Harold Samu

Talofa. My name is Harold Lee Iusitini Samu, born 1961 in the hood of Mangere, Auckland, New Zealand (NZ). My drag name is Bertha. My mother is Tuiloma Molipopo Samu (deceased) née Iusitini: paternal Sāmoan nu'u (villages) are Sapunaoa and Sa'asatele; maternal nu'u are Pu'apu'a and Falelatai. Daughter of London Missionary Society (LMS) ministers, my mother converted to the Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) church before marrying my father. My father is Leatufale Lila Samu (deceased): paternal nu'u is Salelesi; maternal nu'u are Faleula & Iva. I am Fa'afafine. I tell my story through a series of dolls dressed in outfits I've worn throughout my drag career.

I have always loved female artists of great stature and body, and wanted to pick a drag name of Wagnerian proportions so I chose Bertha. In the first Sister Act film, Whoopi Goldberg's character talks about her neighbour named Buckwheat Bertha. I just loved it.
My drag sister, Edward Cowley, took the name of Buckwheat and we've been connected ever since.

From mid 1980s to early 2000s, I participated in community activism, beginning as soon as I entered the Auckland gay community. I marched for Homosexual Law Reform in NZ in 1986.

I have sat on the boards for the Hero Party/Festival/Parade and the NZ AIDS Foundation.

I was a founding member of the AFA group for Pasifika gay men and Fa'afafine in Auckland in the late 1990s. Probably because both my parents were active in trade unions and workers' rights, having worked in factories all their lives in New Zealand, I am an activist for workers' rights. My foci for activism these days are around LGBTQIA rights, particularly transgender rights and climate change.

In a gay sense, challenging gender norms as a man dressing as a woman has been to challenge the patriarchy and societal norms. It is an act as old as humanity. It has been a platform to express my feminine side while entertaining people. It gives expression to characteristics that Harold the Fa'afafine may not display in real life, like outrageousness and cutting humorous banter.

As a Fa'afafine, it has been tremendously rewarding to be acknowledged by your community and your queer peers as a person of influence and as a group of influence. Drag is about performance whereas being Fa'afafine is about gender identity. At the invitation of Yuki Kihara, I reflected on aspects of my life so that each doll captures a different period or moment in my life through costuming.

Harold Samu

Paradise Camp Soundtrack
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