What on earth is it? Miss World Fiji (photo:Miss World)

Is it a chicken? Is it an owl? Whatever it is, it’s Fiji’s Miss World entrant, Koini Vakaloloma, making a right royal turkey of herself and of her country at the global competition in Mongolia. Now Koini is a lovely girl and none of this criticism is directed at her. But who on earth took it upon themselves to decide that she parade as some unidentified exotic bird in the dance segment of the competition? It was a breathtaking lapse even by the vapid standards already set by the Miss World Fiji franchise holder and local boy Andhy Blake. We see that Blake is claiming credit for choreographing Koini’s dance routine. So presumably he signed off on the costume. In one collective wail of embarrassment, the whole country is asking WHY?

Koini Vakaloloma without feathers (photo:Imagine South Pacific)

Why come up with the idea in the first place? What on earth does this have to do with Fiji? If you really had to dress the poor girl up as a bird, wasn’t there one more appropriate to Fiji? What about the famous Red Shining Parrot? Or even a pesky Mynah? At least there would have been some element of authenticity to the whole exercise. As it was, poor Koini looked spectacular for all the wrong reasons. It was so high camp she looked like one of the dancers at the Folies Bergere in Paris. Or some transsexual dive in New York.

Playing Miss Peru (Photo:Miss World)

No, it was even worse. Koini was meant to be representing Fiji.  But she wound up in this sequence looking as if she represented Peru. All those feathers and dangling bits made her look like some exotic Inca. Don’t believe us? Then why has the major Peruvian Miss World website put a picture of Koini on its home page? They’re claiming her as one of their own. Because – “Ah Mi Dios” (“Oh My God” in Spanish) – Miss Fiji has out Peru’d Peru!

The social media is abuzz today with comment, none of it flattering. Some people are asking if Crest Chicken – the scourge of Fiji’s hens and roosters – was one of Koini’s sponsors? And fair enough because it sure looks that way. Some sections of local media – Fiji Village among them – say that she’s meant to be an owl. An owl?  Aren’t owls meant to be sensible as in “wise old owl”? God help us, there’s nothing remotely wise or sensible about this.

"Oh dear, Andhy" Blake (photo:TV3)

Andhy (why the “h”?) has already brought enough ignominy on Fiji with the debacle over the choice of the first Miss World, Torika Watters. Poor Torika had her name dragged through the mud for “not looking Fijian enough”, a mixed-race girl who the critics said was too European looking and didn’t have a “buiniga” – the frizzy hair of an i’Taukei. It sparked an international furor that badly damaged Fiji’s reputation before it emerged that Torika wasn’t qualified to go to Mongolia in the first place because she was too young.

Enter Koini Vakaloloma, a beautiful mixed-race i’Taukei/Indo-Fijian, who rescued Andhy and the competition with her grace and style. Yet what do they do to her? Not dress her in anything remotely associated with Fiji – no masi or even a sari – but present her to the world as some kind of unspecified bird. Well we’re sorry but from where we sit, she may as well have been a trussed up turkey. Gosh, even the girls around her were smirking as she pranced around out front. They call them smiles at Miss World but we all know how false they are. And this time, everyone watching at home was smirking as well.

Authentically Fijian: A Red Shining Parrot

Koini, it’s OK. We still love you and you’ve been a wonderful ambassador for Fiji. When you get back, we’re all going to try to forget our embarrassment and give you all the praise you deserve. But that Andhy Blake! He really needs a good talking to because what on earth was he thinking? The Fiji Government was mortified by the international outcry that accompanied the Torika Watters debacle and rightly so. It damaged all of the work it’s tried to do to present an image of a new Fiji in which race has no place.

The Permanent Secretary for Tourism, Elizabeth Powell, had some pungent things to say about our Andhy and the local Miss World. This time, the Government may not want to act as the fashion police but certainly the rest of us should be kicking up a stink. Surely if people take the name “Fiji” onto the international stage in a competition supposedly watched by a billion people, there ought to be an official safety net? Why should Andhy have a licence to embarrass?

This whole thing just made us cringe all over again – Fiji’s reputation again hijacked and sullied by some really dumb people with a dumb idea. Yes, it’s only a beauty pageant but why should we all be made to suffer? No, don’t take Andhy up to the camp for a little talk. Just prop him up at the bar at Birdland – -the infamous Suva nightclub -and make him stay there where he belongs. If only there was a taxidermist in Suva who could stuff him and put him in a cage in the corner.

LUNCHTIME UPDATE: Andy Blake is telling Fiji Village that Koini was definitely playing an owl as a symbol of wisdom and that he can’t see what people are complaining about. What a hoot! 🙂