Dear Pageant Girl

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IT’S Saturday Night Fever meets Sunday Morning Mass at this Samoan church service. Purple and white sequins adorn the altar and it’s as if Barry Gibbs himself has dressed the congregation which is resplendent in all white, bar the punctuation of purple ties. A sea of solemn heads, topped with white hats that would win any Melbourne Cup contest, are bowed in prayer. And so, too, is mine, yet I doubt we are speaking to God about the same subject. Why, God, why, did I choose to wear my leopard-print dress which stops just short of the knee to a conservative South Pacific church service and where in the name of hell is Dear Pageant Girl when I need him?
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Let me introduce you to Dear Pageant Girl: Sydney’s Peter Sereno who, when he’s not promoting Samoa, is making the world a better place, one beauty queen at a time through his website, blog, industry commentary and training of pageant contestants around the globe.

“It is kinda my little letter and beauty advice to the world. The beauty pageant industry is still growing in Australia and the majority of girls have no idea. They think they are just beautiful and that they will get by on their looks. I’m Filipino so I grew up with beauty pageants,” he says.

“I leave little notes on the site and give them advice such as ‘don’t leave the house without your dignity’ or ‘if you are going to sabotage the competition, do it with a smile.

“My top five tips are fake it till you make it; treat this like a job interview; there is no such thing as natural beauty; the higher the heels the closer you are to God; and be open to everything. Walk like the world is your catwalk.” (I spend the next day practicing walking like the world is my catwalk. I end up looking like a constipated crab).

In 2004, Peter worked with Australia’s own Jennifer Hawkins to assist her in winning Miss Universe and more recently with the current Miss Samoa/Miss South Pacific Janine Tuivaiti(pictured below) to secure her the prestigious title.
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“I have seen the most beautiful girls with the most ugly personalities which no amount of make-up can fix. It is true what they say: beauty radiates from within.” Peter says.

“But beauty doesn’t win a competition, it is the ‘x’ factor and you can’t define that. It is an energy that can’t be taught. You can discover that and harness that but it can never be taught.

“My role is to expose you and say ‘I am beautiful, I am all that’.”

It’s not only beautiful people Peter promotes, but stunning destinations such as Samoa, in which this interview takes place. Even the name of the country itself possesses a raw beauty – the word Sa, meaning sacred and Moa, centre. It’s in this sacred centre of the South Pacific you’ll discover a land of magic and mysticism, of rainforests, reefs, waterfalls and the most beautiful of beaches such as Lalomanu, upon which travel gurus Lonely Planet bestowed the title of one of the top 10 must-see beaches in the world.
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So smitten was he with Samoa, Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson lived there for four years in the late 1800s in a large colonial-style building on the main island of Upolu. The Samoans loved the author and called him Tusitala – or Teller of Tales. And it’s simple to see why Stevenson found so much inspiration in this nation.

Here, mahi mahi jump straight from the ocean onto your dinner plate, lobsters bathe in coconut milk fresh from the tree, and the papaya is as golden as the sunset. There are 361 villages in Samoa and one church for each village so you could go to church every day of the year. In between, check out some of the highlights such as the thrilling Papase’ea Sliding Rocks near Apia and the spine-tingling Sua Trench cave pool on the South Coast, accessible by a steep, wooden ladder.
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Some say Savaii Island, about an hour by ferry from Upolu, is the highlight of a Samoan sojourn with its markets, lava fields, canopy walkway, and blow holes down which a self-styled “coconut man” throws coconuts which are fired out into the ocean like canon balls.
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For others, it’s the smaller islands such as Namua Island, about 10 minutes by a tinnie from Upolu, which float their boat.
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Wherever you choose, there’s a range of accommodation options and one of the heavenly highlights is a night or two in a rustic beachfront fale. Forget your modern cons, and surrender to the sound of the waves crashing against the reef as you fall asleep under a thatched roof and mosquito net. (In my case, spending the night wishing a hot Samoan may mistake your hut for his and crawl in naked).
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If, as Dear Pageant Girl claims, the world is indeed your catwalk, then Samoa is the perfect destination in which to strut your stuff.
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The Global Goddess travelled to Samoa as a guest of the Samoan Tourism Authority. For more information on a Samoan holiday go to http://www.samoa.travel. Virgin Australia flys direct to Samoa from Brisbane once a week and several times from Sydney.

