Alanna Smith is a true Pacific beauty. She is sportswoman, a role model, an environmentalist and a former Miss Cook Islands.
Last month she was honoured by World Netball for achieving her 50th international test cap as she and her Cook Islands team were competing for a spot in the World Cup.
If anyone has seen the Cook Islands netball team in action, Alanna is someone you would not miss.
She was crowned as Miss Cook Islands in 2017 and went on to represent her nation in the 2017 Miss World pageant that was held in China in November of the same year.
One of 120 contestants competing for the Miss World title, she was first runner up in a competitive field, and reached the top 20 in the Beauty with a Purpose category.
“It was pretty random actually to be representing the nation at Miss World. I would have never imagined myself doing something like that, but I learned a lot from it about myself, and what I was capable of doing so I am grateful for that opportunity,” Alanna said.
Netball is a sport she fell in love with at a very young age; she had started playing from the moment she knew how to catch a ball.
“I think netball runs in my family for so many years, from my aunties to my first cousins, and I was playing netball when I was as young, maybe five or six years old,” she said.
She encouraged young aspiring netballers in the region to be passionate about the sport, train hard, and be dedicated to improving their game.
“If you love it, I think you have to have a real passion for the sport, and if that comes first then everything else will fall into place. If you enjoy your game then you will have an amazing game, so love the sport and go for it.”
But there is more to Alanna than meets the eye. She is an environment conservationist and works as a project officer for the Te Ipukarea Society, a non-government organisation based in the Cook Islands.
“The majority of the work that we do is around environmental conservation, so we working with our native, endemic biodiversity and protecting what we have back at home, especially our natural resources,” she said.
In 2017, Alanna and fellow project officer Liam Kokaua started taking school children to the conservation areas, connecting them with Cook Islands’ native animals.
It is something that she still does. The Cook Islands is made up of 15 islands and only one of them is uninhabited. Suwarrow is a bird sanctuary for marine birds, and Alanna has spent weeks on the island with her environmental team either helping conserve the bird species or clearing plastics that find their way to the island because of the ocean currents.
She is also a deep believer that every Pacific islander should be connected to their land and ocean and use culture and tradition to protect and conserve the natural beauty the Pacific has to offer.
For now, she is back in the Cook Islands doing what she loves.