One of my fave shots of Leilani – when she modelled for the Saben Portraits of Style Winter 13 Collection campaign.
I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus with my blogging mostly because I’ve just been really boring and working way too much but since I took a leap of faith a couple of weeks ago and resigned from having to work way too much (lol) I was able to get back to the stuff I love doing!! Yay! and what better way to kick back into it than with one of my own inspirations in the bloggersphere – my baby sister Leilani Momoisea of Lani Says AND today is her 30th birthday so make sure you drop in on her facebook page or shoot her a tweet to say Happy B-Day.
I chopped it up with Lani about a week before she left with Dave on their trip to Paris, London & New York (Sorry about these guys!) and asked her about getting into radio, cutting through into the fashion industry and where she’s heading to with Lani Says – Enjoy ….
ME: Your full time job is a radio journalist at Radio NZ – when did you feel like that was the path you wanted to take career wise?
LEILANI: I think it was my second year of uni – I studied communications and in the second year that’s the year you have to decide what you want to do. They brought in a bunch of radio people to talk to the lecture group and everyone who talked, loved it. It was people like Kerre Woodham, Robert Rakete and Hugh Sundae and they talked about the radio industry and being in it and you could tell that they genuinely loved what they did. Also, I was just good at it, and when you’re good at something, it’s easier to do. I got really good marks for radio so, I’m someone who, if I’m not good at something immediately then I don’t want to pursue it (laughs) so radio – I was good at immediately, so I was like sweet! Radio’s what I want to do!
ME: When you were in High School did you know that you wanted to get into Communications?
LEILANI: I did – someone had told me about Communications and I was like ‘that sounds like me’ but when I went and talked to my guidance counselor she basically told me it was too hard to get into. That was the only thing I wanted to do and I didn’t want to do anything else so I took a year off after high school, and just worked at McDonalds for a year cos I was like, ‘there’s no point getting a student loan if I can’t do the thing that I want to do’. While I was working at McDonalds, I went along to this night at AUT for Pacific Islanders about how to get into uni and stuff, and I told someone that I wanted to do Communications and she was like “Yeah, you should totally apply and you should apply for a scholarship!”
I think if I’d applied straight out of high school I wouldn’t have gotten the Scholarship, but because I’d taken a year off and done a bunch of extra curricular stuff, it gave me more time to put together a better application. So I put together a really good application, I applied for the scholarship and I got the scholarship as well. That was the good thing about taking a year off working at McDonalds.
Leilani speaking at the PIMA conference in Auckland, 2002 after winning one of the 2 Pacific Media Scholarships awarded.
ME: With your radio journalism what would be a highlight for you in what you’ve achieved in radio?
LEILANI: It would definitely be going to Samoa when the tsunami hit – I was sent there the day that it hit and I covered it for 2 weeks. Then a colleague and myself put together a documentary about the tsunami and we won a radio award for it. It’s the only job I’ve had since I left uni so I’ve been there for ages. It’s a rewarding job.
ME: People I know (like Mario Gaoa) who know you’re in radio always say to me ‘Tell your sister to get into TV’ – have you ever had any desire to get into TV and is it a goal that you’d one day like to pursue?
LEILANI: Nah I’ve never wanted to do TV. We had the choice of choosing TV when I was at uni in Communications and stuff and it never appealed to me. If I were in TV it wouldn’t be as a journalist – it would have to be something else, but as a journalist radio is the best for me. You get to do everything and it’s so immediate and it’s good for writing. I’ve never wanted to be a TV journalist.
ME: You run your own blog “Lani Says” do you feel like blogging is an extension of your journalism?
LEILANI: It was – when I started it I think it was. I write a lot snappier perhaps than other people and I like to not write much – apart from these exercise diaries that I’ve been doing – but I like to try and keep it concise and that’s definitely a radio journalist thing. Have your message as concise and clear as possible. I think at the start it was a lot more but yeah, I don’t know actually.
