Empowered Pasifika Women: Lani Tuitasi

I am SUPER excited to share this amazing woman’s story with you all. I didn’t know I would be getting a best friend last when she DM’d me. Now, I can’t imagine not having her in my life. As an afakasi growing up in Arkansas, I didn’t know I would meet someone who shared the same experiences I had. So, I hope you give her some love and read about the wonderful work she is doing for our community.

Empowered Through Mixed Heritage

I’m an Afakasi girl born and raised in Missouri and living out my dream in Los Angeles. I work in the advertising industry as a cultural strategy director writing strategies that help brands, shows, and films connect to culture. My love for the culture drives everything I do, especially my love for my Pasifika culture and community. It’s a bone deep love that I let guide me and has taken me on this path of diving deep into the Afakasi experience. Being Afakasi is a true gift of being multiple cultures at the same time with skillsets that have uniquely positioned me to be good at what I do in the advertising world as I help my clients navigate culture and find their space – much like what afakasis have to do. Throughout the past couple years, I’ve been inspired to tell Afakasi stories which has turned into a screenplay writing hobby and the release of my podcast Club Kasi with Aynsley where she discusses all things Afakasi and Pasifika culture. Most recently, my writing partner Honestine and I are developing a dramedy series about Nafanua and excited to see where we can take it!

What was the spark that started you on the path where you are today?

A combination of my love for Polynesian culture and wanting to be Darcy Maguire from What Women Want

What is one thing that you think Pasifika can do to help our voices be heard more?

Share our truths unapologetically and OWN our stories. We come from small islands but our mana is big. People feel it and our culture is truly powerful. That’s why we have a history of other cultures stealing from us and why businesses commodify and commercialize our culture. They know how powerful we are and they want to exploit it to make money for themselves. We need to take back that power, tell our own stories, and have them power our community vs someone else’s business. By doing this, our voices will be heard loudly because they can exist in their full mana.

If a young Pasifika girl asked you, “Why is it important to empower other Pasifika women?” What would you tell her?

It’s so incredibly important for us as Pasifika women to bring our mana together and empower each other. It’s one of the most natural things for us to do because it’s in our blood from the village days. Our women ancestors led the village together and it’s in our DNA. Never fight that feminine urge to lead with other Pasifika women. It’s who we are and how we’re made.

As a Pasifika leader, creative, advocate, etc. how do you find ways to uplift the voices of other Pasifika women?

Creating Club Kasi with Aynsley has been one of my favorite ways to uplift our voices, especially the afakasi voice. There really wasn’t a space for us to really own and talk about that experience before so Aynsley and I made it. I also only write scripts with Afakasi or Pasifika women leads and hope to someday get one of my scripts produced so we can have more of our voices and stories out there for the world to see.

How important is it for Pasifika men to be a part of the conversation of uplifting our Pasifika women?

MAJORLY important. Pasifika men have a privilege of being men in a patriarchal society. Because of this, they need to stand up for other Pasifika women ESPECIALLY when we’re facing challenges due to the society we live in and the ridiculous euro centric beauty standards. Men protecting us lives deep in our blood too and goes back to the village way on the island…we can’t lose that which is why the men in our community need to stand up for us. Pasifika women are natural born leaders and we need our men to decolonize their minds and stand by us.

Who is it that you look to as a role model?

I look up to all my Pasifika women peers on social media who are fearlessly putting their perspectives out there. We’re truly moving our culture forward together by talking about issues in our community, evolving our dances, teaching each other the language to preserve it, writing music, talking story, etc. etc. I could go on for days. Ya’ll are my role models and my forever inspiration.

Where do you think the Pasifika community falls short when it comes to empowering our women? If we do at all.

I think we fall short when we put down Pasifika women. I’ve heard a lot of men in our community make jokes about not wanting to date Pasifika women because of our family traditions, our “mean” personality traits, and the way we look…which is actually what makes us powerful and born leaders. The kernel of truth in all of their jokes is that they are conditioned to think Eurocentric beauty/lifestyle is better than Indigenous beauty/lifestyle. They think white communities are better with money and live better lives which is a falsehood rooted in colonial conditioning. Preference is one thing but insulting your Pasifika sisters is a colonized trauma response. We need to come together and decolonize ourselves so we can live together in full power.

What song do you listen to that empowers you to keep going?

La’u Samoa and Did It On Em, Nicki Minaj

What movie brings you inspiration?

Trainwreck by Amy Schumer – her unapologetic realness about the woman experience inspires me when writing Pasifika women characters in my screenplays

What is a quote that you go to when needing encouragement?

I am healthy, I am wealthy, I am rich, I am that bitch. – Flo Milli, Yung Baby Tate

What is your advice to Pasifika women who are on the journey to empowerment?

By coming together, we are able to live fully in our mana. Reach out to each other and create spaces for us to exist, support, talk story, be joyful, and teach eachother. We already do it so well and we’re modeling it for the men in our community. Let’s keep these spaces sacred for us and use it to move our community and culture forward.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Lani! She’s someone I know we’ll be seeing her stories on the screen soon. Lani is someone that educates and empowers. She has encouraged me through my journey, and I know anyone who meets her or sees her work will be empowered.

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