HONOLULU Family Cover Kids: Where They Are Now
OK, spoiler alert: They’re all (well, almost all) in Hawai‘i, going to school and all grown up! Here are the updates.
I love our Cover Kids. I’m not exaggerating. Every child I have had the privilege of working with for our covers—and their amazing and always game families, by the way—has a special place in my heart. When I bump into them later in stores, at HONOLULU Family events or just out and about, I’m thrilled, often more than they are.
I started working on the photoshoots in 2014 and have been involved in every cover shoot, in some way, since then. As far as I can tell from my research, HONOLULU Family began its open-call Cover Kids Search in the current format in 2009, when it was Island Family magazine. So while we continue our hunt for little kids with big smiles and even bigger personalities for our 2022 Cover Kids Search, we thought it would be fun to catch up with some of the keiki you’ve seen on our covers a few years ago. And yes, they do grow up so fast.
Here they are in chronological order.
Arabella, Back-to-School 2014
Arabella was the first Cover Kid I ever worked with. We took her into the cabbage fields of Aloun Farms, which was in Waipi‘o at the time, and had her pose with a big basket of vegetables which the diminutive girl had to lift multiple times over an hour, while her family stood in the dirt on the sidelines.
Favorite Book: A to Z Mysteries, all of them
Favorite Disney Character: Piglet
Favorite Family Activity: Walking together
When She Grows Up: Arabella wants to be an ophthalmologist, just like mommy.
Age: 8th grade
Passions: She loves to play the harp and piano and still does ballet. She also co-founded a nonprofit with her brother, Alec, called Wikivision, which educates young adults about health issues and works to provide free cataract surgery for people without insurance or who are under-insured. She just recently had a virtual charity concert and raised more than $30,000 for free surgeries which will take place in September. wikivision.info Proud mom Vivien says: “She is a caring, bright, considerate individual who will always want to do her best.”
Future Career: She still wants to be an ophthalmologist.
Cover Kid Memories: Mom Vivien: “She remembered that the basket of vegetables was very heavy and she dropped them all!”
See also: 📸 HONOLULU Family’s 2022 Cover Kids Search
Tysen, Spring 2015
Tysen (and his dimples) lit up the streams around the Hawai‘i Nature Center. But in between takes, he and I looked for little shrimp and his dedicated parents tried to entice a giant crayfish out from under a big rock with a fried chicken skin, suggested and supplied by the amazing team at the center.
Favorite Snack: Grape tomatoes
Favorite Family Activity: Play baseball
When He Grows Up: Tysen wants to be a vice principal
Age: 8th grade
Passions: Cooking, singing, and acting. (Fun fact, Tysen and Cover Kid Aya, below, have been in musical productions together.) He’s going to be in his first show at Diamond Head Theatre as part of the children’s ensemble in Oliver.
Cover Kid Memories: “I remember hunting for giant crayfish, falling in the pond and laughing because my pants got wet.”
Aya, Summer 2015
We photographed Aya on a beach on the Windward side with ice cream; a lot of ice cream. The team of Best of HONOLULU Family-winning Frozen Fun Mobile treat truck whipped up more than five different treats multiple times. Our team then passed it, hand-to-hand, from the side of Kamehameha Highway to Aya near the water for a quick few photos before the sprinkle ice cream cones, slush puppy floats, banana splits and more melted away. By the time we were done, we had filled a trash bag of formerly frozen sweets and were all on a sugar high.
Favorite School Subjects: Reading and art
Favorite Family Activities: Going to the beach.
When She Grows Up: Aya wants to be a nurse and a teacher.
Age: 8th grade
Passions: Musical theater. She enjoys dancing, singing and acting. She also started tumbling, takes piano lessons and plays percussion in the school band.
Future Career: Aya has many ideas of what she’d like to do when she gets older: she’s interested in dance, interior design, becoming a movie or TV actor, or becoming a lawyer.
Cover Kid Memories: Aya remembers ice cream melting all over her hands and being really sticky. Mom Colleen: “She also remembers that everyone had to remind her to smile because all she could think about was eating the ice cream while they were taking the pictures. At the end of the shoot, she remembers getting a book, Phoebe and Her Unicorn, which she still has today.”
Zoe, Holiday 2015
Zoe got dressed up in holiday glamour in the middle of July. Finding a party dress and getting into the holiday spirit in the middle of summer can be a challenge, but our fashionable cover kid got it done!
