In July we are featuring the incredible style icon Jennifer Kalpokas Doan.
Hailing from the offshore island of Lelepa, Jennifer is a mother of three sons and the Executive Director at Balance of Power (BOP), a social norm change program that uses an innovative approach to support islands across the Pacific to achieve inclusive and effective leadership.
Balancing her roles as a wife, mother, community leader and high-profile career woman whose work calls to serve Vanuatu, this committed Christian lives her life appreciating every moment, knowing the best is yet to come, as she believes that with age, there is always a milestone to be achieved.
As we celebrate the Vanuatu’s 43rd year of Independence, we also celebrate Jennifer, the daughter of one of Vanuatu’s founding fathers and second Prime Minister of Vanuatu – Mr Donald Kalpokas, and honor her as she follows in his footsteps with her passion to continue to build and develop the nation.
#SistaGatStyle #WomanLelepa #Mother #Beautiful #Passionate
Jennifer Kalpokas Doan
43 years old
Where are you from?
I’m from Lelepa island – my father is from Lelepa and my mother is from Nguna.
Tell us about your family
My nuclear family consists of my husband and my three sons. My husband is from Ambae/Malekula. My eldest son is turning 19 years old this year and he’s currently studying at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, my second born is 15 in year 10 at Central School, and my little one 7 and at Pikinini Play Time.
I come from a family of 5 children, I have three older sisters and a younger brother. Sadly, my father is no longer with us so my mother goes back and forth – most of the time she lives with my family and I here in Port Vila or she’s on Lelepa with my older sister.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Any hobbies?
I like hanging out with my children, I find them entertaining and I feel like I can positively influence them while they’re young enough to be influenced. They do pretty much everything with me, when they’re not hanging out with their friends. We like to wander around town, go into second hand shops – they wait for me while I go second hand shopping – we like going on food hunts together, we like cooking together. So yeah, it’s a lot of food and family time.
What do you study? Do you work?
I studied and got my degree in Political Science and International Relations and then later got my Masters in Public Administration. I work in development and have been working in development for most of my professional life. I currently work in a regional program called Balance of Power and I am based here in Vanuatu but my work covers Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga. I am one of two Executive Directors and we both manage a staff of around 15 people that are based in Australia, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu.
What do you aspire to do in the future?
I know that I want to continue to work for the country. I don’t not necessarily feel like I can serve in the Private Sector but I feel like public service is my calling – whatever area that might be. My passion is the country, its development, its growth and so I want to continue to work in that space.
What is a quote that you live by?
I have a small child, a young teenager and a preadult. I find myself telling them – more often than not because they’re fighting constantly – is, “If you can be anything, be kind.” But more recently, when I had to let my son go live in another country after 18 years, I’ve been referring to a bible verse that our Pastor had shared with us before he left, from the book of Joshua, Chapter 1, Verse 9 where it talks about courage and not being afraid because the Lord is with you. I found this applied to him as he was moving away, and to myself, because it was a new experience for me as a mother.
How would you describe your style?
I would probably describe my style as modern mum. I guess fashion evolves with age, as we get older we tend to dress more appropriately for our age and there are a lot of other factors with that. For instance, having children changes your body, it changes your level of confidence, changes the way things sit on your body and so you have to continue to adjust your style to that. In saying that, I spend a lot of my time at work so I feel like that carries over in to my fashion style. I like clean, classic looks.
Why do you like fashion?
I think its an expression of your identity and you can have fun with it. But again, that comes with age and confidence. When you’re younger, you tend to go with whatever the trend is. But now, I find that what might look good on a model wont necessarily look good on everyone because we’re all different. So I think, whatever the trend is, try and adjust it to your body size and shape so that you feel comfortable. Something you should also consider when choosing an outfit is, where you’re going to be and what you’re going to be doing – I don’t want to be wearing high heels at a cocktail because I know I’m going to be on my feet for the majority of the time – so I choose comfort over trends.
Who influences your style?
Michelle Obama and Megan Markle – again very classic looks.
What beauty products do you use (including perfume)?
I love my perfumes! I have three perfumes at the moment: Givenchi’s “Irresistible”, Clinque’s “Happy” and Tiffany’s “Rose Gold”. I always go for a fragrance that smells fresh and sweet because it isn’t overpowering and I think it settles well on my skin, especially when it’s humid. I also like Nivea lip-gloss and if I’m attending an event, I’ll use some black eyeliner and sometimes some colour for my lips but that’s about it.
Any fashion tips?
Think about the event that you’re going to, think about the people that are going to be there and think about where it’s going to be and then decide on what you’re going to wear.
If you wear stilettos to a cocktail outside on the grass, you’re going to ruin your heels. If you’re going out and it’s the middle of July, then a strapless dress is probably not the best thing to wear. Regardless of what it is, I’m sure everybody has nice clothes in their wardrobe, but I would say the last thing you want to do is, to be somewhere, look really nice but be extremely uncomfortable because it will show.
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve had to face?
Four years ago my husband was in Japan studying for his Masters and when he left my youngest had just turned one. He had been away for almost 2 years when my father passed away. This was a difficult time because I had to support my brother as he stepped up to take on certain responsibilities around the custom ceremonies, along with my other siblings, while also looking after my three sons and my mother who was also very ill at the time. This was probably the most difficult thing I’ve had to do because my husband wasn’t here to help support me.
What does being a Ni-Vanuatu mean to you?
Being a Ni-Vanuatu means I am a woman of the ocean, I am strong, resilient and I am proud of my brown skin. My identity is tied to everyone else who shares this ocean with us, but also to the land where we belong and where our ancestors have lived for centuries. It means being compassionate, being willing to share our ocean and the responsibility of its resources together, and being grounded in our link to Christianity and also honoring our cultural diversities.
What is your biggest fear?
I am afraid that my children will grow up in a society that no longer represents the fundamental principles of what it is to be our nation. I am afraid that the onslaught of technology and information will distract them from who and what their real identity should be. I am afraid that they won’t grow up in a safe community, that things that underpin our identity as Christians and our Melanesian values will start to deteriorate and society will not be a safe place for them.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
At every milestone, or point of growth in our life, I think each one comes with a great accomplishment. For example, when I was around 21 years old, I could’ve said my greatest accomplishment is my degree; when I had my first child, my greatest accomplishment would’ve been becoming a mum; when I achieved my Masters, it would’ve been that; when I got married, it would’ve been that. So, I honestly don’t think I have achieved my greatest accomplishment yet.
Photographer: Nya Films
Nails: Mesika’s Beauty
Assistants: Sharon Nicholls & Elsie Molou
Location: Kawenu area
This article was originally published in the July,2023 edition of the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Life and Style magazine.
We are proud partners with VDP and Sista’s time to implement this project which is covered by CARE Vanuatu.