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NZ Idol is a spiritual girl in a material world

By Paul Titus

2005 was a wild ride for Rosita Vai. She started auditions for NZ Idol in June, and that launched a whirlwind of performances, vocal lessons, and nail biting decisions that lasted until October 18th, when she won the crown.

It didn’t end there, of course. There was an album to produce and a two-month tour around New Zealand to follow.

In the aftermath of all that Rosita is still at work on her music – performing and writing new songs. She is also back serving as a youth leader at Auckland Samoan Methodist Church in Ponsonby.

Unlike many stars, Rosita doesn’t take much of the credit for her successful idol quest. As she tells it, her talent is God-given, her family’s support enabled her to develop it, and church gave her opportunity to perform in public.

Rosita says it all started in church. Getting up in front of her congregation on White Sunday gave her confidence in herself. She also had plenty of opportunity to sing in the choir, play piano, and later organise youth services.

“When I was young my family lived in Wellington and we went to Wesley Wellington church. I started to sing when I was three. We have pictures of it. We would always get together and sing as a family. Since I was a kid I always wanted to be a singer.”

The Vais moved to Auckland when Rosita was about seven. She says the family always believed in her and her talent. She had piano lessons and played in competitions, usually coming first or second. By age 12 she was playing grade eight classical piano.

“I played piano for church and was in the choir. Later I dropped the piano and concentrated on singing and that helped me get a scholarship to Westlake Girls High School, which has a very good music programme.”

For the past two years Rosita has teamed up with Avau Fa’afuata to lead youth services at the Ponsonby Methodist Church. Once a month the church’s young people have their own Sunday evening praise and worship service.

“Youth are more open in their worship style. They talk about what’s going on and apply their Bible to their daily life. I went to the Methodist Youth Conference last year. One thing the young people at the conference asked was to be allowed to take part in services. I was surprised because we can express ourselves at our church.”

Though she was able to develop her talents as a singer and songwriter at school and for a time at university, Rosita says an experience that brought everything in focus for her was a two-month evangelical outreach tour to Africa in 200?.

“The tour was with Nations Outreach International. I was one of a group of five Pacific Islanders who performed in Kenya for two months. That was when I really got into God. Before, when I was singing in school it always felt weird. When we were preaching the word of God and singing about God I felt alive for the first time.

“I believe my talent is a blessing from God. When we were touring and when we came back I felt God was working on me. Having my talent is a privilege that I can use for his glory.

“The NZ idol contest for me was never about fame. It was about people recognising I’ve got a talent and being able to share that with them.

“I have thought a lot about why I won because every week I thought I would be the one to go. I think it is because people could relate to me as a person. I think people could see I am normal, that they could have a laugh with me. If I meet new people I’m real. I connect with people.”

Rosita says there were several Christians in the Idol top 10. They prayed together before their performances and before long the other contestants asked if they could join them.

These days Rosita is still under contract with Sony BMG. She is writing some songs with some of her ‘muso’ friends and playing in gigs. Her performances included a show last month with Howard Morrison and?