Fashion and film

(bottom) All About Eve jelly crop and Wrangler Lo Ryder short with Rusty The Dean felt hat and Cosmonaut sunglasses. Tee says the crop-top-denim-short combo is her go-to summer look. All outfits were provided by Boutique on Main Street (BMS) and styled by Natasha Thompson.
RUNWAY OR RED CARPET: Tolaga Bay-born Te Ao o Hinepehinga is going to see where the runway takes her as she flies off to Europe to meet with international modelling agencies. But don’t expect her to be drawn in by the glam — this 21-year-old is more than a pretty face. Pictures by Rebecca Grunwell
Te Ao o Hinepehinga
MODEL ME: Aspiring model and actress Te Ao o Hinepehinga shows us her best angles in a Rusty Casablanca maxi skirt and Catarina top with Karen Walker Cosmonaut sunglasses and the Urban Original Fringed Masterpiece tote.
In an apricot Coop Come On gown. She couldn’t stop talking about this one. “I’m in love with the colour and cut — so unique and stylish.”

GLITZ and glam are on the horizon for Te Ao o Hinepehinga but the Gisborne-born 21-year-old has her feet firmly on the ground.

On March 19, the acting school graduate, known as Te Ao, will fly to Europe, making her way to Paris, Barcelona and Milan to meet with modelling agencies.

“I’m meeting with an agency (Red 11) in Auckland at the end of this month,” she says.

“There is the possibility of signing with them when I get back and they’re helping me get in touch with some agencies in Europe.”

While these are exciting prospects, Te Ao, a graduate of Christchurch’s National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art, says modelling is not her end goal.

“Acting is my passion, my love — that’s the big goal. But there are a lot of stepping stones. It takes on average seven years to get consistent professional work,” she says.

“Doing film and television, it’s hard to get picked up unless you have 1000 Instagram followers or the directors love you,” she says.

“Modelling is something I’ve played around with for the last five to six years. So I thought I would use it to get a bit of a following.”

Stories from the homeland

Once Te Ao does make her way into film and television, she plans to use her following to take stories from her homeland to the world.

“We have such amazing stories,” she says.

The stories Te Ao is referring to are those she was told growing up in a tight-knit Maori family.

“Our stories have a lot more to them than just war battles, suffering and mythology. Maori stories teach a lot of values that are heavily overlooked in today’s society.

“The connection to the land, our connection to each other as human beings and the values we should hold. They’re not stories but lessons told in an interesting way and I believe they are worth sharing.”

Coming from Ngai Tamanuhiri and Ngati Kahungunu descent, Te Ao hopes her heritage will help her stand out in film and fashion on the global stage.

“Moana is so big right now, everyone loves Polynesian people,” she says.

Moana

Moana, a 2016 Disney animated film tells the story of the daughter of a Polynesian chief for which the film is named.

A number of familiar Polynesian characters feature in the drama, including Maui, the demi-god who is said to have fished up the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

Moana has been released across the world, from Australia to Russia. In North America, it topped the highest-grossing films at the box office over the Thanksgiving Day holiday.

In the five-day period from Thanksgiving Day, Moana brought in a staggering $US81.1 million in North America, making it the second-highest grossing thanksgiving debut in history.

Te Ao sees the success of Moana as a positive sign for Maori and Polynesian culture.

“I think that gaining that interest and appreciation from the rest of the world will give our country and people more pride in who we are and where we come from,” she says.

Growing up in Tolaga Bay until the age of 15, Te Ao has a strong connection to her culture.

“I grew up in a culturally-strong family,” she says.

“I did kapa haka — though not fluent, I have never stopped trying to speak Maori.

"My mother once said that it gave me the chance to grow my English-speaking ability to share our stories with the world.”

Tolaga Bay

Tolaga was the place where Te Ao fell in love with acting, before moving to Lytton High School for her final year.

“Julie Radice came in as deputy principal at Tolaga and directed Tommy. The community loved it so they were like, ‘let’s do a proper drama programme’. A couple of us fell in love with it and never left.”

The world of Hollywood and runways might seem far from Gisborne and Tolaga Bay but Te Ao has grown up with one of the country’s biggest names down the road.

Witi Ihimaera, the writer behind the novels on which feature films Mahana and Whale Rider were based, is her grandfather’s first cousin.

As Te Ao prepares to leave her homeland with a one way ticket, she is holding her cultural values close.

