Wednesday | October 18, 2017
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Native Hawaiian model represents Hilo in N.Y.

Kanoelehua Robinson remembers getting a phone call on a hot day last summer while waiting in line for shave ice.

The news — she was invited to model in Manaola Yap’s New York Fashion Week runway show.

“When I got the call, I immediately cried,” Robinson, a 17-year-old Hilo native recalls. “I didn’t care who saw. Coming out and being able to represent my people, my family and Hawaii and especially Hilo was just so amazing.”

Robinson is a 2017 graduate of Kamehameha Schools Hawaii in Keaau. She said she started modeling at age 15. She’s appeared in a scattering of mostly state and local fashion events, including a wedding expo, Honolulu Fashion Week last year and as a model for Hawaii-based retailer Jeans Warehouse.

She was one of about 40 models in Yap’s show. Yap told the Tribune-Herald that models generally are provided from various modeling agencies, but because of the “uniqueness” of his show and his “brand’s story” he was allowed to bring some of his own.

Yap said about half of the models he used were from Hawaii, most of whom live on Oahu. He said Robinson was one of only a couple who spoke Hawaiian. Robinson also walked in Yap’s show during the 2016 Honolulu Fashion Week. She wore the same look during New York Fashion Week — a black skirt, zip-up boots and dark lipstick.

“What I loved about Kanoe is, not only is she super tall and extremely gorgeous but I wanted to make sure our Hawaiian people were (represented in the show), especially those who are native speaking,” Yap said. “For me that was important.”

Robinson is a freshman at Azusa Pacific University in California studying communications. She said she hopes to further her modeling career but also wants to forge a career in journalism or public relations.

“Walking in New York Fashion Week is a huge feat for any model,” she said. “(Modeling) is so much a competition, it’s definitely a cutthroat place, and knowing I’ve done that was so amazing and I feel so blessed.”

“There are not a lot of Native Hawaiian models,” she continued. “I’m hoping if I become successful in the modeling industry, I’ll be able to continue to represent Hawaii, Hilo and my culture.”


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