When NZ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters called for the 80,000 New Zealanders travelling overseas to return to Aotearoa before the covid-19 pandemic showed just how deadly it would become, Rhaiah Spooner Knight had to watch, from Orange County Los Angeles. As the US clocked the world’s highest death toll for the virus, thousands of Kiwis transitioned through the two-week stand down process to get home, but Rhaiah had to stay in LA because of the criteria’s outlined in her work visa.
Attending Utah University in 2013 for a basketball scholarship, she said that even as a 10-year-old growing up in Hamilton, she always knew she would go to America and play college basketball. “There’s something about American culture Kiwis get drawn to,” she said. Rhaiah is one of 58,000 Kiwis who are registered to be living and working in the USA.
Meeting her boyfriend Donte Williams during her first year at college, or university as they say on this side, one can’t help but recall a movie directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood ( Love & Basketball, Disappearing Acts, The Secret Life of Bees). When they met, Donte had already begun their clothing label: ‘Work Hard Live Easy’. But Rhaiah, carrying her Hamilton roots with her to LA, was noticed for her flare with design and knack for putting an outfit together.
The baller/artist says fashion is something she’s always used to define her personality and identity. Interestingly, since being in Los Angeles (a thrift shopper’s mecca) she said she’s observed that Kiwis are more fashion forward then you’d think. “I feel we’re actually ahead in a lot of things.
“Obviously there are a lot of Americans that are very fashion forward, take the New York scene, they’re really fashion forward, but I feel like New Zealand has a general consensus, which is that everyone can dress. In NZ we’ll jump onto trends way quicker than Americans will,” she said.