Nanise’s Christmas Gift to Fiji!
“I did it for Fiji!” That was the way Nakelo beauty Nanise Rainima summed up her Miss World 2017 experience. Returning without the coveted crown and sash didn’t discourage her, but has spurred her to grow in confidence and spirit. As soon as she jetted back into the country from Sanya, China she headed straight to her village in Namuka, Tailevu. There she recuperated for a week before returning to work. She also spoke to maiLife about her recent journey to the highest platform of world pageantry. “I took part in Miss World because of all Fijians and young women. I did it for Fiji knowing I had a lot to offer as an iTaukei woman. My bui ni ga (hairdo) and tekiteki (flower worn on the ear) were my way of telling iTaukei women that it’s okay to wear these and as islanders we are powerful, unique and should feel beautiful in our own skin.” As a student, Rainima attended Veiuto Primary School and Suva Grammar School. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Chemistry and Biology from the University of the South Pacific in 2014. She works as a fulltime missionary for Campus Crusade for Christ, a faith-based organization with more than 190 branches worldwide, and one day hopes to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a medical doctor. She said participating in Miss World has been long overdue. “People encouraged me to do Miss World years ago but I wasn’t convinced. I couldn’t see myself doing it because I am conservative and reserved. I only considered participating last year after organisers had removed the beachwear category. I saw how the Hibiscus Festival had given me an opportunity to impact young women and I wanted to do more.”
Rainima added she also wanted to demystify perceptions of beauty. “Everything from my costumes, my messages, my bui ni ga and tekiteki were bold statements on how proud I was to be an iTaukei woman on the world stage. My participation was not solely for the crown and the sash but to truly embody the beauty I had inside as a Fijian. Rainima’s trip to China was an “unforgettable experience” which she said was enriched by travel, food, culture and meeting new friends. “I had never been away from home that long. I enjoyed the Chinese culture, the food especially, spending time with the girls (Miss World contestants) and the memories I brought back with me. “We still talk about it in our chat group. Just this morning one of the girls said we took back parts and memories of each other, gained new friendships and got to know ourselves a bit more.”
Rainima acknowledges the support of her parents and four siblings, saying they were behind her from day one. She also feels overwhelmed by thoughts, prayers and kind words from fellow citizens. “I’m blessed and excited about the opportunity to represent Fiji. It has moulded me to be the woman I am but I wouldn’t have done it without my family. I thank my parents for being my role models. They’ve been my greatest supporters and have always respected my decisions as long as they made me happy. “I thank all my siblings too….if my older two brothers were ever imposing or over protective it would be in my best interest and they’ve learnt a lot from my dad because he has always been understanding. I thank all Fijians too for rallying behind me.“Rainima loves trying new things and her Miss World feat is strong evidence of her nature. She is passionate about music, reading taking part in active sports and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Her dad grew up dreaming of becoming a doctor but went into the banking field before later becoming a pastor. She decided to continue her father’s dream. “When dad got into doing church ministry I wanted to continue his childhood dream. Since then I have been keen on pursuing medicine, hence my degree in science. Maybe in the near future I will pursue medicine.” Rainima is relatively new to village life. Her family only moved to Namuka around 2014 when her grandfather passed away and her grandmother needed care. She has moved around a lot because of her parents’ work. “We came to the village just when I finished university in 2014. I wasn’t the typical village girl but when we moved in I got to appreciate my culture and heritage and to know my relatives. “Now I have a flat in Suva where I live with my younger sister, but I love my village because it makes me understand my roles, gives me a sense of identity, helps me know my relatives and there’s always good food and the opportunity to till the land.” During her last year at USP Rainima actively participated in a project for Campus Crusade and has been a fulltime missionary since. “I grew up in a Christian family but I often overlooked simple truths. Joining Campus Crusade made me more secure in my relationship with God. I don’t know if this is going to be my job for life but being a public figure, I see it as an opportunity to share the gospel. ““I thought I’d do missionary work for two years but I’ve lasted four. I’m at a point where I’m still considering whether to remain a missionary or explore other career options.” Nevertheless, Rainima said her Christian and Fijian values made her shine in China and left an impression on some Miss World 2017 contestants. “Girls would come up to me and say “we love you Fiji”. We were called by our own country names because it was hard to correctly pronounce names so I was called Fiji.”
