Saturday, February 11, 2006

"They're more real than real women"

In Tonga they're known as fakaleiti, in French Polynesia they're referred to as rae rae and in Samoa they're called fa'afafine. In Western terms we'd say they're transgendered. Men who live and dress as women.

A whole swath of books, papers, etc., have been written about fa'afafine and their role in traditional and contemporary Samoan society. I suggest you look up Margaret Mead, Derek Freedman or Jeannette Mageo if you really want to learn a lot about them. I'll just focus on the fun stuff.

Late last year Hotel Kitano held the a fa'afafine beauty pageant. Ten contestants, four rounds and Blondie, the best fa'afafine performer in Samoa, holding court between rounds. It was a hoot. The title of the post comes from the evening's MC, who himself was once a fa'afafine (this is kind of weird apparently; not many people elect to stop living as fa'afafine).

There were swimsuits (lots of tape!) and there was "talent", the most notable of which would be the contestant who combined her love of classical music with her love of the "show queen" by dancing around the stage to Ravel waving a conductor's baton madly through the air.

The evening gown round was very special, with sequins in abundance, although there were one or two elegant gowns on display. The weirdest round was the interview round:

"What do you think about AIDS?"
(long pause)
"Just dooooooooooo it!!!!"

I've posted two photos from the evening. One is of a few of the contestants in the pageant's evening gown round. The second is a great shot I nabbed during one of Blondie's numbers ("It Must Be Him").

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