Favorite Movie: Frozen
Favorite Subject in School: Building/designing things with recyclables
When She Grows Up: Zoe wants to be a doctor to help her family.
On Her Christmas List: A puppy!
Age: 6th Grade
Passions: Zoe enjoys tennis and building things with items found around the house. Her favorite activity to do at home is making things on her 3D printer. Also, since a cleanup with Sustainable Coastlines, Zoe often brings a kitchen strainer and jar when we go to the beach to collect microplastics and use it to make art.
Future Career: An engineer. Her goal is to design a bridge or something and have it named after her.
Cover Kid Memories: Zoe remembers the gigantic teddy bear. She also remembers getting attention in class when the cover came out because a classmate brought the magazine to school.
Zoe’s older sister, Sophia, was actually on the cover of the April 2010 issue of Island Family magazine, which became HONOLULU Family in 2012. We couldn’t find an “About Our Cover Kid” in our files, so here is just a little more about her now.
Age Now: 9th grade
Passions: Sophia is a competitive swimmer and a champion backstroke swimmer. She also co-founded USHINE Movement with one of her friends from school last year with a goal to empower girls to love themselves the way they are. It is @u.shine.movement on Instagram. She still also loves fashion and dressing up.
Future Career: Sophia’s goal is to be some kind of specialized doctor in the pediatrics field. She loves kids and would like to help sick kids if she could.
Cover Kid Memories: Mom Linh: “We shot the cover at Maryknoll School and I remember them telling us to come back to apply when she was old enough. I think she just turned 3 when the cover was shot. It might have been the first time we thought of private schools.”
See also: 📸 6 Tips for a Winning Cover Kids Entry
Jennifer, Spring 2016
When we took Jennifer’s photos at the Spalding House, she was a little shy but had a beautiful smile. In order to capture this image, photographer Karen DB had to stand on a chair over Jennifer, who was lying on the ground. Her mom, Jaymie, was the key to getting that natural smile. (She remembers as well! See below.) Jennifer was so sweet, the next year, we had her join Cover Kid Natsumi for a photoshoot at the Polynesian Cultural Center for our Best of HONOLULU Family feature.
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Favorite Book: Good Night Moon
Favorite Sweet Treat: Chocolate cupcakes and brownies
When She Grows Up: Jennifer wants to be a model
Age: 5th grade
Passions: Jennifer still loves art, which is what she told us was her favorite subject then as well. She loves portraits and landscapes and interior design. She enjoys swimming, playing with make-up, reading and working on puzzles. Mom Jaymie says she has become less shy and actually is now modeling with a local agency.
Future Career: Right now, she says she would like to be a family doctor but also look into interior design.
Cover Kid Memories: She remembers painting a picture on the easel and lying down on the grass for the photographer. “To get her to smile and stay focused, I remember having to lie down with her and tickle her so she can smile,” mom Jaymie says. “LOL! That was fun! That cover page sure opened the doors for other opportunities in the modeling world.”
José, Summer 2016
I also remember José as the first Cover Kid who didn’t receive cookies, cupcakes or candy from us. (We always tried to bring one of their favorite treats and a book as a gift for the kids.) His favorite was crackers, which stymied me a bit when I was standing in the cracker aisle at the store. His younger brothers, Julian and Jayden, ate most of them but fortunately, I had packed something else anticipating Jose might be cold after some time in the water. Fun fact: Julian, was on the cover of HONOLULU Magazine’s in April 2018 issue.
Favorite Snack: Crackers
Favorite Subject in School: Science!
When He Grows Up: Jose wants to be a World Cup soccer player.
Age: 6th grade in Florida
Passions: Soccer and baseball. “I love being outdoors.”
Future Career: “I would love to study marine biology.”
Cover Kid Memories: “I remember that after the photo shoot they gave me a cup of grapes and a cup of hot chocolate. That was my favorite part!”
Major, Fall 2016
For our back-to-school issue we went in search of the biggest blackboard wall we could find. We discovered it inside the game room at the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center Hawai‘i. Those stacks of books we created out of the multiple preview copies, dictionaries and other reference titles I stole out of the office and covered in prints created by our art directors. I remember toting the more than 40 volumes into the room. Major was amazing, balancing on those books, but had much more fun when he could let loose on the playground outside in the center’s preschool.