I think I’ve learned a lot as Dave’s (award winning NZ hip hop artist David Dallas) girlfriend the way he markets himself on Social Media smartly, in a smart way that I hope is not annoying, you know? I try to be smart about the way I do things. That’s just from him, you know? But I think there are heaps of skills as a journalist that I utilize in my blog but I’m not sure if the two are really related. What I do as a blogger is so completely different to what I do as a journalist and the ‘worlds’ are so different as well.
Completely different worlds, which I quite like.
Leilani and fiance David Dallas enjoying a performance by Freddie Gibbs at The Studio, K-Road
ME: You work full time at Radio NZ – does this mean you need to schedule posts in or do you set aside certain days to post? Is it hard to juggle?
LEILANI: I try to do 3 a week – that’s my minimum I think because I know myself that if I go check out a blog and then I see that they haven’t posted in a couple of weeks then I probably won’t go back, you know? I know that when I check other blogs I want to know that they’re consistent so I’ll keep coming back, so I want other people to see that I’m consistent as well.
I feel like 3 is a good number – it’s not too much but it’s not too little either and also with a full time job it’s quite hard to do more than that.
I have a thing where I like to create my own content – I don’t want to just put up a press release or someone else’s photos so even when I am posting about something that someone sent me – I want to take my own photos and try make it personal – so there’s that.
So yeah, I try to do 3 times a week and it’s hard, but in a perfect world I would be way in advance, like I would have all of next weeks ready but I don’t – I usually write it on the day and post it on the day, and it’s stupid, but that’s what I do (laughs).
ME: Do you have any goals in mind for your blog Lani Says in where you’re heading with everything at the moment OR is it more just as opportunities present itself?
LEILANI: Well, I haven’t had a break in ages so I might try and use the break (Lani recently went to London, Paris & NY for a month after I’d done this interview with her) to reassess where I’m going with it because I would like to make money from it. It’s something that I enjoy so if there’s a way I could make a living off it that would be good but at the moment it’s like having 2 full time jobs but only one of them pays (laughs). It’s hard trying to figure out what you do best because there’s a difference in what you like to do and what people want to see sometimes, so it’s trying to figure that out.
I definitely want to do more stuff like ‘Month of N’, I want to do more meaty content even if it’s just writing little stories because I feel like that’s been lacking for ages because I did heaps of that in the beginning and then I think I got a little bit distracted when people were like “Here’s some free stuff” and I was like “OK!” (laughs) so I got a little bit distracted along the way and I want to go back to more interesting content.
The ‘Month of N’ wrap-up – Lani both modelled (Night Markets shot) and was credited as stylist for many of the Month of N shoots
ME: I noticed with the Month of N shoots you were credited as “Stylist” for a lot of them, you are also signed with them as a Model and you write a lot about fashion – has fashion always been a huge interest of yours since you were young?
LEILANI: Nah, to be honest, it wasn’t until I started going to uni that I started paying attention to fashion. I started going to uni and started making my own money, and also when I started going to uni, I started working in retail so I had a bit more of an idea. But yeah, it wasn’t something that interested me hardout and I never really went into the city before that – so it was just like hanging out, out south or like Onehunga would be the furthest I’d get. Out South has it’s own style which is really cool, but then when I went to the city, that’s when I saw people dressing differently. So I was exposed to different looks and stuff. So yeah, it was only when I really started going to uni that I was made aware that fashion was like a ‘thing’ (laughs).
ME: So with your discovery of fashion when you were at uni was there certain looks or people that inspired you?
LEILANI: Well yeah, I hung out with 3 guys, they were like my best mates and they got me into sneakers hardout, so that was my first thing that was like ‘this is a thing’ and ‘this is what people are into’ .
I bought my first pair of sneakers when I was in uni, like my first proper pair of sneakers – they were a pair of Nike Blazers – and I think maybe because they were like the first cool pair of sneakers I bought, Nike Blazers have always been my favourite since then. So yeah, these 3 guys were hardout into hip hop and stuff which I was too and so it was like Hip-Hop style. We’d always go into “Loaded” back when it was an Independent store and we’d always go get a coffee and hang out at “Loaded” for hours just talking to the store staff about sneakers (laughs)
We’d hardly ever buy anything cos we were pretty broke but yeah, when we did we’d try buy them at “Loaded” as well. So yeah, I’d get Dunks – my first Xmas gift from Dave was a pair of Dunks and that was awesome. So that was my first little foray into ‘hip-hop inspired fashion’.
