Scenes of chaos reigned last night at Tonga’s national beauty pageant when organisers tried to shut down an Auckland University law student and outgoing Miss Heilala queen during her final address.
Kalo Funganitao spoke of her struggles which included being an ongoing victim of cyber bullying and complete lack of support from Miss Heilala organisers when her microphone was switched off and loud music played over her.
Ms Funganitao read her speech from a laptop saying she and her mother were lied to, backstabbed and messed around with and people who were put in place to help her showed a lack of support.
“There needs to be an upheaval of the restricting current framework because it is not working,” she said.
As attempts were made to stop her from being heard, her mother and brother came to her side to support her, standing silently holding her arms along with Miss Heilala contestants who also gathered around her on stage.
As audience critics jeered loudly and others yelled support a Miss Heilala contestant videoed her speech which has gone viral on Facebook.
Ms Funganitao spoke of how she had been the ongoing target of online group bullying since she won the title.
“Enough is enough and I will not tolerate any more fakeness if you have the guts to attack a person as a group in such a cowardly way then you can deal with the consequences,” Ms Funganitao yelled over the crowd.
She said it was a miracle she had not given up the title a long time ago but paid tribute to her mother and brother’s support “my love for you is endless”.
The outgoing queen said her message was the importance of education and upholding traditional values and ”to challenge authority and those in places of power when necessary and justified to not be silent but throughout it all to uphold your dignity stand your ground and look at your life with no regret to remember where you came from how you got there”.
As she ended her speech, the 2019 Miss Heilala contestants hugged her in a show of defiance and support.
Pasifika advocate and Plantation Conversations founder Torisse Laulu interviewed Kalo after she was crowned Miss Heilala in 2018 and says she wanted to provide a platform for her to speak her truth.
"Despite hearing the crowd talking over her, despite people bullying and the DJ cutting her mic and playing over her she still stood there and spoke her truth," Miss Laulu says.
Watch the full video here.