Photographer's passion sparked by bullying

A traumatic bullying experience has helped a young Tongan woman discover her passion for photography.

Ofakiwaikaraka Makalio is using her talent to help Polynesian women discover their self-worth, and her effects have netted her a nationwide scholarship.

Ms Makalio was heartbroken when she found out her younger sisters were being bullied because of how they look.

"They would come to me and talk about how they didn't look a certain way and how their skin wasn't light enough and they didn't look like Taylor Swift," she said.

That experience prompted Ms Makalio to find a way to show her sisters they are beautiful. She bought a camera, and despite having no experience, starting taking photos.

"I noticed a change in them, they started to become more confident when we took photos," she said.

Makalio posted the photos to her website and social media and received a lot of positive feedback and more requests.

She found Polynesian women wanted to see photos that looked like them, and helped them embrace their beauty.

"It really does boost up people's confidence to have a picture of them that I guess makes them look good, if that makes sense," she said.

On October 25 Ms Makalio was awarded for her efforts, scooping the AMP People Scholarship and $5000.

The scholarship is awarded to an AMP staff member who can show how $5000 will help them reach their dream.

"Beauty may seem really superficial to some people," she said, "but if you look deeper into that it's not just about the outer beauty, it's about having the self-esteem, the confidence".

Ms Makalio dreams of having her own photography business and running workshops for Māori and Polynesian women to help them become models or just gain self-esteem.

"I just wanted to let girls like my sister, girls like myself when I was younger, know that our beauty is not invalid," she said.

And to show that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colours.