Week 26 – Hilo, Hawaii – April 15, 2012 – 155 lbs

Most states on the mainland have their sports and teams that they cherish – football, basketball, baseball, NASCAR – the banners and logos and hats and t-shirts are everywhere when the teams play. In Hawaii, once a year at this time, our little Hilo town comes alive with the Merrie Monarch Festival.

This is the Super Bowl and Olympics of hula rolled into one week, an internationally acclaimed competition that brings out the most dedicated hula dancers in the state – men, women, old, young, large, small, mostly of Hawaiian descent, who have studied the art, the traditions, and the culture – and have spent thousands of hours preparing for this revered event.

This year, the most coveted honor, Miss Aloha Hula, went to Rebecca Lilinoekekapahauomaunakea Sterling. Yes, people here often have long Hawaiian names like that! What I love is that women don’t have to be slim and drop-dead gorgeous to earn this title; it’s based on skill, dedication to the art, and pure performance. Many of the dancers are large, some are old, some are incredibly beautiful, but no matter what size you are, if this is what is in your heart, the hula community will welcome you.