We asked Parris Goebel questions from 3 emerging Polynesian and Māori leaders

19 November 2019
By Fashion Quarterly

Here's what she had to say.

Parris Goebel

Game-changing dancer, choreographer and world famous Kiwi, Parris Goebel answers questions from three young women who are inspiring in their own right

She choreographed Rihanna’s groundbreaking Savage x Fenty show at New York Fashion Week, and has collaborated with Jennifer Lopez, Justin Bieber, Blackpink, Sam Smith, Ciara and more.

A global success story, choreographer Parris Goebel is helping to inspire the next generation of young women to achieve their dreams. We asked three emerging Polynesian and Māori leaders to share a question for the star.

Any advice for passionate young Pasifika women who are told they’re ‘too much’, intimidating, etc?Latayvia Tualasea Tautai, student and co-founder of Labournesia

Say, “Yeah, I am. And what? I think I am too much and I’m proud of that.” I’d rather be too much than nothing at all.

My advice is, you have to be proud of that. You are who you are, and you can’t spend any energy or time trying to change that. So be proud and use it to your best ability.

When I walk into a room, people know I’m the boss. People know I’m in control of who I am and what I’m doing – and there’s strength and beauty in that.

I’m sure there are so many people who have their opinions about me, but we can’t spend our time as women trying to please everyone. So I would say: now’s your time to shine, to be confident, to be too much. Because not everyone’s gonna handle you.


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Do you think what you wear or how you present yourself can be a form of taking up space? If I’m presenting myself as a Polynesian woman, I’m conscious about what I wear or how I fix my hair, and I wonder if I’m overthinking or if it does matter when you’re trying to create a presence.Brianna Fruean, climate activist

From a very young age, I expressed myself through clothes. A lot of times my parents weren’t happy with what I was wearing. But you have to look at yourself in the mirror, and you have to be proud of who you are.

I think a lot of people live their lives trying to please everyone and trying to look a certain way and they live very unhappy lives. So at a young age, I realised that I’m happiest when I express myself – whether it’s through dance, clothes, makeup, videos. I learnt that’s what makes me feel like I can look myself in the mirror and say, “Hey, I love you.”

I would say it’s about finding that confidence and courage, to put yourself out in the world exactly how you want to. But at the same time, because I am Polynesian, there are definitely times and places where you need to respect culture.

It’s that balance of being conscious of both: express yourself on the daily, and then when it’s church or a family function or anything in the Polynesian culture, it’s really important to be respectful.

Because if you take pride in yourself, then that means you take pride in your culture, where you’re from, and your elders. All of that ties in together.


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New Zealand has been diagnosed with a severe allergy to tall poppies, and I’m sure you have had to deal with much shade and side-eye along with your success. How do you navigate haters while remaining the Polynesian principles of #humble and #blessed?Tayi Tibble, poet and writer

It’s about balance. I’ve actually talked to the prime minister about this: sometimes we confuse being humble with holding back. When an opportunity arises, we’re not the first to put our hands up and say, “I can do it.”

There’s a difference: I think humble is remembering where you came from, who’s helped you along the way, where you started, that you started from the bottom. That’s being humble, but you have to be confident and hungry at the same time.

The wrong idea of humble can stop you from achieving your wildest dreams. I had to learn that the hard way: I would go to an audition or class and be at the back, and guess what? They’re not going to choose you if you’re at the back.

You have to be passionate and you have to be proud of your talents and be able to put yourself in the front. It doesn’t mean that you’re not humble.

I think we get it mixed up a lot. It’s how you treat people, it’s what you give back to your community. It’s what you put back into people that helped you, or the next generation. Being confident and putting your hand up doesn’t mean you aren’t humble.

I work hard at trying to change that stigma and helping our young people understand that, because that’s why they hold back a lot of the time.


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What kind of ancestor do you hope to be?Latayvia Tualasea Tautai, student and co-founder of Labournesia

I always think about what kind of mother I want to be, to start with. I see myself as a rule breaker; I broke the mould. The chance of what I’m doing today was one in a million – so I hope to inspire my future family to do the same thing.

When you’re raised in New Zealand, while we’re awesome, sometimes we can have tunnel vision. So I’ve worked my entire life to break that mould; thinking big and dreaming big.

I’ve literally achieved everything that I’ve dreamed of, and that’s what I hope for everyone who comes after me. I want my kids to be like, ‘mum, if you could do it, I can do it’.

This story originally featured in Fashion Quarterly Issue 4 2019

Interview: Zoe Walker Ahwa
Photo: Michael James Rooke for Fashion Quarterly

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