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Quote Unquote: Happy Birthday to the 2016 Honolulu Lei Queen

Carol Ann Makana Lani Moore Yamada runs two companies, raises two surf champions and is this year’s lei queen.


Photo: David Croxford 

“It’s just been so much fun,” says Carol Ann Makana Lani Moore Yamada, about being this year’s Honolulu Lei Queen. There’s a lot of making lei, dancing hula and putting on false eyelashes—quite a departure from her day jobs: running a PR company, Moore Ideas Inc.; building a liquidation, consignment and appraisal company; and raising her daughters, three-time World Surf League champion surfer Carissa Moore and Cayla Moore, a two-time National Scholastic Surfing Association champion.


MAY 1 is my birthday, so my memory of Lei Day is, my tūtū wahine would make me a beautiful pink pua carnation lei every year for my birthday from the flowers she grew in her backyard in Kaimukī. I would wear it to school, and it was the biggest, baddest lei. I felt so special.


THE EXPERIENCE OF running for Lei Queen was interesting to me because dancing hula is a requirement. I took hula when I was 10 and then I went on with my life. Coming back to it as an older person, my ‘ōkole hurt.


I RUN two companies, I raised two kids. I thought, “I can do this.” But it was so challenging. You have to dance hula, know ‘ōlelo and make lei in front of the judges. I prepared for this for over a year.


I GO 100 miles per hour in my life. I’m Type A, I’m fast-paced and I like it that way. But you can’t be that way when you’re making lei. I would have the phone ringing, the TV on, my kids talking to me, and the lei would never turn out right. You have to be centered. You have to take the time and think about the lei you’re making, what it means and who it’s for. It has taught me to be in the moment and to relax, because I’m not normally like that.


I HAD THE BEST, most awesome childhood. Every Friday, we would pack up the station wagon and head to a beach house our family had in Hale‘iwa. No chores, no housecleaning, I don’t know how my mom did it. We would fish and swim and go on our boats. Our cousins would come over. We had memories you wouldn’t believe.


FROM THE TIME their umbilical cords fell off, Carissa and Cayla were in the water. I remember being in the pool with Cayla and she was only days old. They were still in diapers and on surfboards. We were at the beach almost every day. That was our release, that was our family time. For me, as a mom, I wanted them to enjoy their lives, go to birthday parties and proms. I wanted them to have the best of both worlds.


LEI HAS LOST its meaning with the younger generation. To Hawaiians, lei was a form of jewelry. There was no Cartier, Rolex or diamonds. They made lei, and it was priceless to them. To me, lei has so many meanings. I think back to my popo (grandma) and it’s just the ultimate symbol of love to me.


Did you know? This year, the city Lei Queen competition was open to women between 31 and 45 years old. The theme was Lei Hinahina, or silver lei, which hints at a maturing glint of silver.


The 89th annual Lei Day Celebration is held on May 1 at Kapi‘olani Park. It’s free and open to the public, with live music, hula performances and the lei contest exhibit. 




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Honolulu Magazine April 2019
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