Win or lose at tonight’s Miss USA pageant, Radasha Hoohuli looks forward to returning to Nanakuli, kicking off her heels and ‘just being the tita I am’
By Chad Pata
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She was definitely a
Between the Waimanalo Gulch dump controversy and the termite-eaten utility poles, Oahu’s West Side has not been having a very good year. But one fetching young Nanakuli resident is trying to turn 2006 around for the community and she gets her shot on national television this Friday.
Radasha Hoohuli is Hawaii’s representative in the Miss USA pageant to be aired live tonight on NBC. The winner of the contest goes on to represent America in the Miss Universe competition in Los Angeles in July.
Her goal is not for personal recognition, however, but for respect for her community.
“I hope to bring to the front that people from Nanakuli can succeed just like Konishiki and myself have,” says Hoohuli, who now resides in town because of her Miss Hawaii USA commitments. “There are some great talents coming out of that side and people who really care about the youth.”
Miss Hawaii USA Radasha Hoohuli:
Competing for everyone on the West
Hoohuli’s life has not been that of most pampered pageant princesses who have been doing this since they could walk. She grew up scampering around on the pristine beaches of the West side. Surfing, family and barbecue were the order of the day. It wasn’t until she was 18 that she entered her first pageant. Growing up for her was more about ohana than tiaras.
“Everything was very simple growing up,” remembers Hoohuli. “I felt like I had everything I needed, but it wasn’t easy. There were times it was questionable if we’d have food on the table.”
Her father worked in construction, and those times were very different from the housing boom we are now experiencing. Work could be scarce, and even while times were tight, her parents, Wayne and Hoku, did not allow the family to stop giving to the community.
“It was important to have us volunteering, because it brought us a different kind of joy,” says Hoohuli. “We would do beach cleanups, and anything going on at the school, we were there to help.”
Thanks to her Hawaiian heritage, her school was Kamehameha and her experiences there helped reinforce her cultural identity. But it was a problem she had at school that actually helped shape her future.
“In sixth grade, I didn’t know why I couldn’t read the blackboard,” says Hoohuli. “I was referred to an optometrist and I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it would be really nerve-wracking, but I really enjoyed it.”
So with a new pair of glasses and all of 11 years old, Hoohuli had decided on a career path: optometry. Not exactly the glamorous field you might expect for a beauty queen, but little is about this down-home Miss Hawaii USA.
She graduated high school and began working at Paradise Cove Luaus. She danced the hula just as she had as a kid, trying to make money to pay for her dreams.
Radasha with mom Hoku
Here she met O’Brien Eselu, her boss at the Cove, who took one look at Hoohuli and told her she should try out for pageants to pay for school.
So she tried out for Miss Teen Hawaii USA without any guidance, and while she didn’t win, she got a feeling for the competition. Next it was on to Miss Hawaiian Islands in 1999.
This time she enlisted Eselu, an award-winning hula instructor, to help her prepare. They outfitted her in the traditional kahiko look and had her dancing the hula.
“O’Brien helped in this one to see how I would do, to see if I should try out for the Miss Hawaii USA,” says Hoohuli, who as you might have guessed, won the competition.
After that she just started piling up titles like Miss Island Oahu and Miss Ala Moana on her way to this year’s victory in the biggest pageant of her life.
And just as Eselu had promised, the scholarships came with the titles. She was awarded four years of tuition at HPU and used it to pursue her goal as a doctor of optometry by getting a degree in ... speech communications?
“It is going to be a great help in communicating with my patients,” says Hoohuli, who admits to the short-term benefits of the degree as well. “But it has also been very good for my performances in the pageants.”
While the classes help in the interview portion of the competition, it is not called a beauty contest because of contestants’ vocabularies. There are cardio workouts, weight training and dieting.
“I have four boxes of Meiji milk chocolate with almonds that I brought back from my HTA trip to Japan,” says Hoohuli. “That is the first thing I’m eating after the competition.”
That takes care of the figure. But now there are hours on end in beauty salon chairs as they seek her perfect look, not to mention countless appearances for charity and community events.
“It is all-consuming, but it’s great, because you learn about what you are, and what you are not,” says Hoohuli.
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