It was the sight of the plastic-filled insides of a washed-up whale on the news that moved 23-year-old Jolene Marie Cholock-Rotinsulu to launch a campaign and start-up company dedicated to reducing plastic use and waste, reaching hundreds of thousands of people through her social media as well as visits to villages and schools across her native archipelago.
Her own story is something of a reflection of the whale’s. Just as it took the sea creature being opened to reveal what it held, Cholock-Rotinsulu is a lesson in the truth that looks can be deceiving. As an actress, model, singer, and pageant titleholder of Miss International Indonesia 2019, Cholock-Rotinsulu is rarely seen any less than perfectly coiffed and glamorous. Yet, when out of the spotlight, Cholock-Rotinsulu is most readily found climbing volcanoes as a mountaineer, working with the Indonesian government on urban and rural childhood education and advocating for disability rights and elderly care both in her hometown as well as being actively involved on the Indonesia Asian Para Games Organizing Committee (INAPGOC).
“Maybe some of you are confused why a beauty pageant titleholder like me, is here, standing in front of all of you,” she said, ever self-aware, in an address at the United Nations. ‘Why is she here? Is she even relevant?’” In efforts to change the habits, minds and individual power of the world’s fourth most-populous nation, she unquestionably is.