Real Life

Diamond’s set to sparkle in her gem of a role

The beauty queen’s blowing her own horn in the musical Red, White and Brass
Diamond Langi in white in front of some trees with one hand on her hipPhotos: Robert Trathen

When fans of former Miss New Zealand Diamond Langi thought the Auckland singer and actor couldn’t get any more fabulous, the charity founder and modelling academy owner added theatre star to her blooming career portfolio!

The New Zealand-Tongan model is performing in the stage adaptation of the hit film Red, White and Brass, based on a true story about a Tongan superfan who does whatever it takes to score tickets for him and his mates to attend the Tonga vs France Rugby World Cup game.

Playing ex-pageant queen Irene is a role Diamond has been preparing for since she was a little girl. She learned all about stage presence from her musician father Langi.

Diamond in costume for Red, White and Brass
Marching to her own beat as Irene in Red, White and Brass.

Sadly, Diamond’s dad won’t be there to watch the music-filled showcase by Auckland Theatre Company. The singer and drummer passed away from lung cancer three years after his daughter was crowned Miss New Zealand 2019.

“I had a special bond with Dad. I’d go to him for advice, even with pageantry, because he knew about performing. Before he passed, he told me, ‘I want you to get back into music,’” says the 32-year-old, chatting from her home in Auckland.

“I first recorded a song called Warrior at War in 2017 that Dad did the sound engineering for. But I went quiet because of pageantry and then Covid hit.”

Diamond and her beloved parents on her 21st birthday
With her beloved dad Langi and mum Maria.

A young Diamond was living in the US when she first saw music videos by popstars Britney Spears and Toni Braxton, and decided she wanted to sing when she grew up.

Although she was born in Auckland, her family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, near Langi’s sister, when he was offered a job in music.

“Organisers would book Dad for different gigs. When he wasn’t doing music, he was working in landscaping and construction,” recalls Diamond. Her mother Maria designed and sewed clothes for cultural events.

“At a young age, when my cousins were playing outside, my dad was teaching me how to harmonise and making me learn different songs. And not easy ones, either! It was Tina Turner and Michael Jackson.”

Hard work was engrained in the bubbly presenter and voiceover artist, whose love for acting came hand-in-hand with singing once she realised she needed to put on a show to captivate her audience.

Sitting pretty in a red blazer and skirt in front of greenery

Since English wasn’t her parents’ first language, with the pair raised in the Tongan village of Vaini, Diamond was inspired by how they navigated and adapted to moving to a new country.

“I believe that comes from our ancestors, who were really good navigators in the moana [sea]. My mum and dad showed me how to push the envelope, and never settle,” she says. “In America, pageantry is huge and I’d see Miss Universe on television every year. I wanted to do it.”

Diamond competed in her first Miss Pacific Islands pageant in 2012. Later, at 17, she represented Tonga at Miss Earth in the Philippines. The same year, her family returned to Aotearoa to live. While Diamond was modeling in a fashion show, someone approached her to enter Miss New Zealand.

“I said, ‘Yes, hopefully one day,’ but I didn’t do it until seven years later,” says Diamond. She founded a charity in her name during 2018, which donates to the Pacific Islands and sees her visit schools in Tonga to discuss recycling.

As well as representing NZ at Miss Universe 2019, Diamond earned her Master’s in Professional Styling from the Australian Style Institute in Melbourne. She also graduated from The Actors’ Program in Auckland and launched the Diamond Langi Academy earlier this year.

Diamond on stage after her pageant win
The beauty queen now has her own agency.

“I work with Māori and Pacific Island girls interested in getting into modelling and pageantry,” she explains. “As a young girl, I didn’t feel like there was someone I could go to, who was Tongan, to guide me on an international stage level. I thought, ‘Why not put something together?’”

Meanwhile, Diamond enjoys bringing Irene to life. “There are two sides to Irene, the beauty queen and the one who tells people off!” Diamond laughs. “She gets a bit frustrated if everything isn’t perfect, so it’s exciting. I wish I could be part of the audience to watch the show!”

The busy creative is also recording a song she wrote called Keep You Here. The track’s dedicated to her dad, who she believes has been guiding her.

“Before my father passed, he said, ‘Even when I go, I’m still going to be guiding you. You’ll feel me,’” Diamond smiles. “I really do feel like Dad’s around and that things are aligning because of him.”

Red, White and Brass is on at Auckland’s ASB Waterfront Theatre.

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