A pageant for plus-size women

The isleʻs first Miss Hawaii Plus pageant was held Nov. 5, featuring full-figured women, and HonCC student and pageant contestant Puanani Hatori was in it.

Hatori said that the pageant of 20 contestants was geared to “help women feel more comfortable about their bodies.”

Hatori, from Waianae, is a student in the Welding Technology Program. She is set to graduate in Spring 2018.

In her free time, Hatori enjoys hunting for pigs.

“Most times, [I hunt] either it’s every weekend or every other weekend,” she said. She says she wants to eat pig “Hawaiian style” this Thanksgiving.

Hatori entered the pageant through the urging of her cousin, who herself had been a contestant in another pageant. “Me and my cousin have similiarities – we are the shy ones in our family.” When first asked to run, “I was like, ʻnah, I no think so, I donʻt wanna, noooo.ʻ What convinced me to do this was I wanted to get out my comfort zone.” After watching her cousin onstage, she thought “damn, if she could it, I could do it.”

One of Hatori’s goals outside the pageant are to help with domestic violence and suicide prevention; she also wants to do outreach to full-sized girls and women “to help them cope and find confidence in themselves.” Hatori counts herself as a survivor of domestic violence, suicide, and body-shaming.

Emotional and tearing, Hatori said that she was bullied from a very young age through high school. “I got into this whole other world – the drug scene – that was my new reality and I fit in.” It was a world where not only did she not feel ashamed of her body, but she simply didnʻt care.

She got sober in her mid-20ʻs, then entered college in 2015. “My family is into construction, and I didnʻt want a desk job,” explaining her choice of major.

Hatori said she doesnʻt have anything to say to those who bullied her. “Because I decided to change my mindset and be a positive person not only for myself, but for others. I donʻt want to say anything to them. I just want to show them what I can do. I can only say so much, and people will only listen so far. Actions, not words.”

Samantha Iha-Preece, former Miss Hawaii World 2015, is the pageant director. “There was a void in pageantry and an underrepresentation of plus-sized women,” Iha-Preece says. She wants “beauty to be more positive and more inclusive.” She says that plus- sized women want to be viewed on “equal platforms as their thinner counterparts. They are not just beautiful but sensual, fabulous and sexy.”

Miss Hawaii Plus took a year to plan, getting sponsors, booking venues and training first-time entrants. The pageant itself is not affiliated with the Miss America or Miss USA organizations. “Their guidelines differ from our own,” Iha-Preece said, “as well as their definition of beauty.”

There are two different categories: Miss Hawaii Plus (ages 18 to 29) and Ms. Hawaii Plus (ages 30 and up). Contestants must be at least size 14W and must be born female.

Training is a month and a half long, so “you have to catch on kind of quick,” said Hatori. “They train you on how to walk, how to talk, the dances that they do. It was hard! I had to wear high heels!”

The contestants have different organizations and causes that they are personally involved with, Iha-Preece explained. Proceeds from the next two years will go to Feed Hawaii’s Homeless and Oahu SPCA. The pageant winners will also help care for and feed the homeless, and build and distribute care packages.

Hatoriʻs 14 y/o son was inspired by her running. “Mom, you got this,” he said. Her son, along with her significant other “are my biggest inspirations to do things. My other half inspires me to go out and do things and just try.

“Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations. Donʻt let anyone define who youʻre meant to be.”