Miss Galaxy Pageant

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The Miss Galaxy Pageant is an annual event held in Nukuʻalofa, Tongatapu in the Kingdom of Tonga that selects the "best" Fakaleiti. The event is held over a three night period and attracts crowds of up to 5000 people per night. The pageant has been operating since the mid-1990s and has become a major attraction for Tongans and tourists. Attendance by academics include Professors Niko Besnier, Heather Young-Leslie and Michael Poltorak, and international celebrities such as Pamela Stephenson, Michael Wilson and Minnie Driver.

The Miss Galaxy Pageant celebrates the creativity, diversity and talent of GLBT Fakaleiti communities in Tonga. Contestants are mostly from Tonga, but may come from the Pacific and the Tongan diaspora. Structured similarly to the Miss Heilala beauty pageant, the Miss Galaxy contest both emulates and parodies the heterosexual gender stereotypes which are showcased in the Miss Heilala and considered normative in Tongan society. As with other examples of gender-liminal celebrations, the pageant performances are often humorous, sometimes lewd and/or provocative. Thus, where the Miss Heilala serves to highlight and preserve traditional cultural ideals of femininity, and is associated strongly with a view of Tongan culture as unchanging and separate from other Pacific nations, the Miss Galaxy embraces modernity (perhaps even post-modernity) and translocality.[1]

The word "Fakaleiti" literally translates as "like a lady". Traditionally in Tongan cultural practice, as in Samoa and other parts of Polynesia, there was recognition of men who preferred to behave like women, especially in terms of work. Weaving, barkcloth making, and other forms of creativity were feminine-gendered forms of work, and that some men gravitated to feminine behaviours was accepted. The term fakaleiti is an introduction into the Tongan language (leiti being borrowed from the English 'lady'), to describe this aspect of male gender liminality. Historically, this was not a disparaged social category. Eventually, the term Fakaleiti came to include forms of male homosexuality and eroticism, including men who prefer sex with men, as well as other transgender persons. Today, while the term "Fakaleiti" is used by the general population to refer to a completely feminized man who lives and works as a woman, it is not preferred by the Tongan transgender community on the grounds that it suggests simulating femininity rather that being truly feminine. Transgender persons more commonly use the term "leiti" to refer to themselves.

Organization and sponsorship[edit]

The pageant is organized by the Tongan Leiti's Association (TLA). The TLA was founded by Joleen 'Joey' Mataele, an internationally recognized celebrity and event planner based in Tonga. Joey remains as director of the event.

The Miss Galaxy pageant has enjoyed various corporate sponsors and royal patronage over the years. Recently Air New Zealand has supported the pageant, which is now formally named the Air New Zealand Galaxy Queen Beauty Pageant(MANZGQBP). Colloquially, it remains the Miss Galaxy pageant.

The Patron for the Miss Galaxy is the Honorable Salote Lupepau'u Salamasina Purea Vahine Ari'i o'e Hau Tuita, the eldest daughter of Her Royal Highness Princess Salote Mafile'o Pilolevu Tuita and her husband the Honorable Siosaia Ma'ulupekotofa Tuita. The Honourable Lupepau'u is the first grandchild of the late King of Tonga His Majesty King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV and Her Majesty Queen Halaevalu Mata'aho. She is a niece to the current king, Tupou VI.

The Guest of Honour is always a Royal family member. Usually this is the Honourable Salote Lupepau'u Tuita. She also acts as patron-advisor to the Tongan Leitis Association, who are the pageant's organisers.

Tongan Leiti's association[edit]

The Tongan Leiti's Association have a core membership of 483 local and International Tongan GLBT persons as of May 2010. A key member is Joleen 'Joey' Mataele, who is also the Pacific Island representative on the International Gay & Lesbian Association (ILGA) Executive Board and is the Chairperson of the South Pacific MSM Network Group. The TLA are active in its mainstream community as advocates for the gender-liminal, and also promote HIV/AIDS Awareness to Youth, Family and its GLBTD communities. TLA launched Tonga's first ever condom and water-based lubricant campaign 2007.


A panel of judges rate the Miss Galaxy contestants in a number of different talent and appearance categories. International academics, celebrities and members of the royal family have acted as judges in various years.

Pageant winners[edit]

(need to list all) 1992: Fiona Gibson 1993: Vivian Charlie 1994: 1995: London Koloamatangi 1996: Lee Mubai Yang 1997: Shima Langi 1998: Kumu Hina 1999: Janice Fruean-Zimmerman Baice 2000: 2001: Lee Mubai Yang (Feliuaki Taulanga) 2002: Pauline Edward 2003: 2004: Phylesha Acton Brown 2005: Sabrina Latu 2006: Coco Chandelier (25) 2007: Maya Douglas 2008: Selena D'Angelo 2009: Fatima Gyllenhaal Halafihi (2014 Miss Adi Senikau) (17) 2010: Tararina Brown (29) 2011: Venus Brown (22) 2012-2013: Jayleen Veer Kaho (21) 2014: Leila Heihei (27) 2015-2016: Diamond Vea (23)


  1. ^ Niko Besnier, Transgenderism, Locality, and the Miss Galaxy beauty pageant in Tonga. American Ethnologist 29(3), 2008.

External resources[edit]