THE WHAT IT DO
What does an up and coming R&B Artist from North Carolina, the Rock’s stunt double and American Gladiator, a former NFL player turned opera singer, and a dance group on Season 5 of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, all have in common?
They are all Pacific Islanders and they have all been featured on The What it Do!
On the “Who We Are” section of www.thewhatitdo.com it reads:
"You love to drive; well so do we. You like the fresh gear, the hottest urban artists and the coolest gadgets? We do too.
This is The What It Do » Urban Consumer Review.
We got the inside scoop on the latest stuff and show you why they’re hot. We make it do what it do, baby."
But The What it Do is more than just your average consumer review! No, in reality, beneath the guise of a consumer review, The What it Do is playing a more noteworthy role online by promoting PacificIsland identity and highlighting the accomplishments of an entire community.
To most people, the term “Pacific Islander” conjures up images of grass shacks, hula dancers, and pineapples- a western perception which often limits an entire community by seeing them only as happy island natives. Or perhaps when you hear “Pacific Islander” you think of a large athlete and a football player like Junior Seau, Troy Polamalu, or Haloti Ngata. Another common misconception being that they can only achieve in athletics, Pacific Islanders have more to offer than just their body stature. In reality, Pacific Islanders are an extremely talented demographic in the arts, and an often untapped resource in the mainstream entertainment industry today. While most people’s knowledge about Pacific Islanders barely extends to the shores of Waikiki in Hawaii, the truth is there are over 25 different countries consisting of hundreds of different islands spread across the Pacific Ocean.
While languages, customs, and cultures vary among the different people who call these many islands home, the common threads that bind these peoples together are the Arts. Music, dancing, craftsmanship, have for generations been the way Pacific Islanders have maintained their family histories, preserved their cultural identities, and shared their heritage amongst themselves and others. Sometimes it seems as if the mixture of the tropical sun, clear ocean water, and peaceful island living is the perfect recipe for a natural-born entertainer. Yet in the biggest entertainment industry in the world, awareness of Pacific Islanders and their talents has yet to reach its full potential. A fact that The What it Do creator and Producer, Elizabeth Lavulo, has been well aware of since a young age:
"I knew that we didn’t really have a voice in entertainment and we were very underserved and like any type of minority group it all starts with our own… I knew I needed to build up some kind of awareness for Pacific Islanders in entertainment, whether it’s music or acting or just in general, there’s a lot of different aspects to the entertainment industry and so we need to build some kind of awareness and network."
As a Tongan, growing up in San Bruno, California, an area with a high concentration of Pacific Islanders, Elizabeth recalls:
“Growing up in a Polynesian community, it was like Disneyland. When I say Disneyland, I mean happy place. A lot of activities, education was stressed, a very structured childhood. After school, if it wasn’t sports, we had community functions to attend or I was going to our church related functions. That’s how my upbringing was. It was nothing but positive, good influences all the time.”
It was this positive up-bringing, filled with love and support from family and community, which allowed Elizabeth to dream big.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be a producer growing up. I was just really intrigued with entertainment. You know, people aspire to be doctors and lawyers; I aspired to be a producer in Hollywood. I guess because I was very passionate about making people happy, getting people excited about life, and that’s what entertainment does it gets people excited about life and living life to the fullest, ya know…in a good way.”
After high school, Elizabeth moved to the east coast to attend Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts where she majored in Media & Visual Arts where she had to learn how “to navigate new waters.” Elizabeth recalls, “I moved from a community filled with Polynesians to a community with slim to none, and it was very lonely.” The combination of being a child of a “village” and a student “on her own” has shaped Elizabeth into the strong and focused individual that she is today. For the past 10 years she has worked in some aspect of the entertainment industry, from a production assistant, to marketing, to transcription, to Producing. She’s worked with people like Dr. Phil, Jamie Fox, and Snoop Dogg, but Elizabeth becomes most passionate when she’s able to help promote Pacific Islanders.
When asked where her passion comes from, Elizabeth answered:
“I think part of the passion comes from my roots. My grandpa taught me just don’t give up on doing good for your own people. The other part comes from the fact that I love the arts, and it’s just a bonus when they’re pacific islanders!”
What It Do... check it out!
- The What It Do Urban Consumer Review
The WhatItDo Urban Consumer Review. We drive the cooles cars, get the freshest gear, see the hottest urban artists and try out newest gadgets, and show you why they're hot.