To unveil your inner Goddess, or to find out more about Dear Pageant Girl, go to http://www.dearpageantgirl.com.au
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Taiwan: Tai-weird, Tai-wacky, Tai-wonderful

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THERE’S a fascinating article in the February edition of Cathay Pacific’s Inflight Magazine Discovery which examines Asia’s love of the exotic, specifically its cuisine and culture. The story focuses on fashion, and how many traditional styles of dress not only still exist, but are part of the vernacular. From Vietnam’s elaborate ao dai’s to Japan’s kimono’s, wearing historic dress is not considered unusual. In China, women wear the qipao; the Balinese don the hip-wrapping kambe; while in India, modern-day Maharanis are embracing the sari. But what happens when certain Asian cultures swing dramatically in the other direction? The result, as I discovered on my trip to Taiwan last week, is weird, wacky and wonderful.
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Is it a nurse, a nun or a sign indicating the women’s toilet? I stumbled across little pinkie while in the acclaimed Taiwanese restaurant, Silks Palace, better known for its award-winning yin and yang beef noodle soup served in a cauldron. Yes, our host is at the table explaining all about this amazing dish, and I’m out the back taking a photo of the dunny.
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I’m not quite sure what a Damper Baby is, but it seems to play a crucial role in Taipei’s exclusive 101 shopping centre, home to the esteemed Din Tai Fung dumpling palace.
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This little pooch outside Taiwan’s first ever Bubble Tea shop in Hsinshu was not only wearing this attractive leopard-print coat, but had four baby shoes on each foot. I mean paw. I bet puppy was named Gucci or Muffin.
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Everyone else was gazing at the amazing spectacle up in the sky at the Sky Lantern Festival in Pingxi. I was looking downward at this young lady who was not afraid to put her best foot forward.
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Proving that if you stay anywhere long enough the culture rubs off on you, my fellow Australians Natasha Dragun (Double Dragon) and Bev Malzard (Honey Ooolong) unleashed their inner animals.
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And immediately sparked a trend among the younger Taiwanese visiting the Shen Fen Waterfall as these two cute little copycats demonstrated.
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It was not just the fashion which fascinated in Taiwan, but the food, as these decadently sweet tomatoes soaked in plum juice proved at the Silks Palace. Is it a tomato? Is it a plum? Who could tell?
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Back at the world-renowned Ding Tai Fung, the mountains of dumpling dishes were enchanting.
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While the coffee sign at Pingxi was a little confusing…
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The pippies in chili, ulimately interesting…
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And the Buddhists at Long Shan Temple, inspiring.
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Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific’s Rosemary was as bubbly as the champagne the airline served on the flight to Taipei, via Hong Kong. The Global Goddess travelled in style courtesy of Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy cabin. Launched in February 2012, the new Premium Economy experience features a more quiet, spacious cabin than the traditional Economy Class with between 26 and 34 seats per aircraft. The seat pitch is 38 inches – six inches more than Economy Class – and the seat itself is wider and has a bigger recline. Special features include a large meal table, a cocktail table, footrest, a 10.6 inch personal television, an in-seat power outlet, a multi-port connector for personal devices and extra personal stowage space. Premium Economy passengers are also allowed 25kg of luggage and have priority check-in at dedicated counters and priority boarding.

How to get to Taiwan from Australia: Cathay Pacific has multiple flights a week to Taipei via Hong Kong from six major Australian cities, including at least three flights daily from Sydney; three from Melbourne; daily from Brisbane; seven weekly flights from Cairns and Adelaide; and ten weekly flights from Perth.

For more info on Cathay Pacific go to http://www.cathaypacific.com
For more info on Taiwan go to http://www.taiwan.net.tw/
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