Hilo Beauty Receives Ms. Aloha Nui 2017 Title

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This year’s Hawai’i Island Festival theme—“Mālama Honua-Caring for Mother Earth”—honors the recently completed worldwide voyage of the Hōkūle‘a.

Mālama Honua-Caring for Mother Earth

The annual Hawai’i Island Festival 30 Days of Aloha  event kicked off on Friday, Sept. 8, with the Ms. Aloha Nui Pageant.

This year’s competition was held at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott in Waikoloa Village on the northwest side of Hawai‘i Island, where five beautiful women ranging in from 19 to much older, “sassy” kūpuna vied for the title of Ms. Aloha Nui—also affectionately known as the “Hostess with the Mostest.”

The pageant honors women of large stature (more than 200 pounds) who personify the spirit of aloha. Participants honor women of the past and present who hold these beliefs.

This friendly competition is unlike any other event in the pageantry division, offering women an opportunity to bond with other women who face the same struggles of being a large woman in this day and age, when larger women are frowned upon and often body shamed.


The pageant opens with the contestants as well as the committee presenting their ho‘okupu—their voices—to the Royal Court, paying homage via video and chant to Ruth Ke‘elikolani, an ali‘i wahine of prominence, intellect and wealth—a woman who never forgot who she was—a defender of Hawaiian tradition and custom.

Judges Councilwoman Karen Eoff, Patti Cook and Lani Olsen-Chong, first evaluated what the women had to offer in the aloha wear segment of the competition.

This year’s contestants were Betty Jose, Jacqueline Carvalho, Rosie Colon, Donalyn Kaneo and Jessica Kunishige.

Each of the five women was graciously sponsored by Wahine Toa design, which provided an ensemble specifically chosen for them.

The clothing ranged in color from slate blue to bold orange, and included accessories such black Tahitian pearls; tiare flowers; feathers; raffia; simply strung kukui nut lei; meticulously sewn, highly sought after orange cigar flower lei; and vibrant purple flowers, creating stunning haku lei po’o (lei worn on the head).


A wide array of abilities kept the crowd well entertained throughout the talent segment. Contestants performed beautiful hula as well as traditional Mexican dances with a modern spin, featuring mariachi and tambor drums.

The art of the spoken word was shared by a contestant who wrote two poems, the first about the struggles of being a single parent and in a second inspired by her decision to be a contestant in the pageant.

While the youngest contestant chose to showcase her voice, singing the Meghan Trainor song, All About That Bass which talks about being a “plus-sized woman.”

Knowing it’s not easy, yet doable, the ladies put together their own evening wear ensemble—self-designed and homemade dresses.

One by one taking the stage, the women flaunted their choices—what they would wear out for an evening out on the town.


One contestant said she felts like her dress washed away the negative thoughts in her mind when she wore it.  Another, wore her high school homecoming dress of 25 years ago.

All the women made the judges’ task a difficult one.

Evening wear accessories, such as hand-sewn lei of kukui nui, fragrant tuberose coupled with Pele’s hair (Spanish moss) and the simple elegance of the pure white crown flower lei and crown worn by another contestant magnified the true beauty of these ladies.

Questions in the interview segment of the pageant brought both laughter and heartfelt tears of compassion to the ballroom as the mistress of ceremony, Holly K. also known as Haleakala of KAPA Radio, put each contestant on the “hot seat” as she asked them the question they each randomly picked from the “golden bowl” prior to walking up on stage.

At the end of a wonderful night, Jessica Kunishige of Hilo was crowned the 2017 Ms. Aloha Nui. She clinched the the talent portion and tallied the highest combined score of the evening.

As the new Ms. Aloha Nui, Jessica will reign over the Hawaii Island Festival’s 30 Days of Aloha celebration throughout the month of September and will make several other appearances throughout the year.

The youngest contestant, Donalyn Kaneo of Honoka‘a earned the first runner-up award with the second highest combined score for the night.

While it is sometimes unfortunately dubbed “the fat girl pageant,” those in attendance will attest to the fact that this opening signature event of the Hawaii Island Festival is one filled with love and laughter. Most of all, it embraces the diversity of women of all walks of life who truly embody the true meaning of the word aloha!

For more information about this competition, email MsAlohaNui@gmail.com.

The 30 Days of Aloha celebration also includes a poke contest, the Kindy Sproat Falsetto Contest, the 42nd Waimea Paniolo Parade, the Waimea Annual Ho‘olaule‘a, Royal Court Appearances and the 35th Annual Kupuna Hula Festival.

For more information and a complete schedule, go online.

2017 Contestants and 2016 Ms. Aloha Nui. Darde Gamayo photo.

2017 Ms. Aloha Nui Jessica Kunishige. Darde Gamayo photo.

2017 First Runner-Up Donalyn Kaneo.  Darde Gamayo photo.

2016 Ms. Aloha Nui Shari-Ann Drummondo ‘s final performance.  Darde Gamayo photo.

2009 Ms. Aloha Nui and current chairperson Darde Gamayo with Emcee Holly K.  Darde Gamayo photo.

Contestants and 2016 Ms .Aloha Nui paying tribute to the Royal Court.  Darde Gamayo photo.

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