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Honolulu’s 90th Lei Queen and court crowned

Nina Wu
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From left, First Princess Helen Mealoha Yuk Jun Kuoha-Torco, Lei Queen Charlene Leimomi Irvine, Princess Sharon Rose Marie Au-Curtis, and Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell crowned Charlene Leimomi Irvine the city’s 90th Lei Queen on Saturday at Kapolei Hale.

Irvine and her court, First Princess Helen Mealoha Yuk Jun Kuoha-Torco and Princess Sharon Rose Marie Au-Curtis, will make their official debut at the 91st Annual Lei Day Celebration festivities May 1, and serve as the city’s Ambassadors of Aloha at a variety of public events.

Irvine was first introduced to hula at the age of four with her formal lessons and lei making instruction beginning at the age of 11. The retired medical transcriptionist for the Queen’s Medical Center and mother of four continues her passion for hula today as a haumana for Na Kupuna O’ Ko’olau under the direction of Kumu James and Michael Dela Cruz.

Kuoha-Torco, a native of Kalihi with a doctorate degree from Nova Southeastern University, is a retired Windward Community College professor. She works as a substitute teacher at Farrington High School, her alma mater.

She is the Tahitian dancer featured in the introduction of the original “Hawaii Five-0” with Jack Lord, and has also worked as a hula dancer for various establishments around Waikiki. She has six children, four stepsons, 30 grandchildren, and one great grandson. She began making lei in 1969 to adorn horses and pa’u riders, but her specialty these days is patched quilts.

Sharon Rose Marie Au-Curtis, a Waimanalo native and Windward Community College graduate, has been making lei and dancing hula since she was a keiki. Besides fundraising for Daughters of Hawaii and lobbying for lupus research funding, she is a haumana of Halau Na Pua Hala Kunou i ke Kai.

This year’s competition, Na Kupuna, featured ladies 61 years old and older. Each contestant was scored on the following skills: one-hour lei making, the English and Hawaiian languages, modern hula, and poise/personality.

The Lei Day Celebration will be held from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on May 1 at Kapiolani Park, with the theme “Lei ‘Alohi Kea (the brilliant white lei, the platinum of kupuna).” More information on the celebration, in addition to free lei making workshops, is available at honoluluparks.com.

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