|Yup, that's dudes right there|
Wow and damn.
In all my years I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like the Samoa Fa’afafine Association’s annual beauty pageant.
|A huge crowd attended the Fa'afafine beauty pageant in Apia|
It’s not just that the contestants were wonderful and, it must be said, disturbingly attractive. It’s also that there was a crowd of about 6,000 people. Grandmothers, children, families were in the audience. As one of my American friends said, there was total societal buy-in. The contest was held as part of Samoa's 50th Anniversary of Independence celebrations.
As I’ve written before Samoa’s fa’afafines are males raised from a young ages as females and are considered the third gender in society. They are not outcast or closeted, but an everyday part of life here.
And tonight they celebrated in grand, extravagant and outrageous style. The evening had a bit of everything: drag queen exuberance and campiness, talent, Carnival, emotion, public service and pure, raw talent. It was a romp.
|The costumes were elaborate|
As another friend explained to me tonight, in Samoan culture women cannot be objectified, nor can they publicly behave in a raunchy way. So, on a night like tonight, the fa’afafines provide a sort of communal outlet. Sex can be laughed at. Risque is funny. You can get your jollies, as it were.
The beauty pageant consisted of four segments: evening wear, costumes, swimsuit, and talent. The roars of appreciation grew the longer the competition ran, until it reached almost deafening crescendos.
It was an extraordinary night. I still don’t get the whole fa’afafine thing, I’ll be honest. To someone who doesn’t spend much time in Samoa it’s an awkward and often intimidating phenomenon – some of these dudes are big. But everyone seems at peace with it. It is part of the culture and the natural rhythm of the place.