Son: All because of love

Setareki Wainiqolo (third from left) with his mum and supporters at his graduation at Yale. Picture: SUPPLIED

A FIJIAN man’s desire to become an actor, spurred on by the support of his mother, has led him to become the first Fijian to graduate from Yale University in the Master’s in Fine Arts program. Setareki Wainiqolo took the words “you can be anything you want to be” that his mother Karalaini Sewale often repeated to him over the phone literally.

Over a period of 10 years, Ms Sewale offered him advice over the telephone from the United States while Wainiqolo was living in Fiji.

“She literally raised me over the phone by calling two or three times a week, this was before Facebook and video calls,” he said.

While attending Marist Brothers High School in Fiji, he told his friends that he wanted to be an actor and their advice was to “get a real job”.

Speaking at an event in New York City held in his honour this week, he said there were three things that drove his ambition to become an actor — the first being the people who brought him up in Kalabu and Naluwai villages in Naitasiri. The second was his mother’s passion for theatre and love for him.

“Mum was a theatre performer, she was an actress at our theatre in Fiji, The Fiji Arts Club. “She took me to rehearsals and that exposure really did something in my heart.

“This dream that I am encountering is a dream of my mother, she should be the one standing here. “Unfortunately it was a time when those opportunities were not available, but I carry that dream with her every day and this is not my win, this is our win.

“And when the day comes to walk on any red carpet, Love (his pet name for his mother), you are going to be on my arm and we are going to celebrate that beautiful day, that is going to be our moment.

“And Love, you have always strengthened me every time I thought I was going to fail. “My friends said I was crazy for wanting to be an actor.

“And you always said ‘you can be anything you want to be, just make sure you stay in school, learn your English and make sure you can speak it well’.

“As a child you were the only one who said that, and it never escaped me.” The third motivator has been his faith in God. “There is one Bible verse I always held on to and that I go to every now and then, it’s Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

“And Love, the plans are falling into place, they are coming true and the blessings are pouring out from above.”

Wainiqolo moved to the US and was reunited with his mother when he was 16 after being raised by relatives in Naluwai Village, Naitasiri.

He attended International School and then MBHS in Suva and Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, California.

In 2009, Wainiqolo was accepted into the California Lutheran University on a generous scholarship and began studies as a major in Multimedia and Film.

He lost interest in being behind the camera and enrolled in Moorpark College where he pursued acting studies.

Wainiqolo returned to California Lutheran University and graduated in Theatre Arts. During a tour of Chicago schools, he was asked to audition for Yale.

“The rest, as they say is history,” the 27-year-old said.

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