A major date on the calendar this year is December 19 in Lille, France. Vaimiti Teiefetu will wear the famous Miss Tahiti banner during the election of Miss France. After Hinarani de Longeaux (Miss Tahiti 2012), Mehiata Riaria (Miss Tahiti 2013), Hinarere Taputu (Miss Tahiti 2014) all received the title of first runner-up to Miss France, Vaimiti could very well win. French Polynesia’s great hope for the past 16 years has been to witness Miss Tahiti become Miss France in order to follow in the footsteps of Mareva Galanter, who was Miss Tahiti and Miss France in 1999.
Despite the pressure, this beautiful 19-year-old intends to keep grounded: “I will not be leaving here as a winner or a loser. We’ll just see how things pan out. I have been observing the candidates elected from the other regions. They are all very beautiful. Each time a new one is elected, it does cause a little insecurity, but I am not going to look at myself as a winner or a loser ahead of time. For the moment, I am serene and I plan on staying that way.”
Vaimiti is advancing cautiously, although she began her reign like the beat of a drum. Between different appearances, thanking sponsors and posing for photo shoots for her modeling career, Vaimiti has a full calendar. “Since June, it has been very intense. Often too intense. My appearance is very much in demand. I never expected so many requests. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but not this much and I feel a little overwhelmed. It is true that sometimes I don’t have the energy to keep going, but at the end of the day I am so appreciative. I have no regrets. I am so happy that people want to receive me!” She says, all smiles.
A favorite of the French Polynesian public long before her election in Papeete on June 19, Miss Tahiti 2015 continues to rise in popularity since her crown. Why does she think this is? Tahiti has wanted the tricolored banner since 1999. Enthusiasm has increased since Hinarani, Mehiata and Hinarere received First Runner-Up. The public places a lot of hope in me because we have come so close to winning the crown. This motivates me. I have to go all the way for them,” she explains.
This passion comes straight from her heart and is obvious through her posts for more than 21,000 fans on social media. This drives her forward and makes her realize how much the French Polynesian people are counting on her. To manage this pressure, this young women doesn’t have a miracle cure: “I will do my best to go as far as possible. My biggest fear is to disappoint the French Polynesian people. The pressure will certainly increase a few weeks before I leave for France,” she admits.
Vaimiti believes in taking one day at a time. For one thing, the Miss Tahiti contest and modeling career were not part of a planned career tract. “Four years ago, my mother was told about a modeling audition with the Marilyn Agency. I was a contender but wasn’t selected. I was able to meet Alberto V (an Italian Stylist who moved to Tahiti) and we became friends. What came next was an incredible experience. Alberto called me often for shoots and runway work. He taught me so much, which helped me tremendously as I prepared for the Miss Tahiti contest. Fellow contestants started from scratch, whereas I had some experience under my belt. Consequently, I was not concerned about being in front of cameras and the public.”
Heading to the Miss France pageant
With the election four months away and after a few weeks going full throttle, it would seem that the pressure would lighten up a bit; but for Miss Tahiti, the Miss France election is never far off. At the end of August, Vaimiti went to France to help her sister Tiairani, champion of France in Taekwondo, move to start her studies in sports. Miss Tahiti adds, “On the way back, I stopped in Los Angeles for ten days to shop for evening dresses and classy clothes for the Miss France pageant. I needed to adapt my style to be similar to how it is in France. I needed warmer clothes, too. These are much easier to find in LA than in Tahiti.”
The preparations are starting slowly but surely before the huge departure for France in November. Although other regional queens are being crowned week by week, Vaimiti was the first one for the 2016 season. Was this an advantage or not? “You have more time to physically prepare yourself for sure. But this can also be a disadvantage as far as a constant stream of newly elected candidates, since the French people are already aware of me, they can forget easily. I just have to find balance and keep a little bit of mystery for the evening of the election,” says this young surfer. “I am going to keep staying fit. I will train at the gym and keep surfing. I’ll just keep on as I did before. I have always been into sports and fitness.” The Miss France organization will use French Polynesian beaches as a backdrop for the portraits of all the beauty queens. Vaimiti will feel right at home in this dream setting. “As soon as I knew the shoot was going to take place here, I was a little disappointed. I wanted the opportunity to see other places. However, it is an advantage because it could rally my Polynesian fans even more and increase their support. Plus, I know the area. This is my home. I’ll feel very at ease. In the end, it can only be an asset.” One asset among many others…
Since she wasn’t too worried, Vaimiti hadn’t really thought about her function as Miss Tahiti before the election. “I never really thought about it. I was 18. Of course it attracted me, but I had never given the role of Miss Tahiti much thought. Now that I am here, I know that one of my most important roles is to represent our values—all that makes us Polynesian: our Fenua (homeland), our culture, our hospitable warmth, everything that we don’t find elsewhere. I also realize I am someone people can relate to. I receive many messages from young girls.” Vaimiti has a quiet strength. The reason ? It starts with her parents. “Today, they are separated, so I was forced to be on my own and independent. They keep up with my career and support me. Even without the modeling, the Miss Tahiti title and now the upcoming Miss France pageant, nothing has changed in their opinion of me. They always have confidence in me,” declares Vaimiti, who is of Marquesan and Chinese heritage. She is the eldest of three children and has a sister and brother, who still live in the family home in Mahinarama, in the district of Mahina. Vaimiti is focused on the Miss France pageant. After graduating from high school with honors in 2014, she started her first year of preparatory studies in Business at the Lycée Gauguin de Papeete. “I had a meeting with the director a while ago. He was very understanding [about all my responsibilities]. I’ve done what I can to keep up with my studies since the beginning of fall classes, but if I need to take three years to complete the program instead of two, then I will.” Her goal is to work in sustainable development, which has a solid future in French Polynesia
Just a few months away from the election, Vaimiti can still count on her Miss Tahiti colleagues: “I am close to Mehiata Riaria because we have friends in common. We got to know each other in preparation for the Miss Tahiti pageant. Even before the election, she gave advice and encouraged me to take part in the contest. I know that Hinarere would be a huge help in regards to preparing for Miss France. She left to win. Therefore, I think she will be able to help me with wardrobe, purchases and things to avoid,” Vaimiti asserts.