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MASI celebrates 30th anniversary at VIP Dinner introducing contestants

MASI President Simeafou Imo and reigning Miss American Samoa Judy F. Taunu’u

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Four of the five lovely contestants who will be vying for the Miss American Samoa crown this year, were officially introduced on Saturday night in a VIP Dinner Event held at the Paradise Pizza Restaurant in Nu'uuli, where the 30th anniversary of the Miss American Samoa Pageant was also celebrated.

The evening's program started with an opening prayer by Rev. Filomena Hunt-Leituala followed by welcoming remarks by the president of the Miss American Samoa Incorporated (MASI), Simeafou Imo who greeted the parents, family and supporters of the four contestants, and representatives of the various businesses and institutions who were sponsoring the contestants and this year's pageant.

Speaking to a packed house, President Imo revealed that due to unforeseen circumstances, the fifth contestant Penicia Hunkin-Pene could not attend that evening's event as she was still off-island, but she is scheduled to arrive early this week before the pageant on Friday.

The MASI president also spoke on the importance of this year's pageant as it will be the 30th Annual  Miss American Samoa Pageant to be staged.

MASI was established in 1987 by Juliet Spencer-Sword when she won the inaugural Miss South Pacific Pageant (which is now known as Miss Pacific Islands) in Samoa.

Later that year, she founded MASI, an organization dedicated to preparing, empowering and coaching young women from American Samoa for pageantry and regional contests, raising awareness about Samoan culture and traditions, promoting unity and respect among different cultures.

However, Imo stated that there were some years that the pageant was not held due to some unforeseen circumstances, like the three-year period where a pageant could not be held due to Covid-19 restrictions.

There were also some years where the crowned Miss American Samoa had to relinquish the crown due to certain situations which violated the pageant’s rules and regulations.

In instances like this which have occurred a few times over the years, the first runner-up is given the crown and continues the reign as Miss American Samoa.

MASI President Imo proudly announced that this Friday’s pageant will mark the 30th year that the Miss American Samoa Pageant has been staged.

After picking the numbers for their order of appearance during the weekly events and on pageant night, the contestants introduced themselves and their sponsors accordingly to thunderous applause.

And here’s the official lineup.

Contestant # 1 is Francine Iopu-Masoe who is sponsored by Intersections, Contestant # 3 is Pauliana Felise-Vitale, sponsored by Interplan Inc. & EZJ Construction, Contestant # 4 is Destiny Lauvao sponsored by Melvina Couture, Family & Friends and Contestant # 5 is Jenavee Herrera sponsored by Marie Ala’ilima & Falana’i Ala.

Number 2 was left unpicked and has been assigned to the fifth contestant, Penicia Hunkin-Pene who arrived on Monday night.

This was followed by the selection of topics with each contestant including the reigning Miss American Samoa, Judy Taunu’u, picking a large envelope from a pile of six envelopes that contained pieces of paper with the topic each contestant will elaborate on during the Pre-Pageant Presentation Category tomorrow.

As it turned, Contestant #1 Francine Iopu-Masoe picked Culture, Contestant #3 Pauliana Felise-Vitale picked Tourism, Contestant #4 Destiny Lauvao Environment, Contestant #5 Jenavee Herrera Education and reigning Miss American Samoa Judy Taunu’u picked Health.

After their official introduction, the lovely young ladies who sported elegant evening gowns exuding regal island beauty, gracefully performed the Samoan siva.

MASI President Simeafou Imo then acknowledged with thanks the many local businesses and institutions who are sponsoring this year’s 30th Annual Miss American Samoa Pageant and contestants. The sponsors were presented with framed certificates of appreciation.

She made special mention of new sponsors GIAS (Good In American Samoa) owner Toleafoa Jody Meleisea, who generously donated three TV sets (50’, 60’ and 70’) which will be awarded to the new Miss American Samoa and the 1st and 2nd runners-up.

Fiji Airways has also come onboard donating return tickets for two to Fiji (Apia/Nadi/Apia) to be awarded to the new Miss American Samoa and to Australia (Apia/Australia/Apia) which will be awarded to the 1st runner-up.

The Christopher James Foeoletini Ledoux Foundation, a nonprofit organization, has generously offered $5,000 worth of renovation at the LBJ Pediatric Toy Room which is an ongoing project for the Miss American Samoa Pageant.

The invited guests were then served dinner as popular local gospel/R&B singer Elijah Tavai gave a soulful rendition of the song Sosefina.

Originally by Tiama’a, the Samoan love song gained international mainstream renown compliments of the rendition by Fijian singing sensation George Viti Veikoso or "Fiji" as his fans know him, who sang it in Samoan, backed by Fijian legend Sakiusa Bulicokocoko on vocals and acoustic guitar.

According to MASI President Imo, this was a taste of the caliber of entertainment that will be showcased on pageant night this Friday

Elijah Tavai will appear again on pageant night, this time as part of The Samoa Trio where he teams up with Junior Iosefa and Peni Vaki. Up-and-coming singer Vasati Tavita will also be taking the stage.

Also appearing this Friday night is special guest Faith Sosene whose powerful vocals on the popular singing competition “The Voice 2022 (Australian TV Series”) earned her a standing ovation from the judges, all established singer-songwriters, Jessica Mauboy, Rita Ora, Guy Sebastion and Australian country superstar Keith Urban.

It was the semifinals and Sosene’s performance of Beyoncé’s hit song “Listen” was so spot-on it blew the audience away and got the judges on their feet, propelling her into the final.

This Friday night at the Governor H. Rex Lee Auditorium, Faith Sosene will be strutting her stuff on stage, with dance entertainment from the Maluali’i Dance Academy, a new exciting dance troupe under the direction of renowned choreographer Eti Wellington Eti.

Another dance troupe who will be breaking their moves on stage that night is the Teine Lalelei Dance Academy which is under the direction of owner, former Miss American Samoa and Miss Pacific Islands, Matauaina To’omalatai-Whitcombe.

The MASI 30th Annual Celebration VIP Dinner event at Paradise Pizza culminated with the reigning Miss American Samoa Judy Fa’afetai Taunu’u performing the Taualuga.

The five contestants spent today visiting the LBJ Pediatric Ward meeting and spreading cheer upon the children before doing the same with the elderly at Fatuoaiga.

Tomorrow will be the Pre-Pageant Presentation Category which is slated to begin at 9am at the Governor H. Rex Lee Auditorium. The 30th Annual Miss American Samoa Pageant will be at the same venue, on Friday night — the program will begin at at 7pm.