While serving in Iraq after 9/11 for almost a year, BYUH alumnus Tupua Ainu’u promised himself he would follow his dream of becoming a successful actor if he survived.
“Once I got back and was honorably discharged, my mother told me to do exactly what I wanted to do with my money. So I searched ‘best acting college in the United Sates,’ and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood popped up,” said Ainu’u.
At the academy, Ainu’u said he had to go through an intensive two-year program where he took classes on voice and speech, stage and film combat, dance and choreography, camera technique, Shakespeare, improv, make-up, and vocal production. “After two years I got my Associate of Arts in Acting, became a security guard on Hollywood Blvd., a Limo driver in Beverly Hills, and an Uber driver in Los Angeles so I could network and meet industry people.
“I was able to get an agent and get plenty of auditions, but most of the roles were minor stereotypical roles for my ethnic look, which were generally the thug, gangster, bouncer, security guard, tall goofy dumb jock or bad guy.
“I was doing this for about a year. You could imagine my surprise when two producers from Hawaii, who happened to be members, contacted me and wanted me to play one of the lead roles in their movies.”
Ainu’u said this was a dream come true for any aspiring actor. “I thought it was a great idea to move to Hawaii to solidify my relationship with them and be close to these projects.”
He said even though the movie projects didn’t work out due to the movie producers not having enough funds, he was still able to fulfill another dream he had as a child: work at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
Ainu’u said his dream started as a child in American Samoa. He said, ”I had a video cassette tape of the Polynesian Cultural Center in the ‘90s that showed the park, villages, and the Night Show.
“Seeing those beautiful people who looked like me, teaching people from all over the world about our culture through song and dance gave me such pride in myself and my culture. The PCC truly represents the best of our people.” He said he decided to work towards his bachelor’s degree at BYUH while working as the senior master of ceremonies at the luau.
During his time as a student, Ainu’u has acted in five theater productions: “Mary Poppins,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Importance of being Earnest,” “Into the Woods,” and “Romeo and Juliet.”
Telesia Tonga, Ainu’u’s coworker at the PCC, said, “Tupua is one of the most memorable people you will ever meet. For one, he is tall, dark, and handsome with a smile that lights up his face. He commands a presence when he enters the PCC gates and steps on stage.
“On a personal level, I love him like a member of my own family. He is someone who radiates the spirit of Aloha, which essentially is the love of Christ.
“Wherever this man goes he will be a great representative of Polynesians, an ambassador of Aloha, and truly genuine gold!”
Ainu’u terminated his work at PCC on Wednesday, June 14. The following day, he and his wife Jacosa, who taught the University Chorale, left Laie to move to Atlanta, Georgia.