Lani’s hip hop inspired “Parapper the Rapper” look
ME: So your interest in fashion didn’t come from your modelling?
LEILANI: Well I wasn’t modelling back then – I got into modelling really late, like when models are ending their careers that’s when mine started and I didn’t have an agency until I was about 24. People had approached me to be a model and I wish that I’d taken it seriously back then cos I was a student and I would have had a lot of time to do it, but I just wasn’t interested. Also, I’ve always been slim, but I went into 2 different agencies where they measured me up and they told me to lose weight, and I couldn’t be bothered. I was like well, if I have to lose weight then modelling is not for me. So that’s what was cool when I went into my first agency which was ‘62‘ – they didn’t even bother measuring me – they just put me on their books so I was like sweet! This is the first agency that hasn’t told me to lose weight, so that’s cool!
ME: When you went into 62 was that of your own accord or had someone approached you?
LEILANI: Nah I was working at ‘Real Groovy‘ at the time and the lady who did the accounts at ‘Real Groovy’ also did ’62’s accounts, so yeah, she gave them some photos and took them in but it was a long process because I went to get test shots done and stuff but then I moved to Wellington for a year and so it was only when I came back from Wellington that I properly got on their books. I had done one show for Fashion Week before I moved to Wellington but yeah, when I came back I did maybe 3 shows.
Leilani walking in the New Zealand Wedding Magazine Collection show at NZFW 2013
ME: You’ve talked about how you started your blog when you were in New York and a lot of what you write about is fashion, so how did you break through getting to cover shows at Fashion Week and being the chief blogger for the likes of Boo Hoo – was that a ‘people you know’ type thing or did you work your way up?
LEILANI: Well obviously the core of my audience came from Dave sharing my posts, like every once in a while he might link a post to my blog and then people would become aware of it so that’s where I think I got my core audience from. But in terms of the fashion stuff, it would have been at least a couple of years before I got any invites from PR companies or anything, and it was really slow as well and I didn’t have any idea of how that world worked. I’d started putting up more pictures of myself and then I realised that people responded to that. I realised when I looked at my stats, that when I put up pictures of myself, that people click, you know. It might not be the most engaging content, but people just want to look at pictures of you, and that’s why Instagram is popular! So I was like, ok this is a thing that people like to see, as eat arse as that sounds, so I tried to do more of that and then I think the break through might have been when there was a Fashion Weekend, which was the one for the public, and I got an email from the organisers from the Fashion Weekend and they asked me to do an interview for them – so I did that, and I think maybe that was when other companies might have seen me. From that and there was one person who used to work at a PR company who did Boohoo and she got in touch.
For ages I was just doing stuff for Boohoo and that one particular PR company because they were the only ones who emailed you know – so it was sweet. I don’t even know if any of this makes sense, but I just kept doing it I think is the main thing – I just kept blogging and I think you just need one person to find you and take an interest in what you do and if that one person is influential enough then other people will see that as well.
I think some companies might have known that I was around because of Dave and they probably follow what Dave does but I think also bloggers are popping up all the time so they want to make sure that you’re actually serious about it. I think I’d been doing it for about 2 years before people were like, OK this isn’t just some little hobby. Once one person takes notice then other people start taking notice of you, and then that’s how that happens.
Also, a huge thing for me is just being friends with Katherine from Katherine is Awesome – she taught me heaps about how things work and she probably told people to start emailing me because she has lots of good relationships with them. So she was probably like, oh this girl Lani blogs and she’s Daves girlfriend probably (laughs) and was like you guys should email her – so heaps of it would have come from her I reckon.
ME: Did your blog have anything to do with say for example if you had the Music Awards coming up – designers wanting to dress you?
LEILANI: I don’t think that designers wanting to dress me – at the beginning – had anything to do with my blog, it was just because they knew that Dave was likely to take me so they offered to dress me as well. It was more just the association with Dave.
