Say aloha to Joelle Souza, Western blogger, influencer, and boutique owner based in Kauai, Hawaii.
Our idea of the American cowboy spans open plains and mountain faces, but for Joelle Souza, a Hawaiian resident, the Western way of life looks slightly different as the island celebrates rich Paniolo (cowboy) culture unique to the area.
How did you get your start in the Western industry?
The Western lifestyle runs in my family. My Grandfather was a paniolo for the Knudsen Ranch, one of Kauai’s very first cattle ranches. My mother had horses growing up and I remember I always had to be sitting in that saddle. I was also a pageant girl in my younger age up to my teen years so It wasn’t until my late teens that I entered my first rodeo on Kauai. I currently have 2 buckskin horses of my own, Wailele ( waterfall in Hawaiian) and her new baby colt who I named Power that is 6 months old. I plan on passing down the Western lifestyle and culture to my children to keep the Western culture alive as they had taught me.
Tell me about the Western culture in Hawaii.
The Western Culture in Hawaii is alive and well related to the rich culture and history. In the late 1800’s the Vaqueros brought horses and cattle to the islands and taught men and women of not only Native Hawaiian ancestry but many other people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds how to ranch and until today cowboys are referred to as Paniolo’s in the state of Hawaii - many cattle ranches still exist today. Ranching, especially on Kauai, the Big Island, and even Maui is a cultural practice that many significant families participate in as a way of life and many of these families are third and fourth generations [that] have been brought up to raise cattle and to keep the traditional going.
The rodeo sport here in Hawaii is very much alive as well. We have our very own event called the Powaiu - an event to show off how cattle were caught and tied to trees back in the days when the cattle were still wild. Almost every island participates in rodeo and have their own rodeo associations and hold events regularly. American Cowboys Team Roping Association (ACTRA) ropings are very popular here in Hawaii today and many cowboys and cowgirls fly over to Vegas to compete in the ACTRA finals every year and to attend the National Finals Rodeo.
How did you get your start as a blogger?
I started blogging after returning home to Kauai after living on the mainland for a few years. Before moving home to Kauai, I was just getting my feet wet in the Western fashion industry and started as a brand ambassador for a few brands. I actually thought that moving back home to Hawaii was going to end my brand influencing but it did the opposite and blew up when I started sharing about the Paniolo roots here in Hawaii. That’s when I decided to start my photo content blog and changed my social media handle name to @thealohacowgirl and got creative with the western outfits that I had in my closet.
How would you describe your personal style?
Western fashion with a tropical Hawaiian twist is my go-to style. I think my style is very diverse, I would say fun and daring on some days depending on the event or mood & feminine and relaxed on others. Hawaii is very relaxed, so a cute graphic tee and shorts and my twisted X shoes is usually my everyday look.However, I could take a simple dress and spice it up with a lot of accessories - turquoise that is - or take fancy dress and dress it down. I also own a lot of blazer jackets, a blazer top with denim jeans and flats has also been my favorite look lately.
What are three things in your closet you can’t go without?
A pair of cute cowgirl boots, a good pair of jeans, and my Aloha Cowgirl rhinestone fringed jacket made by Rock Paper Scissors denim.
Tell me about The Prickly Pineapple – what do you hope to bring style-wise to your customers?
The Prickly Pineapple boutique is Hawaiis first Western fashion boutique and and home of Hawaii's first Western fashion shows. [We are] located inside the only Western restaurant on the island of Kauai - Wrangler's Steak House & Saddle Room.
We held my first Prickly Pineapple Western fashion show here in Hawaii in 2018 and have done one every year since. Its exciting to see my Western fashion shows grow and more exciting to have had the opportunity to collaborate with brands like Kimes Ranch Jeans, Hooey, Aloha Rodeo, Fiora Boots, Buffalo Grounds etc. I was inspired to open a Western fashion boutique after many friends would comment on my cute Western fashion outfits. I would say that being invited to walk in the Denim & Velvet fashion shows definitely helped my confidence and played a big part to me opening a boutique. Hawaii is very Western and many girls like myself spend countless hours getting ready for the NFR, so I thought It would be a great addition to Hawaii.
My goal is to bring in a style that does not have boundaries, a style knowing that you can add a Western flair to almost any outfit or keep it simple. I like to inspire my customers and community to be as creative and full of expression as possible, but end my goal is to make sure that my customers feel happy and confident about themselves in the outfit that they are wearing and rock it. Thats the real reason behind The Prickly Pineapple Western fashion shows.
How did your local community react to a Western-themed storefront? Was it easily embraced?
It was a something new for sure, but I’ve had a lot of support from my local community even through this pandemic TPP has been successful. It was different and exciting but it also allowed me to share more of the Western lifestyle here in Hawaii. I  choose to tell [my story] behind fashion which is allowing me to branch out with more opportunities that I’m so excited about.
In terms of trends, what are you expecting to see for the rest of 2021?
Fringe jackets and fringe pants still seem to be a huge trend this year, every year, denim on denim and blazer jackets and graphic tshirt dresses are also on top for Western fashion trends.
Give us your best style tip!
Don’t be afraid to mix patterns & when in doubt just throw on your fav pair of Cowgirl boots. Rock what makes you feel confident.
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