“Girls would call out “Fiji what are you doing?” “Fiji come here!” I was a friend to everyone and they appreciated this because I was not forcing it but genuinely expressing Fijian hospitality and warmth. By the time the pageant ended, they loved Fiji, they loved the country and they loved the people. “I told them Fijians were unique, kind hearted and friendly people who were always willing to help and if we had the time, money, the capacity to give, we would do it. The girls would then tell me ‘you are the sweetest and most caring girl out of all of us. Despite the results you will still be our Miss World’.” “That’s why I am so overwhelmed and happy about my China experience. I’m happy with the intangible success and victory I achieved. Rainima said a few Miss World contestants have expressed their desire to holiday in Fiji. They include those from Netherlands, Romania, Ecuador, Norway, Malta, Indonesia and Guam. While some girls were pressured to win, Rainima feels she was never burdened to be the winner. “I didn’t get to view all your videos, well wishes and comments on social media because social media in China is controlled. If anything, I felt encouraged by the messages and never really felt any burden on my shoulders.” “Pageant Director Andhy Blake kept telling me everyone back home was behind me. He said ‘you’ve stirred up interest amongst all Fijians and everyone is on Miss World mode’. That to me was encouraging and I didn’t see the competition as a burden.” Rainima moved hearts worldwide when she jumped into the pool to save Miss Kenya, who struggled to swim during her group yellow sports challenge. She said it was the Fijian spirit in her that made her jump. “It was instinct. I did it without anyone telling me to. Swimming was the final event in the competition and Miss Kenya did not seem too confident. When she got in the pool she didn’t swim even five metres and was struggling.” “We encouraged her from the side of the pool to finish the race. All I know is taking off my socks and jumping in. I told her she was not going to quit and we would do it together as a team so I grabbed her by the waist and we swam to reach the end.” Everyone was touched by her action and labelled Rainima’s bravery as “the sweetest thing”. “They thanked me for disregarding glamour and competition. Someone came and hugged me saying I was brave while Miss Kenya started calling me “Fiji my savior.” Another thing that kept people talking were the colourful flowers Rainima wore throughout the competition with her wardrobe of Pacific-inspired couture. “A lot of girls were interested in my hair and they would just come and touch it. I explained to them we don’t touch people’s hair because the head was deemed sacred among indigenous Fijians. They kept asking how I kept my hair in shape and were inspired to see the way I wore it naturally. “Every time I wore a tekiteki they’d admire it. I think I took more than 10 flowers to accessorise with my different outfits. Some didn’t come back as my
African sisters took them. But they didn’t know the secret to Rainima’s beautiful hairdo – coconut-based Trendy hair conditioner and shampoo and a seru kau (Fijian comb) donated by her local hair dresser. Rainima’s voice also took China by surprise when she almost scooped first prize in the Miss World 2017 Talent Category, which could have automatically put her among the top 40 finalists. She sang “Hope” a song she composed in memory of the struggles her grandmother went through when battling cancer a few years back. She said her years of singing in church and playing instruments paid off when she scored an original at Miss World. “My grandmother was the inspiration behind the song. I had a guitar and I was playing one day when the melody just came. I decided to use it for Miss World and be reminded about my grandmother and the importance of the message of hope.” When asked about her views on beauty, Rainima said while physical beauty was important, inner beauty was eternal. “There’s a quote I really like and it says beauty is not flawless but it shines through your flaws. You may require make up on the outside but if you focus on internal beauty you will not be defined by how you look on the outside.” “I told girls in China that judges may see contestants externally but this in no way reflected and defined who we were inside. I hope that changed the way some viewed themselves.” As a message for Christmas and New Year, Rainima said the festive season should be about joy, love, giving and family. “I’ve always seen Christmas as a joyous season and time of giving. Sometimes we can be caught up with the festive season that we take for granted the things that matter. We need to spend quality time with family.” “As a nation we should look at Christmas as time to celebrate the plan of salvation through the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a time to relook at what we’ve done in the year.” Rainima said while Miss World was over, for her the real job of empowering young women had just begun. “If you are a young woman growing up, you have a long way to go. You’ve got to be tough, stand on your own two feet and be a woman of your own opinion and belief. Be your own person. If you go out unprepared, you can get lost. “You should be able to know who you are and not let others define you.”Rainima likes to spend her spare time with family. She uses the weekend as a time of resting, watching cartoons and super heroes movies. She also loves reading, singing and playing her guitar. When asked about the possibility of wedding bells any time soon or if she had a boyfriend, Rainima could only giggle. “I think boys would be intimidated by what I’ve achieved but at this point I have nobody (boyfriend/partner). There hasn’t been one whose been bold enough, I guess. You can always know when someone’s intention is respectful and honourable and I haven’t come across anyone yet. So I am definitely taking my time.”
Nanise with children of Namuka Village.
Nanise relaxes at home in Namuka Village with her parents Inise and Pastor Maika Rainima. Nanise posing with other contestants during the Miss World 2017 in Sanya, China last month. Nanise with fellow contestants. Behind her (on the right) is Miss...