My favourite red carpet look – Lani with fiance David Dallas, both wearing Zambesi at the 2012 VNZMAs
ME: You said you needed to be consistent with your blogging and that if one person knew you then other people would follow – did this then have a domino effect?
LEILANI: Not really – it wasn’t a huge domino effect – there’s still people who don’t email me or invite me, you know? So essentially for me it was one key person and then I think I kept a good relationship with her and when she moved on to different places she kept me in mind. She’s been a huge asset and supporter of mine and as a result I’ve always felt quite loyal to whatever she does as well. So for ages it was just that one person and that one company but more recently and I think last year I had a bit of a breakthrough again. Which is cool, but at the same time is hard to balance because sometimes you can feel obliged to post about things, you feel flattered that they’ve discovered you, and they want to give you stuff, so last year I feel like I did a lot of that and then I was like, ‘hang on – why am I doing this’, you know? So I’ve tried to be more selective, and try to get back more to I guess ‘Me’ and what I like. Back to the Fashion week thing, the first fashion week, I emailed every designer asking to go to their show, because otherwise I’d just think you sit around waiting for an invite, but they don’t know you exist, so I emailed the PR company, or I emailed the designer, and I’d be like ‘this is how many people like my facebook page, this is my social media reach type thing and this is what I plan to cover’, etc. so the very first fashion week I covered I pitched myself a little bit and emailed every single person ASKING to come.
ME: Did you get responses from all of them?
LEILANI: Nah not all of them, but from a lot of them yeah, so I got to go to quite a few shows.
ME: Did it help that you had modelled at Fashion Week before?
LEILANI: Nah it’s totally different – I think if I was like a big model like Ngahuia or a big name model, then it would help, but I’m not, so it doesn’t help (laughs)
ME: So have you really enjoyed the Stylist side of the ‘Month of N’? Was that a concept that you put together?
LEILANI: Yeah, it’s been awesome and no, the concept came from the photographer (Karen Ishiguro) who shot the Month of N. My agency now is ‘N Model Management’ and she went to see Ngahuia who runs ‘N’ and was like I want to do this and then they asked me to be involved as like a platform to put the content out. So that idea came from them and it’s been real awesome. And it’s been awesome working with Ngas as well because she has a really good eye. So even though I’ve been styling she’s been that extra eye for detail you know which has been good because I haven’t really styled before except for myself you know?
Because she’s been a top model for so long she sees things that I don’t, and she’s real on to it like that and she knows what makes a good photo and all that kind of stuff, that’s real interesting.
So yeah, modelling didn’t necessarily help me with the fashion side of things in terms of going to events and stuff, but being a model helps with the styling I think because you get to watch other stylists work on you and you kind of get to know how it works.
If I hadn’t gone to Fashion Week and all those sorts of things, and if I hadn’t made those connections with the PR companies – I wouldn’t have been able to style it. I wouldn’t have understood what to do, and before this I would have thought you just go into a shop and ask if you can borrow the clothes from the shop.
Before I started blogging, I didn’t know that there were show rooms that you borrowed samples from so yeah, it’s been a couple of years of learning, and then with the ‘Month of N’ project I’ve been able to take all the little things I’ve learned along the way and people that I’ve met – I’ve been able to utilize that for this project.
Leilani featured in the “Month of N” – this particular shoot was shot in the middle of the Papatoetoe Night Markets in South Auckland. My son Rocky is pictured with her above.
ME: Now that you’re a bit older from your uni days – do you have a personal style or designers that you really, really like?
LEILANI: Sometimes the designers that I really like, are not who I’d wear, but like I love Zambesi and I’d wear Zambesi all the time if I could afford it. I think if I wasn’t so lazy I’d have way more of a slick style but I never get up in time to do my hair or my makeup so it’s generally quite casual but that’s just because I’m disorganised.
I think it’s still very casual, very hip hop but not super B-Boy style or anything, I think it’s more like hip hop inspired or whatever. And I think I like to have a simple, clean look. I like to keep it simple generally, and I think when you’re like 6ft2 you can’t be too all over the show (laughs) I mean you can, but people will be like ‘What dress-up party are you going to?’
Leilani behind the scenes at a David Dallas video shoot in New York.
