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Queen for a Lei

Hawaii’s 2011 Lei Day Queen is a competition unique to these islands in two ways (at least): in the skills required and in the heritage of the winner. Queen Sandrina Lei Ilima Cabato De La Cruz will preside over the 84th Annual Lei Day celebration, along with her royal court.

The new queen’s name may give a clue to her heritage. From the news release: “Lei Queen Ilima is of Hawaiian, Filipino, and Chinese ancestry, born in Honolulu to Basilio Balanza Cabato and Annie Keikialii Kaliko. A product of Kalihi and Nanakuli, she has four brothers and three sisters, and is a mother of two and grandmother of three.” This sort of ancestry is not unusual in Hawaii, where many races more frequently mingle than not. And the recitation is also common, where national heritage is listed alongside the Hawaii genealogy. People know where they come from here. If anything, I’m only surprised that it didn’t list her high school, which is the other common identity element in a state with one major university.

The last sentence points to the second uniqueness of this competition. When the winner is a grandmother, you know it is more than a typical beauty pageant. This is what it took to win: “The all-day pageant judged each of the six finalists on lei making, hula, language skills and poise, and her ability to convey the spirit of aloha with warmth and dignity.” I think this competition is a beauty pageant of the very best sort – the kind that measures true beauty of spirit.

The festivities are Sunday, May 1, 2011 at Queen Kapiolani Regional Park and Bandstand. The event will begin with the Investiture Ceremony for the queen and court, followed by music and dance. Again from organizers: “The Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association will perform in the lei exhibit/hoolaulea area (open area between the bandstand and the shell). The Lei Contest Exhibit is open to the public (from 1:00 p.m., to 5:30 p.m.). Some of the most exquisite lei in the world will be exhibited in a variety of colors and methods.”

Lei Day is an annual opportunity to experience Hawaii’s true beauty, through flowers, music, dance and aloha entwined in lei.

These photos are of last year’s celebration, graciously provided through Lei Day organizers. They are copyrighted by Minako Kent of Beyond Borders Images.

Posted by: Bruce Fisher on Apr 18, 2011