a lot of material stuff mean people can’t be happy!” she adds.

Eyeing Fiji, media career

Hosanna Kabakoro recognized by former First Lady Laura Bush for her volunteer work at the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in Washington DC. (Photo supplied.)

Kabakoro says she entered the Miss Teen pageant as a springboard to a career as a broadcast journalist and political correspondent.

“I love politics because they affect every aspect of our lives. I also believe the media holds tremendous potential to inform and educate. It can be used responsibly or it can be used for propaganda,” she says, adding that either way, she admires the American free press in allowing people to form their own conclusion on policies.

Currently working at FOX-KLIX Radio news and CBS affiliate KMTV as an intern, Kabakoro says she would like to eventually work as a reporter for Fiji TV and The Fiji Times.

She has been invited to speak at the Fiji Children’s Day Awards and is planning to visit Fiji this November.

The Miss Teen USA pageant is operated by the Miss Universe Organization and will be held this year starting July 24 in the Bahamas. Kabakoro is sponsored by Pure Fiji and Fiji Water.

Josephine Latu is a postgraduate communication studies student from Tonga at AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre who is also contributing editor of Pacific Media Watch.

5 comments:

  1. Liu Muri, 15. July 2010, 10:57

    Good story, Josephine. After reading about Alisha Lewis, the recipient of TVNZ Diversity Scholarship and this one on Hosanna gives you that good feeling that we will leave journalism in good hands of the new generation of journalists who are well-exposed , widely travelled and who have chosen journalism as a career from a young age.
    In case of Hosanna, it appears it is a case of like mother – like daughter, because I recall reading many interesting and thought-provoking writings from Summer Kabakoro in Fiji newspapers. You need not guess hard to know from whom Hosanna inherited her love for journalism.
    All the best with her endeavours of getting a break in Fiji media, and hope the new breed of journalists can make a difference to the changing face of journalism and media in Fiji and the Pacific.
    At the same time, Josephine, I am sure you will make a pleasant and well-deserved addition to the new breed of qualified and well- exposed journalists when you return home to Tonga. Best wishes to you as well.

     
  2. Elizabeth Dean, 15. July 2010, 11:09

    I am so proud of who you are and what you represent. I am a female living in Hawaii. I know the Kabakoro family in Suva. We will all be supporting you from this lovely island of Hawaii. Moce mada. E Dean

     
  3. Salamasina, 16. July 2010, 14:13

    This young lady is an inspiration to the rest of us Pacific youth. Her achievements mean that we can reach these dreams too!!!

     
  4. Tupou Pasikala, 18. July 2010, 21:30

    Bravo encore, Josephine! Tu continues a m’epater avec ton style d’ecrit qui varie aussi selon le genre de reportage que tu fais.. c’est comme ‘un vent de l’air frais’!! bonne continuation, Josephine!

     
  5. Malani Wolfgramm, 2. August 2010, 9:34

    Great article Josie, inspirational story.