Being on Daves shoots has helped on the stylist side of things too.
Well, really there’s this one stylist in New Zealand that I love and it’s Dan Awa and I’ve been able to work with him a little bit as a model and then I’ve been able to watch him as a stylist as well, and so that’s been really cool seeing how he works.
ME: So has he styled Dave?
LEILANI: Yeah, he’s styled Dave in his more recent videos and because Dave would always be stressing out about getting clothes for his videos and stuff, so I was like ‘why don’t you just get a stylist? There’s this guy who’s awesome’ so I put him in touch with Dan and then Dave has kept using him and I’ve been able to watch as well which has been quite cool. He can recognise Dave’s aesthetic and keep in line with that.
ME: I have to ask – the “METRO – AUCKLANDS HOTTEST COUPLE” award – was that a huge highlight of the year for you?
LEILANI: Yeah, that was cool! It’s quite buzzy – yeah, it’s quite a buzzy thing to have happened aye? I met the girl Delaney who had pitched it to Metro and they said we were getting the cover, but you never want to be telling people it’s the cover in case it’s not. It’s never the cover until it’s the cover kinda thing, and we didn’t know we were going to be on billboards and stuff (laughs).
I was actually a bit worried because when you say “Hottest Couple” that’s up for debate, and I was kind of worried people would be like ‘WHATEVER!’ but no-one really said anything and I think it was because the cover was so cool you know? We weren’t trying to be sexy and it wasn’t corny – it was just a cool, strong image, that it didn’t matter how hot you were, you know, cos it was just COOL.
The Metro magazine cover – Best of Auckland 2013 – Auckland’s Hottest couple – David Dallas and Leilani Momoisea
ME: Yeah, for me as your sister it was cool to see that whole Metro thing because it wasn’t just that you were Daves partner but the article highlighted all the things that you do as well
LEILANI: Yeah, it’s cool seeing things like that and it’s cool reading stuff that other people write about you because I forget that I do that myself because when it’s a part of your life, like being a journalist is something I’ve done for years and then blogging is something I’ve done for years now as well.
EDITORS NOTE: Oh wait – thats me! I’m the editor lol!
As you can imagine – as an older sister I’m super proud of Lanz and what she’s achieved with her career, modelling, blogging and now styling. When we were growing up she was always our baby sister that we played dress-ups on & it was great because we had a real live baby to play ‘Mothers and Fathers’ with lol. We’ve actually laughed at all the photos I’m carrying her around in and being the eldest I’ve also been very protective of all my younger siblings. We grew up in the islands until I was nearly 18 and Lani would have been 9 or 10 when we moved back to our family home in Napier, NZ. I had already left school but Lani was in her last year of primary school. Coming back from the islands where we pretty much just ran round barefoot with a singlet and shorts – we weren’t ‘fashionable’ , we weren’t exactly rich so we didn’t have label or designer clothes and a bunch of snotty kids would tease Lanz every day about her clothes and tease her that she was poor and had no money and her clothes were ugly. What I would have given to go down to that primary school and layeth the smacketh down on all those candy as$ little kids but since I had to go to work – every morning I’d tell her “Fight the Power Lanz” and every morning – whatever item of clothing the kids had teased her about the day before – she made sure she wore it again that day. She held her head up high and never let those kids get to her even though they teased and were mean to her about her clothes the whole year.
The first time I saw Leilani and Dave on a billboard in Auckland for their ‘Hottest couple’ cover, I had a bit of a flashback to her “Fight the Power” days and I laughed thinking I wonder where those kids are now? because right now I’m looking at my sister on the cover of Metro magazines billboard in Auckland City. God has the coolest sense of humour!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY LANZ!! LOVE YOU xx FIGHT THE POWER xx
Lani, myself and our cousin Livi at Daves ‘Rose Tint’ album release a few years ago. Photo Credit: Raymond Sagapolutele
Some of my personal fave shots of Lanz that I’ve taken and you can check out more of them over on my tumblr page ….
We all got a buzz out of seeing Lani in Justin Wu’s X Life + Times Fashion Week lip-syncing vid to Empire State of Mind
She was also featured on IAMTV when she was covering NZFW