Favorite Movie: Finding Nemo
When He Grows Up: Major wants to be a policeman
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Age: 3rd grade
Passions: Playing football, riding dirt bikes, fishing with his brothers, playing Roblox and mom Stacie says he is an expert YouTube navigator.
Future Career: Major wants to study animal medicine and become a veterinarian.
Cover Kid Memories: He remembers having lots of fun on the playground and the slide on the Kroc Center.
Sophie, Holiday 2016
Sophie was one of our most outgoing Cover Kids ever. She immediately talked with everyone in our studio shoot, in between throwing handfuls of confetti in the air (or using them to decorate her dad’s forehead). The bubbly 6-year-old even grabbed a broom when she saw us sweeping up confetti to reuse in between takes. We had Sophie join us for four photoshoots over the years and, at each, she quickly talked her way into making new friends. We’re not surprised by her picks for a future career (below).
Favorite Snack: Ritz crackers
What Makes Her Laugh: Life
When She Grows Up: Sophie wants to be an animal rescuer.
Age: 8th grade
Passions: Reading fantasy books, writing short stories, participating in student body activities and going dirt bike riding on weekends. She loved traveling, especially to Japan to eat all the food.
Future Career: A journalist, author or civil rights lawyer
Cover Kid Memories: Mom April: “Glitter everywhere! She remembers getting called to her school library to autograph her magazine cover. ♥️”
See also: HONOLULU Family’s 2022 Cover Kids Search
Leiah, Spring 2017
Leiah was the first kid we took out on the water. For our Summer Programs Guide, we worked with the Hawai‘i Kai Yacht Club and one of their classes to take Leiah out in the marina with a whole crew of young skippers behind her. With quickly fading sunlight and a whole fleet of boats moving behind her, getting the shot was challenging, but Leiah made us all feel like it was summer.
Favorite Book: Fancy Nancy
Favorite Thing to do with her Family: Swimming with the dolphins
Leiah’s Dream Summer: Taking a Disney Cruise and going down the slide a “gazillion” times.
Age: 5th grade
Passions: Swimming, soccer, basketball and Tahitian dancing. She also loves to paint on canvas.
Future Career: Leiah would like to study culinary arts and become a chef.
Cover Kid Memories: Leiah loves the ocean and remembers having a blast on her first sailboat experience at sunset.
Natsumi, Summer 2017
Natsumi had an angelic smile, but also a mischievous side—which we should have figured out when we asked her about her favorite thing to do with her family (see answer below). She was one of our most active Cover Kids, tearing around the grounds of the Polynesian Cultural Center in between shots. She kept us laughing throughout the entire day and didn’t hesitate to turn the tables on us and start tickling when we stopped for a group shot (with 2016 cover kid, Jennifer) at the end of the day.
Favorite Thing to do with her Family: Catching lizards and pretending to be a cat named Cleo.
Favorite Snack: Ramen
Likes: LEGO Elves, dancing and Moana
Age: 4th grade
Passions: She loves video games including Animal crossing, Zelda, Pokemon and Minecraft. She also enjoys crafts, building houses with cardboard boxes and painting. She recently started to learn the flute. She does not want to be a model, so mom says she has to snap photos while Natsumi is having fun.
Future Career: She decided she wants to be a scientist after watching Pokemon.
Cover Kid Memories: Mom Hanami: “We remember Karen the photographer got tomatoes crushed on her head by you :).” Editor’s Note: Photographer Karen DB, our art directors and I often did some interesting things to make kids laugh. We have poured water on each other, threatened to tickle the kids, or each other, made various noises and yes, this was the one time I smashed a tomato on Karen’s head—yes, with her consent. And in case you were wondering, cherry tomatoes were Natsumi’s favorite snack which is why we had a bunch of them on hand.
Zeza, Spring 2018
We always ask our Cover Kids for their likes and dislikes so we can match them with our cover concepts to ensure the most natural smile. Mongoose were definitely on Zeza’s no list, but still, she was a trooper when we took her to the park. Fortunately, we spotted roosters and more than a few birds, but none of the rodents. (Phew!) Among her likes, Zeza listed playing basketball, a good thing since the 4-foot-3-inch-tall girl is the daughter of Eran Ganot, UH’s basketball coach. (She is 5 feet 1 inch tall now, by the way.)
