All images provided courtesy of Dusk Devi & Pacific Runway
As technology continues to connect our globalized community it is also helping our Pacific community to shift our perceptions of beauty after years of being subjected to Western ideals and standards.
Rukshana Afu is a Samoan Fijian-Indian woman determined to make her mark in the world of beauty and fashion, advocating for the positive and inclusive representation of Pacific Island women, mothers and young girls and raising awareness for mental health and bullying affecting Pacific Islander and Ethnic women. Straight off the back of competing in Miss India Australia, and receiving the titles of 1st Runner Up & Ms Congeniality, Rukshana sat down to share her story with Talanoa.
Tell us your name and background?
Rukshana Afu (maiden – Ahmed). I am Samoan Fijian Indian.
My Father is Fijian Indian from Lautoka, Fiji and my Mother is Samoan from Malie & Magiagi, Apia, Samoa.
I’m married to a Tongan man, Sione Afu and have two children, Aliyah 10yrs old and Isaac 4yrs old. I am a member of The Church of Latter Day Saints. Born Muslim, but I converted 7 years ago.
How long have you lived in Australia?
I’ve lived in Australia for 7 years
Why were you interested in competing in Mrs India Australia?
I was interested in competing in this pageant to make a stand & prove that mothers & wives can be winners too. We all deserve a crown. We are all queens. We can take part in all things. Beauty pageants, runway shows, modelling.. the list is endless. Beauty does not only glow from the outside, it glows from within. If I want to see change happen in this industry, then I’ve got to stand up and be apart of making it happen. Be an example to my daughter & my nieces and prove that you don’t have to look a certain way, to be apart of something huge!
I also wanted the exposure and platform for the anti bullying/mental illness awareness campaign that I am working on that is targeted for pacific island/ethnic women, who struggle with day to day issues.
How does your ancestral lineage influence this decision?
Growing up I disliked the colour of my skin, the way my hair was & how broad my shoulders were. I was the tallest in my grade throughout primary school. I despised how I looked.
Once becoming a mother & becoming more aware of where I’ve come from, visiting Samoa & Fiji, seeing my beautiful Samoan family & my beautiful Indian family. I knew I needed to change this mindset and be proud of where I’m from. I have a little girl who will soon grow up to think similar to what I was thinking when I was a child, and I didn’t want her to have these same thoughts about herself so change begins with me. This decision made a huge impact on my choices through life. Which brings me to this pageant, taking part in this pageant, goes against everything I ever thought of myself as a child and a teenager.
My Samoan/Fijian Indian blood has made a big influence on my decision through this pageant because it has put us halfcasts on the map. We can live the best of both worlds, in both cultures & still feel a huge sensation of love for both.
The competition met my expectations in various things. Forming lifelong friendships, exposing my campaign story & the why behind it, learning new things about others and finding out their stories & what obstacle they’ve overcome to get this far. My expectation was never to win. It was to engage with the people involved, it was to utilise the platform that was given to us finalists, it was having a title and actually being respected and heard because we hold somewhat of an authority.
It has definitely met my expectations in all these things.
The greatest lesson I have taken away from this pageant was to never lose focus on ‘the why’ on why I took part in this pageant in the first place. There were times were I fell short and missed my family, or I just wanted to give up during an intense week. After many tears & prayers, I had to shake myself and pick myself up again and remind myself on why I’m doing this. I was so blessed to have the greatest support system, who listened, gave me wise counsel & never gave up on me.
I would definitely recommend this experience to anyone. Pageants are truly not all about exterior beauty. There is a lot of passion involved for special causes, women who make comebacks from life’s worst trials & some who want a louder voice to be heard for something so close to their hearts. Beauty is based in these passions that we all hold close to our heart. This is what makes each individual woman so beautiful.