Shannon Karaka took the title at the Mr. Polynesia 2017 competition in Australia last week. This year the pageant's theme was to raise awareness around mental health in Polynesian men.
The competition was held recently in Sydney where 9 contestants took to the stage, not only to woo the crowd but to raise awareness around mental illness, an issue that resonates with Shannon and his family.
Shannon Karaka (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) says, "I lost a family member to mental illness a couple years ago so I didn't really know that the whole event was to raise mental health awareness at the start but it's close to me and my family. We felt the tragedies of losing someone to mental health first hand."
The very first Mr. Polynesia pageant saw a group of strangers band together to form a brotherhood. Their mission, to give back to their communities.
"We fed the homeless and participated in other events as well, tried to give back to the community and I think for me that was really good. I think service to others is where you truly find happiness."
In Australia, the leading cause of death for men aged 16-54 is suicide. Shannon and his two brothers took this issue to the stage in the form of an original haka.
"We created a haka on suicide and the haka basically speaks about suicide is a problem within our community and we need to band together to make a difference and to love and support those who are suffering."
Shannon is awaiting confirmation on what his newly found title will entail. He also shares his hopes to receive invitation from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson for any future acting roles.