In 2009, Elizabeth came up with an idea to start a website that featured video consumer review segments, and approached her friend KMAX to host them. Elizabeth recalls, “Our first review was on a Toyota Scion and he introduced the segment with ‘What it do.’” From then on, the phrase stuck. “We began to do automotive reviews and we told people the features of the vehicles and ‘what it do’,” however, since 2009, The What it Do has evolved tremendously. “I couldn’t really compete with mainstream media outlets that already had consumer reviews on products,” so, Elizabeth decided to shift her focus back to something that drove her even more than cars: “A friend of mine suggested that I capture the Polynesian demographic online.”
“I knew that Pacific Islanders in the United States didn’t have their own media outlet online or presence to where we could go online and read articles and features on different artist in the entertainment industry… New Zealand and Australia already have their own media outlets that promote their talent- whether on TV, magazines, or online—the Pacific Islander communities there already had their infrastructure in place, but America didn’t …So that’s what The What it Do is, It’s a platform for Pacific Islander Artists in America."
Since shifting its focus, The What it Do has featured musicians such as Ekolu, The Green, Kolohe Kai, Dayvid Thomas, Local Culture, Maoli, J Boog, and Fiji, and performing artists like Mevina & Tiana Liufau and Josh Ulep.
But The What it Do is not only for Pacific Islanders.
“We don’t only feature Pacific Island talent—although, it is great for people who are not Pacific Islanders to just learn about the talent Pacific Islanders have and the potential these talented artist have to cross over to the mainstream—but I also feature mainstream Hollywood talent too (which exposes our demographic to the mainstream talent). [Non-Pacific Islanders] will find a lot of commonalities and connections with the content that’s featured there, and The What it Do allows people of other backgrounds to welcome and accept new talent into their worlds”
“As I let it organically grow, when I started featuring mainstream media and saw what they had to say, and what they had to offer, and I saw them bringing their people and joining it with our people, to me, it brought people together and we exchanged ideas and noticed a lot of similarities. So to me, that’s what The What it Do is—it’s joining with other communities and building strength within our own, and offering and showcasing talent within different demographics of people. The Latins showcase their talents to us as Pacific Islanders and Pacific Islanders turn around and showcase our talent to the Latins. Together we exchange ideas, so maybe in the future, down the line, the sounds will blend and people will be influenced in their music. Whether its Latino, or its Black, or White, or Asian, it doesn’t matter, you’re still mixing ideas and sounds and to me that’s what urban island and The What it Do is all about, it’s bringing these urban communities together.”
“When I work with people I don’t look at what’s negative about them, I suspend judgment and focus on what’s great about them and just focus on their talents and see what I can do to utilize those talents to either bless the lives of others, or share with other people or perfect it, to make better”
”I only focus on promoting things that inspire and are good, I don’t focus on being raw and uncut and tearing people down, there’s already enough media for that. And Polynesian people are happy people and loving people so if we’re going to showcase something it’s going to come from that place—because that’s who we are as a people.”
I asked Elizabeth, “As one trying to build up the Pacific Island Community, how would you respond to the criticism that not all of your staff is Pacific Islanders?”
“I think what people need to understand is that while The What it Do is for a targeted demographic, Pacific Islanders, it’s also for the targeted demographic of urban communities. Urban communities are not just catered to the color of your skin; urban communities could be as artsy as Hollywood, to as unique as Chinatown or a downtown city. Those are urban communities! When I look for talent to write for The What it Do or talent to align with The What it Do, I look at people and their networks, connections, and ability to understand and open their minds to really be accepting of other cultures. To me, that’s more important than a cultural background or your roots. Everyone has roots! So they all bring that to the table… it doesn’t even matter whether they’ve been around pacific islanders or not, just as long as they are accepting of different cultures and different types of communities and races.”
Elizabeth doesn’t see herself as a community organizer or an activist, but her Urban Island Movement seems to be picking up speed and is getting more and more followers on Facebook and Twitter every day. Her take on positive media is refreshing and the talent showcased on her website is inspiring.
The 14th Dali Lama said, “One family can influence another, then another, then ten, one hundred, one thousand more, and the whole of society will benefit.” Elizabeth and her staff are seeking to influence the Pacific Islander family and in turn the entire human family. And that’s The What it Do!
More Hubs written by Lucky Dog about Pacific Islanders
- True Life: A Hawaiian Experience
Hawaiians are some of the most courageous and inspiring people you will ever meet. Descended from a noble heritage, today they face innumerable obstacles as they attempt to preserve and perpetuate their cultural legacy.
- Book Review of "Eddie Would Go:" Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero
Eddie Aikau was not just a professional surfer, he embodied the spiritual and cultural oneness that surfing has with Hawaiians.
- Searching for Kahikilani
While hundreds of tourists venture to the North Shore to view the beauty of Sunset Beach, Im not sure if many of the visitors know one of the cool stories behind Sunset Beach!