Maui dancer is crowned Merrie Monarch’s Miss Aloha Hula

Maui’s Shalia Kapuau’ionalani Kikuyo Kamakaokalani won the Miss Aloha Hula competition late Thursday night at the 55th annual Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo.

The 21-year-old Haliimaile resident studies Hawaiiana at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and dances with Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka of Waiohuli. It is under the direction of kumu hula Napua Greig.

“We are so proud of her,” said Karen Kamakaokalani, Shalia’s mother, by phone from Hawaii island on Friday.

“She is my daughter, so I always think she is the best dancer. I know she was capable of doing it. She is just like that. She is full of aloha.”

Shalia Kamakaokalani bested 11 other dancers, including fellow Maui resident Meagan Puanani Guerrero of Halau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi, to take the soloist title. They were the only two Maui entries in the competition this year.

Shalia Kapuau‘ionalani Kikuyo Kamakaokalani of Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka celebrates with her kumu hula, Napua Greig, after Kamakaokalani captured the Miss Aloha Hula title at the 55th annual Merrie Monarch Festival on Hawaii island Thursday night. The group competition finishes today. Photo courtesy of Napua Greig

Shalia Kamakaokalani could not be reached for comment Friday. Her mother said the dancers do not have their cellphones with them because they were busy practicing and focusing on the competition, which continues through today.

But, on a Facebook Live video Thursday night by K5 The Home Team, which is broadcasting the competition, Kamakaokalani said: “I’m feeling speechless. So piha (full) with so much emotion. I feel like I’m dreaming.”

The 2014 graduate of Kamehameha Schools Maui said she didn’t know what to expect of the results.

She said she knew she had strong competition from other dancers who “are absolutely amazing.”

Kamakaokalani danced to “Lei No Kapi’olani” for her hula kahiko, or ancient hula. It focuses on Kapi’olani’s journey around Maui.

Maui’s Shalia Kapuau‘ionalani Kikuyo Kamakaokalani of Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka of Waiohuli took the Miss Aloha Hula soloist title Thursday night at the 55th annual Merrie Monarch Festival on Hawaii island. CHELSIE MACHADO photo.

For her hula auana, or modern hula, performance she danced to “Ka’iulani,”which honors the princess.

The song is the same one that kumu Greig danced to when she competed in the Miss Aloha Hula contest years ago.

“Kumu gave her that song to dance,” Karen Kamakaokalani said.

“I think for her (Shalia) it was a big honor,” she said. “I think it was.”

Greig also said on the Facebook live interview that halau members were all very happy and proud of Kamakaokalani.

“She exceeded every expectation even before the awards. The award is extra.”

Greig said that there were also “some of the best dancers” she has seen on the stage on Thursday.

“So we are just grateful for this.”

This is also the halau’s last Merrie Monarch competition, at least for now, Greig has said. She said she and the halau were looking to do other things.

In 2013, Greig’s dancer Manalani Mili Hokoana English captured the Miss Aloha Hula crown.

Other Maui halau in the past have captured the soloist title while still others have taken second place and some in the past have won the Hawaiian Language Award.

As for Kamakaokalani, she has been dancing hula since she was 4 years old, her mother said.

“She used to watch her cousins dance, and she used to follow them when she was little,” said Karen Kamakaokalani. “She liked it. She never grumbled.”

There were some tense moments Thursday night when Karen Kamakaokalani, along with family and friends, some who flew in from the Mainland, waited for their dancer’s name to be called.

“We was like all nervous,” Karen Kamakaokalani said.

“She cannot not have placed. She was so good,” she said they all thought.

But as soon as the announcer read a portion of Shalia’s name, “everyone went crazy.”

“I’m just so proud of her. All of her accomplishments,” Karen Kamakaokalani said. “All of her family is so proud of her. We love her.”

The Merrie Monarch competition finishes tonight. Halau will dance the modern hula, or auana, with overall competition awards announced following the performances.

Maui has three halau competing, including Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka. The other two are Halau Kekuaokala’au ‘ala’iliahi, along with Halau O Ka Hanu Lehua.

The live broadcast begins at 6 p.m. on K5 (Channels 5, 85, and 1005), or it’s streamed online at

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at

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