HONOLULU — For the first time, a contestant from Kauai has won the Miss Hawaii Junior High School Pageant.
Kinohi Na’ihe from Kapaa took home the award on Nov. 12 at the The Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu, beating out five other contestants.
“For Kinohi, it’s just her energy,” said Kristina Lum, executive director of the Miss Hawaii Junior High School America Scholarship and Mentoring Program. “She’s a very enthusiastic and driven young lady. And she just has such a strong desire to help others and her community. I really think that’s what makes her stand out.”
Winning the pageant came with an extra challenge for Na’ihe. She decided earlier this year that she would try her hand at flag football, becoming the only girl on the Kapaa Night Marchers team. It nearly ended her dreams of taking the stage.
“In the last game of the season she broke her ankle,” said her mother, Tiffany. “And the doctors said that her days of taking the stage in high heels were over.”
Devastated but not willing to accept her diagnosis, Na’ihe dedicated herself to rehab every day in order to wear heels and walk on stage in Honolulu.
“It was stressful — I had a cast on and a boot,” Na’ihe told The Garden Island. “I couldn’t practice walking so I practiced my interview questions and stuff.”
Na’ihe managed to wear three-inch heels during the pageant. She outperformed her competition and took home her first major title.
“She’s been doing pageants since she was 8 years old,” Tiffany said. “On Kauai, there’s not many pageants so we have to travel to the other islands a lot. It was pretty amazing, though. The competition was pretty stiff. But we gave it 100 percent in training her and everything and all I can ask is that she give 100 percent, and she killed it.”
Na’ihe entered the Miss Hawaii JR High School pageant two years ago and came back empty-handed. But she didn’t let that loss bring her down. Instead, she used it as motivation.
“I got more confident and I believed in myself more (since losing two years ago),” Na’ihe said. “But winning this year was amazing. Oh my goodness, I felt like I was on cloud nine.”
Na’ihe plans to participate in the National Miss Junior High School America Pageant in Little Rock, Arkansas, in June 2017. Her ultimate goal is to compete to be Miss America.
“We’re really excited for nationals. It’s quite a bit away, there’s gonna be quite a bit of fundraising to do,” Tiffany said, considering a plane ticket for Na’ihe could cost somewhere around $1,500. “But the people of Kauai have really done a good job helping us fundraise.”