About Queenie Ventura Dowsett

Mary Ann "Queenie" Kalanihelemalunaohawaii Ventura Dowsett

Auntie Queenie was born and raised on the island of Oʻahu, the eldest of seven children to mother Sophie Kalili and father Peter Ventura. In her formative years, she spent time in the country, specifically Lāʻie, with her grandparents and family elders who were of great influence to her pride in Hawaiian heritage. They imparted and reflected values, culture, history, and traditions that would become an integral part of her life.

Her mother was a strong influence on young Queenie, training her in both the family lei business and in hula. Sophie was a Kumu Hula with formal training as a kapu dancer, and she wanted her eldest to be exposed to the richness and beauty of hula. Auntie Queenie shared with HPS how her mother sent her to a variety of teachers as a child, including Mary Ho, Eleanor Hiram Hoke, Rose Joshua, and Tom Hiona. At the time, Auntie Queenie didn’t understand why her mother put her here and there with different kumu, until it came to her final teacher, the 20th century’s foremost exponent on hula, ʻIolani Luahine. At her mother’s insistence, a teen Queenie auditioned for “Auntie ʻIo” but was convinced she would never be chosen. She’d try out and then return to life as a high school student and helping the family business at the lei stand. But in fact, she was selected, and the rest, as they say, is history. She became Auntie Queenie’s greatest mentor in hula.

Queenie Ventura enjoyed a career as a solo dancer in top Waikīkī showrooms and with Hawaiʻi’s premiere entertainers. She was selected to play the part of Noa Noa in the Hollywood film Bird of Paradise in 1951. Auntie ʻIo was the choreographer for the movie! With her talents and beauty, young Queenie had opportunities to explore the entertainment industry beyond the islands, but she became Mrs. Dowsett when she fell in love with a cowboy, handsome husband Jamie, and they settled into ranch life and raising their five children.

Auntie Queenie was very proud of being the first Mrs. Hawaiʻi for the new state in 1959. She also shared with HPS how Uncle Jamie always supported her hula and never stopped her from continuing to perform throughout her life. By the time we worked with her, she would proudly tell us how many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren she had. And the number kept growing!


External Links

Waimea Ocean Film Festival Program, 2014 

A Lifetime of Living Hula - Ka Wai Ola (Office of Hawaiian Affairs)

Referenced Content