“In this industry it’s really easy to lose yourself in characters and be what the rest of the world wants you to be,” she says.

“I was lucky enough to grow up in a strong Maori family who told me stories and taught me the traditions. It gave me a sense of belonging, (influenced) how I connect to the world around me and (taught me) what’s important, like family and nature and the balance of life.

“I know that it’s something I don’t want to lose moving forward.”

Ta moko of her kaitiaki and her whakapapa are physical reminders of these values that Te Ao will carry with her as she travels across the world.

GLITZ and glam are on the horizon for Te Ao o Hinepehinga but the Gisborne-born 21-year-old has her feet firmly on the ground.

On March 19, the acting school graduate, known as Te Ao, will fly to Europe, making her way to Paris, Barcelona and Milan to meet with modelling agencies.

“I’m meeting with an agency (Red 11) in Auckland at the end of this month,” she says.

“There is the possibility of signing with them when I get back and they’re helping me get in touch with some agencies in Europe.”

While these are exciting prospects, Te Ao, a graduate of Christchurch’s National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art, says modelling is not her end goal.

“Acting is my passion, my love — that’s the big goal. But there are a lot of stepping stones. It takes on average seven years to get consistent professional work,” she says.

“Doing film and television, it’s hard to get picked up unless you have 1000 Instagram followers or the directors love you,” she says.

“Modelling is something I’ve played around with for the last five to six years. So I thought I would use it to get a bit of a following.”

Stories from the homeland

Once Te Ao does make her way into film and television, she plans to use her following to take stories from her homeland to the world.

“We have such amazing stories,” she says.

The stories Te Ao is referring to are those she was told growing up in a tight-knit Maori family.

“Our stories have a lot more to them than just war battles, suffering and mythology. Maori stories teach a lot of values that are heavily overlooked in today’s society.

“The connection to the land, our connection to each other as human beings and the values we should hold. They’re not stories but lessons told in an interesting way and I believe they are worth sharing.”

Coming from Ngai Tamanuhiri and Ngati Kahungunu descent, Te Ao hopes her heritage will help her stand out in film and fashion on the global stage.

“Moana is so big right now, everyone loves Polynesian people,” she says.

Moana

Moana, a 2016 Disney animated film tells the story of the daughter of a Polynesian chief for which the film is named.

A number of familiar Polynesian characters feature in the drama, including Maui, the demi-god who is said to have fished up the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

Moana has been released across the world, from Australia to Russia. In North America, it topped the highest-grossing films at the box office over the Thanksgiving Day holiday.

In the five-day period from Thanksgiving Day, Moana brought in a staggering $US81.1 million in North America, making it the second-highest grossing thanksgiving debut in history.

Te Ao sees the success of Moana as a positive sign for Maori and Polynesian culture.

“I think that gaining that interest and appreciation from the rest of the world will give our country and people more pride in who we are and where we come from,” she says.

Growing up in Tolaga Bay until the age of 15, Te Ao has a strong connection to her culture.

“I grew up in a culturally-strong family,” she says.

“I did kapa haka — though not fluent, I have never stopped trying to speak Maori.

"My mother once said that it gave me the chance to grow my English-speaking ability to share our stories with the world.”

Tolaga Bay

Tolaga was the place where Te Ao fell in love with acting, before moving to Lytton High School for her final year.

“Julie Radice came in as deputy principal at Tolaga and directed Tommy. The community loved it so they were like, ‘let’s do a proper drama programme’. A couple of us fell in love with it and never left.”

The world of Hollywood and runways might seem far from Gisborne and Tolaga Bay but Te Ao has grown up with one of the country’s biggest names down the road.

Witi Ihimaera, the writer behind the novels on which feature films Mahana and Whale Rider were based, is her grandfather’s first cousin.

As Te Ao prepares to leave her homeland with a one way ticket, she is holding her cultural values close.

“In this industry it’s really easy to lose yourself in characters and be what the rest of the world wants you to be,” she says.

“I was lucky enough to grow up in a strong Maori family who told me stories and taught me the traditions. It gave me a sense of belonging, (influenced) how I connect to the world around me and (taught me) what’s important, like family and nature and the balance of life.

“I know that it’s something I don’t want to lose moving forward.”

Ta moko of her kaitiaki and her whakapapa are physical reminders of these values that Te Ao will carry with her as she travels across the world.

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