Miss Aloha Hula 2022, a University of Hawai’i graduate student, has been selected to represent Nike’s N7 collection.
Piʻikea Kekīhenelehuawewehiikekauʻōnohi Lopes, 22, is the first kānaka ʻōiwi (Native Hawaiian) to be featured in advertising for the N7 collection. She initially gained recognition after earning the 2022 Miss Aloha Hula title at the Merrie Monarch Festival. She is currently featured performing her hula kahiko dance on a billboard in Times Square for the collection
“It’s nice being noticed by a globally known brand wanting to feature Hawaiʻi and acknowledge hula as a sport,” she shared with Maui Now.
Lopes’ mother, Tracie, also won the Miss Aloha Hula title in 1994. Her father R. Keawe Lopes, Jr., who is the director of the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language, teaches hula with Tracie.
In addition to her title, Lopes is working towards her master’s degree in teaching while performing as a competitive powerlifter with four state records in bench press and deadlift. Fluent in ōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) and having earned a bachelor’s degree in the subject, Lopes was also awarded the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ Hawaiian Language Award at the festival, in recognition of her commitment to spreading her native culture and language.
“It’s how I was raised and how I went through life and how my parents taught hula, how my parents taught language and spoke language at home,” she explained.
Alongside Lopes is Janee’ Kassanavoid, a Native American Olympic hammer thrower. Participating in the 2022 World Track and Field Championships, Kassanavoid was the first Indigenous woman to win a medal.
According to Nike, Lopes and Kassanavoid were selected to represent N7 due to their “strongly rooted connection to the earth with the effortless grace and energy that one can only attain through countless hours of study and practice.”
The special N7 collection aims to support and celebrate Indigenous communities through athletic apparel that honors Indigenous cultures and traditions, according to the athletic apparel company. The N7 Fund provides for Native and Indigenous American youth “so they can lead healthier, happier, and more successful lives.”