Favorite Book: Chapter books including The Descendants, Dog Man and Ever After High
When She Grows Up: Zeza wants to be a singer
Age: 5th grade
Passions: “I love to read, play basketball and sing.”
Future Career: Zeza wants to be a veterinarian to help animals and help stop animal extinction. She already has a dog named Hōkū and a cat named Peaches.
Cover Kid Memories: Zeza remembers touching moss, holding a walking stick and getting to pick a book at the end.
Kingston, Summer 2018
We always wanted to do a photoshoot underwater and Kingston was our water lover. We packed a thermos of hot chocolate and headed to the YMCA on Pali Highway. We didn’t quite realize how tricky it would be to capture a keiki smiling at the camera underwater in just a few seconds before coming up for air. Ultimately, we ended up having to put our creative director, James Nakamura, who was still wearing his work clothes, into the pool so Kingston had someone to swim to instead of immediately turning back toward the wall. As a reward, he also did a photoshoot with us at Wet’n’Wild Hawai‘i, one of our Best of HONOLULU Family winners, while it was closed. So there was no waiting in line to ride the slide!
Favorite Thing to Do: Anything outdoors, especially bicycling, skateboarding, hiking and fishing.
Favorite Food: Chicken wings, pizza, salad, sushi and steak.
Age: 3rd grade
Passions: Surfing and soccer. Mom Kellie says he would do both every day if he could.
Future Career: Professional surfer or police officer.
Cover Kid Memories: “I remember telling him to hold his breath and smile so no bubbles would show in the pictures,” Kellie says with an LOL. “Also that he LOVED being at the water park and taking action shots.”
Brantley, Holiday 2018
We were in the holiday spirit, so his entire family came from ‘Ewa Beach for our photoshoot at the Helemano Tree Farm. While our stylist, Stacey Makiya, fed younger brother all the snacks we had brought for Brantley (ha ha!) his other brothers and sisters were very patient as they waited for their turn. We were amazed a few months after our June photoshoot when we realized one of the winners in our Halloween Costume Contest in October was actually Brantley and his family in disguise.
Favorite Family Pastime: Celebrating birthdays at the arcade
Favorite School Subject: Writing and grammar
What He Wants for Christmas: A brachiosaurus Dino Zord from Power Rangers Dino Charge
Age: 4th grade
Passions: Art. Brantley constantly wants to draw, paint or build with LEGO. Mom and dad describe him as energetic, spontaneous, silly, creative and a dreamer. He tells them he wants to eventually invent a device to make things easier for his dad, who is in a wheelchair.
Future Career: He wants to be a “fun” science teacher who isn’t boring.
Cover Kid Memories: Brantley likes fashion so he had fun getting styled for the shoot. Mom Stephanie says it was special that he was on the holiday cover because it is their favorite time of year and the family regularly goes to Helemano to pick their Christmas tree. The fact that teachers and staff at his school recognized him made him feel famous, and a little shy.
Allison, Back-to-School 2018
For our back-to-school cover shoot, decorated the new play court at Mānoa Elementary School (much thanks to the principal for allowing it!) with impeccably hand-drawn suns and rainbows by art director Christine Labrador. You might not be able to tell from her adorably sweet smile, but Allison had so much personality! She roared like a dinosaur and told jokes to the team. The 5-year-old also smiled like a professional through multiple Mānoa showers while I, stylist Brie Thalmann, Labrador and creative director James Nakamura all tried to shelter her with umbrellas. The commotion did draw the attention of some curious kids in the afterschool program, which she also took in stride.
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Favorite Afterschool Activity: Soccer, gymnastics and playing with her two older sisters
When She Grows Up: Allison wants to be a veterinarian
Passions: Allison loves playing outside with her sisters and friends, swim class and swimming at the beach. She is also a bit of a daredevil, who loves ziplining and adventure courses, especially at Coral Crater (see above).
Future Career: She wants to be a third grade teacher, like her mom.
Cover Kid Memories: Her mom, Monica, says Allison’s photoshoot was the highlight of the start of her kindergarten year. “She was so excited to get all dressed up and have her pictures taken. Allison was on cloud nine for days. And the most exciting part was being able to give her friends, family and teachers a copy of ‘her magazine.’ She still talks about it!”
We reached out to as many Cover Kids as we could from 2012 through 2018. Is your child a Cover Kid from that time? We would love to hear from you! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.