Model and lawyer Lanu Faletau. Image by Junior Laulala.
Last month we introduced you to Kiwi-Tongan model and lawyer Lanu Faletau, and this week she has been announced as one of the inaugural cohort of Obama Foundation Leaders for the Asia-Pacific region. Lanu will join a cross section of 200 emerging civic leaders from 33 nations and territories who will convene in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from December 10 – 14 for the Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia-Pacific program. It’s an exciting opportunity that will kick off a year long program with the Obama Foundation with the 200 Leaders representing public, private, and non-profit sectors, who work on a variety of issues, ranging from education to environment to entrepreneurship.
“I feel incredibly privileged and humbled to have been selected by the Obama Foundation as one of the first leaders for the Asia Pacific region,” says Lanu Faletau. “The legacy that the Obamas have created for themselves has been admired by many for a very long time and I am no exception to that. The work they have done and continue to do, the way they present themselves and more importantly how they make others feel – is something I take inspiration from. I truly hope that through what I do, the education I receive and the opportunities I am exposed to, that I am better positioned to help others meaningfully.”
Lanu was born in Tonga and raised in New Zealand and has three degrees: a Bachelor of Arts; majoring in Sociology and minoring in Pacific studies, a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Laws; specializing in International Law. She is a working lawyer as well as being a model and is a proud activist for body positivity, the advancement of pacific representation and education; and encouraging sustainable and healthier lifestyles through plant-based foods through social media.
While she has a busy work schedule Lanu also devotes time to causes that she believes in and has volunteered with an array of organisations. In particular she has focused on working with those who encourage higher learning for Pacific Islanders and provides mentorship herself to Pacific students by assisting them with academic or pastoral support throughout the year. She also feels strongly about representing Polynesians positively within the media and as a model she hopes to break industry barriers by advocating and vocalising the importance of diversity and proper representation of everyone.
“Being chosen as part of the Asia-Pacific cohort is significant in so many ways, firstly I am very proud to be a New Zealand Polynesian, and the fact that I can represent two incredible nations; New Zealand and Tonga in this program is an honour for me,” adds Lanu. “I hope that with the tools, mentorship and networking, I am able to take the lessons I receive and share it with our communities. The reality is, I am nothing special, anyone can achieve what they want or become whoever they want to be, they just need to know how to achieve it or at least feel empowered and encouraged to go for what they want to do!”
“My heart hurts a lot when I see our Kiwi or the Pacific community putting themselves down or not thinking they are worthy of something for whatever reason. I’ve seen so many incredible people not even try because they have so much self-doubt. I just want to hug them and let them know, they are not alone, I was there and I still struggle to this day to feel worthy of a lot of things. I just hope that I can make waves in helping our communities believe that they truly can do what they want. I want to share all the tools I will receive from the Obama Foundation to do this type of work.”
The Leaders: Asia-Pacific gathering in Malaysia will begin a year long programme that is designed to further inspire, empower, and connect the emerging leaders to change the world. During the event in December the Leaders will be joined by President and Mrs. Obama, as well as other prominent speakers and thought leaders who will discuss topics such as progress and opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region, values-based leadership, and the intersection of purpose and entrepreneurship during a series of plenary sessions. Each Leader’s journey of growth will continue remotely for a year after the gathering, through webinars and a virtual speaker series, as well as support, amplification, and other opportunities from the Foundation.
The Asia-Pacific program follows the Obama Foundation’s inaugural international Leaders program launched in Africa in 2018 and represents the Foundation’s commitment to the region, along with the belief that these emerging leaders, through the extraordinary work they do in their own communities, have the potential to positively affect change across the globe.
Congratulations Lanu, something tells us this coming year will be extraordinary for you and we can’t wait to see what you do with this opportunity.
Images by Junior Laulala.