I Thought I Recognised Her - Josie Èdan Oloito'a

Photo: Brendan Kitto

Photo: Brendan Kitto

Josie Èdan Oloito'a talks about being a Samoan feminist comfortable with talking about sex, Instagram nudes and the increasingly popular Josie & T Youtube video series she co-hosts.

If anyone from Auckland is asking, I’ll say I’m from Wellington. If anyone from Wellington is asking, I’ll say I’m from Lower Hutt, which is my suburb. If any white person asks, I’ll say I’m from Samoa, and if a guy in town is asking, I’ll just say I’m from my Mum’s vagina. The boys kind of laugh, they think I’m just playing hard to get, and if that doesn’t work, I just pretend I’m deaf. Some of them get really aggressive, and then they start cussing me out. I’m like, would you cuss out an actual deaf person, for not being able to hear you? They can’t take rejection. It’s because they feel entitled to you. Then it’s, ‘you’re ugly anyway.’ Sorry, I wasn’t ugly 5 seconds ago.

I’m studying communications because I wanted to get into media. At first I wanted to be a journalist, I wanted to get into journalism and I wanted to be a TV news presenter. I don’t know if that’s because I actually care about the news, or I just wanted to be on TV. I got into social media, and now I know where I want to go. Everything is moving towards the internet these days. Everything is online. We watch shows online, we don’t really watch it on TV anymore. So I got into communications because I just want to do something in media.  

Photo: Brendan Kitto

Photo: Brendan Kitto

To be honest, the things I talk about [on my instagram], people have been talking about sex and themselves long before I was born. I think my point of difference is the fact that I’m brown, and I talk about these things. The question I get asked the most from people is, 'what does your family think about what you do?' If I was a just a white girl doing it, nobody would give a shit really. I’d probably only have 1,000 followers, I mean like, just white people being white. But because I’m Samoan, I’m going against all the values our culture drills into us, which is like, modesty, humility, submission. Especially cos I’m a woman. A Samoan, brown, young woman. Being brown is pretty much my point of difference and that’s why I have so many followers.

I didn’t even know what feminism was until Instagram. That’s where I learnt everything, Instagram. I just followed all these confident, amazing, Instagram famous girls. I wanted to be them. The things they were talking about, I had to google, and watch documentaries, to get different perspectives.

I feel like feminism has been so white lately. White women are like, “Yeah, feminism!” But when it comes to brown issues, they don’t care. You’re not a true feminist if you don’t care about everyone’s struggles, intersectionality.

Photo: Brendan Kitto

Photo: Brendan Kitto

Earlier on my instagram, I used to post nudes. Very tasteful, beautiful nudes. Topless pics and stuff like that. Because I don’t care. That was more the white feminist in me. 'Free the nipple’ really introduced me to everything else, like deeper feminism. The fact that a nipple is so offensive but they show beheadings and stuff. So, violence is OK, but your anatomy, your body isn’t? That shook me. I stopped posting nudes as much because the family thing came into play there. My Dad has called me a prostitute. I think the word he was looking for was whore, or slut. But his English is not very good,  so he was telling me off like, “You’re showing your asshole, online. You’re a prostitute.” I was like, no, I’m not having sex with anyone.

My family don’t really talk about it openly, the only time they bring it up is when I’m getting in trouble, and then they bring it up. Brown folks just go off on your entire life, like, this is why you’re shit at school! They go off on everything else, but they don’t really mention it. It’s only recently where they’ve kind of been more open, more accepting of the fact that I do stuff online. They see it’s on youtube and posting meaningful stuff, not just my tits.

Photo: Brendan Kitto

Photo: Brendan Kitto

People were so surprised, when they saw my nudes, they were like, how do you not have welts all over your body from getting hidings for that? Islanders are so weird with me. I feel like people either hate me, or love me, there is no in between. I get messages from brown girls saying I’m an inspiration, I inspire them to be more confident, and be themselves. And then I get messages from some people telling me to put some clothes on and shave my armpits. I’m either an inspiration, or I’m an attention-seeking slut. Depends on who you ask.

The Josie & T video series I do, we just have incredibly marketable chemistry, we only met last year in April, I’ve only known him [Te Awariki Lardelli] a year, but he’s a soul mate. We always have a good time together, he’s so funny, we’re constantly cracking up and we have a lot of the same views on life. He’s a hard out feminist. Which is good because it’s not common in males to be so open about stuff like that.

We have three E’s that we live by, everything we produce has to tick the three boxes. For us, we create content to Educate, Entertain and Empower. If it ticks all those three, that’s cool. There are so many people that are famous for no reason, for like, nothing. We don’t wanna be those people, if we’re gonna have a platform, we’re gonna say something meaningful.