For this year’s 91st annual Lei Day Celebration, Lei Queen Charlene Leimomi Irvine and her court make their first public appearance May 1, at Kapiolani Park. Every year since 1928, a lei queen has been chosen from one of four age groups: na opio (youth, 18–30 years), na makua (adults, 31–45 years), na makua oo (elders in training, 46–60 years) and na kupuna (the elders, 61 and over). This is the year of the kupuna and so, at age 67, Irvine was encouraged by her kumu hula (teacher) to apply.
Contestants were judged on a variety of skills, including modern hula, one-hour lei making and proficiency in olelo Hawaii (Hawaiian language). And among all the contestants, it was Irvine’s hula and olelo that shined brightest.
“As lei queen, I just want to portray our culture," says Irvine. “I want to show to my kupuna and my ohana that I am proud to be who I am.” During her time as lei queen, Irvine will make an appearance at several events including the Kamehameha Day Parade, Mango Jam Honolulu and the Aloha Week Parade.
For more information about the Lei Day celebration at Kapiolani Park, visit honolulu.gov.