Growing up in a family of five boys and one girl, and being the second youngest, I’ve always looked up to my older siblings. I was the chubby one and I felt that people thought I was going to be a younger version of them. My older brothers were sporty, fast and strong, even graceful in dance and funny too. I was the opposite. Even learned how to bake and cook from mum, that’s how often I was in the kitchen.
My sister from a young age worked hard to provide for our family. Mum and dad for almost 20 years worked at Coca-Cola in Mt Wellington. And like any other Samoan family in those days, we attended a church. Manukau Presbyterian Church. I eventually grew into my own skin. My brothers did rugby, dance and acting. I studied at art school to further a passion I have with painting.
If you have experienced church through the Samoan lens, from a young age you would know cultural dances with your shirt off wasn’t always easy to do. Although the boys would hype me up to dance my heart out, I couldn’t ignore the bowed heads of embarrassment or the whispers of disgust when I took the stage, or the pointed fingers of laughter from little kids because of my physical appearance.
And back then it was normal. Adults would make fun of me in front of me about my fat. Girls would gather in a group and laugh at me as if I didn’t know what they’re laughing about.
But the one person who told me ‘well done son’ or ‘good boy son, manaia lou siva’ or ‘you look fine son’ was my mum. And because of that I have the courage to take on almost anything these days. Mum taught me to always be fearless. “Who cares about what others say, if you know it’s right then do it.” She believed in me when I wanted to bear our traditional tattoo attire. My biggest supporter and harshest critic. But that’s the reason why I chose to be a part of the modelling for MINT Wear. It’s the right thing to do.
In today’s society we are becoming more visual and it’s hard to battle the judgement of how we are perceived. I’m physically not where I want to be, and I’m still on this journey of health and wellbeing. But if I can help break the stigma of what the current norm is then I’m always willing to bat for my bigger brothers and sisters. So that we can muster the courage to be better.
I’ve even given up my day job and started a business to provide a safe space for men and women like me to feel empowered and comfortable - to not be judged while being the best they can be. If this brand is about breaking stereotypes, being courageous and feeling comfortable to be the best person you can be, then I will always be a MINT Man.