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Rita Ora after the fateful quote (Image: Half a Sāmoan woman)
Rita Ora after the fateful quote (Image: Half a Sāmoan woman)

Pop CultureAugust 25, 2023

Breaking: Rita Ora doesn’t know her husband Taika Waititi’s ethnicity

Rita Ora after the fateful quote (Image: Half a Sāmoan woman)
Rita Ora after the fateful quote (Image: Half a Sāmoan woman)

Is Taika Waititi Māori or is he ‘half a Sāmoan’? Rita Ora doesn’t know.

Every New Zealander (read: me and everyone around me) will never forget when Judith Collins said “my husband is Sāmoan, so tālofa” during an election debate in 2020. It was a quote that rocked the nation and the world. But it was also a factually correct quote. Collins’ husband is Sāmoan, and so tālofa.

On the latest episode of The Voice Australia, Rita Ora usurped every sentence ever uttered about being (or being near a) Sāmoan by saying these eight words:

“I’m married to half a Sāmoan man, so…”

“I’m married to half a SĀMOAN man, so…”

“I’m married to HALF a Sāmoan man, so…”

No matter where you put the emphasis, the fact remains: Rita Ora’s husband, Taika Waititi, is not Sāmoan.

Waititi has a Māori father and Jewish mother. He is very, very proud of his heritage, making decidedly Māori films both in New Zealand and for Hollywood studios. He speaks often about the importance of indigenous storytelling in Aotearoa. He has not, to my knowledge nor any public reporting, said he is Sāmoan.

So why would Ora, who has been married to and appearing in photoshoots with Waititi for at least eight months, think he was?

For context, the comment came in the heat of the moment, which may be half a (Sāmoan) explanation. A contestant, Marley Sola, mentioned that he was “part Sāmoan”. Judge Jason Derulo said he had some Sāmoan tattoos and that his security guard was Sāmoan (classic) in an effort to make a connection and convince Sola to choose him as his coach. It appeared to be working, until Ora chimed in:

“I’m married to half a Sāmoan man, so…”

The crowd gasped and laughed and Ora looked around, positively smug.

Tfw Sāmoan by marriage

No one corrected her – because why would you correct a woman on her own husband’s ethnicity? – and the judges returned to their comments. But the world will never be the same because the woman married to one of the staunchest, proudly Māori men in the world, proudly called him half a Sāmoan man.

Can we please appreciate how funny it is to refer to someone as being “half a Sāmoan man” rather than “half Sāmoan”? She is married to half a Sāmoan man. Which half? One that doesn’t exist.

Anyway, my theories that attempt to justify Ora’s statement:

1. Waititi has recently been promoting Last Goal Wins, a movie he directed about the American Sāmoa football team. American Sāmoa is a different country to Sāmoa but maybe the word stuck in her head.

2. Waititi has tattoos that are often described as “cultural”. Lots of Sāmoan men (including the Sāmoan contestant that prompted the incorrect statement) have “cultural” tattoos. Common mistake.

3. Waititi has referred to himself as being a “Polynesian Jew”. Perhaps Ora confused “Polynesian” with “Sāmoan”.

4. Maybe she literally doesn’t know? Maybe he never told her and she never Googled him?

5. She was telling a deliberate lie in order to sway Sola in his decision-making and is simply a cold-hearted competitor. (He did not choose her. He chose Guy Sebastian.)

What I would love to know is whether Waititi has corrected her since the episode aired three days ago. Or is he simply letting her assume he is half a Sāmoan man? If so, tālofa.

Rita Ora has not been reached for comment.

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