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Hapai | The Beauty of Maternity in Hawai’i



Hapai means bearing life, or pregnant, in Hawaiian.

These images are from four different photo shoots I did with these beautiful women while they were expecting. After seeing them, my Mum asked me: “How come pregnant women in Hawai’i are so beautiful?”

I don’t know, they just are. Maybe it is the effect of living in Paradise.




This is Jackie Seeley, wearing no make up and sporting a surfer-girl suntan, and I am saying that because she surfed until almost her eighth month, which is when we did this photo session.

I photographed her in Haleiwa, the quintessential surfing town on the famous North Shore of O’ahu. We shot at sunset, first in a Lohi (a taro field) and then by the ocean, catching the last glow before dusk.

I used no extra light, and no fill flash, just a reflector. Isn’t the light glorious?




Besides being a beautiful human being both inside and out, Jackie is also a model and actress. You may have seen her  in the movie Princess Ka’iulani, as she played the mother of the young princess. Jackie is also playful and adventurous: even with her eigth-month belly she had no qualms about stepping into the muddy waters of the taro field, or gingerly traipsing over rough lava rocks to reach the tide pools.




Just below is the lovely Adrieanne, also in her eighth month of pregnancy. I know this looks like the jungle, but I actually photographed her at a very accessible public park in Honolulu: Nu’uanu Valley Park, which is just behind Queen Emma Summer Palace along the Pali Highway.

It was just the right time of the year so the creek was full and flowing, and we were actually lucky it did not rain, or even drizzle. My friend Laura held the reflector for me, and it must have been a lucky shoot, because she now has two little girls herself, twins!




Let us go back to the beach and meet Marsee who, in these images, is expecting her second child, but by now already has a third. You know how being pregnant suits some women more than others? Marsee is just one of those who glides through those nine months.

This session was at the little beach in Portlock, in the east-end area of Honolulu called Hawaii Kai. We met close to sunset, and Marsee came with her daughter Kouvr and her mother Arvillie, bringing three generations together.




I tend to let the images tell me which editing suits them the most, and I am usually a photographer who enjoys working in glorious color. Yet in this case I am in love with the black & white versions of these photos. I hope you are enjoying them, too.




Now get ready to meet Mrs. Hawai’i and Mrs. America 2011 – and they are the same woman: Lara Leimana Fonoimoana. It seems that it was this photo shoot that made her believe that she could enter the Mrs. Hawai’i pageant, and then things snowballed from there. She won the pageant, which qualified her for the Mrs. America one, where she won first runner-up. When the elected Mrs. America went on to win the Mrs. Universe competition, Lara stepped up as Mrs. America.




This photo shoot happened early in July, in her seventh month of pregnancy. Lara already had a two-year-old girl by then, and went on to have a baby boy, move to a new house and win the pageant all within the following few months. I agree, she is quite the phenomenal woman!




The location is the glorious Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden, located in Kaneohe, on the windward side of O’ahu, right against the stately Pali. Anytime you are close to the Pali there is always a fifty-fifty chance of rain, but we were lucky that day, and the clouds stuck close to the mountains.

Ho’omaluhia is one of the most beautiful spots on O’ahu, and the kind of botanical garden that is kept clean and tidy while still maintaining its wilderness. It is a definite must if you are visiting the island.



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  • Sonia (foodiesleuth)09/06/2014 - 3:31 pm

    Oh, Monica!

    This should be shared and shared and shared!

    Stunning post!ReplyCancel

    • Monica Schwartz09/07/2014 - 2:02 pm

      Thank you, Sonia! I have really enjoyed doing these shoots and the images that came from them. 🙂ReplyCancel

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