Born and raised on Oʻahu, Michelle Nālei Akina was brought up in a close-knit family on the slopes of ʻAiea.
Brought to her first hula class at the age of four, Nālei was given the great privilege to learn from her kumu hula and ʻohana about her Hawaiian heritage and the importance of Kulia i ka nu`u me ka ha`aha`a (Strive for the highest with humility). When she wasn’t at the halau, she could be found playing kickball at her tutu’s elementary school, or playing hide and seek with her cousins at the family home. Deeply grateful for the gift of family, Nālei is humbled to join Liliʻuokalani Trust in service of the Queen’s legacy to care our Hawaiian keiki and families.
With over 25 years of experience in nonprofit management, Nālei most recently served as administrator at Lunalilo Home, established through the will of King William Lunalilo to care for Native Hawaiian kūpuna (elders). She also worked for the National Asian Women’s Health Organization, New York City Ballet, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. As a Hawaiian diaspora living in New York City for ten years, Nālei co-founded and directed the Hawai`i Cultural Foundation – to build community, promote cultural understanding, and perpetuate the rich cultural traditions of Hawai’i.
She is honored to serve on the board of directors of the Hawaiʻi Youth Opera Chorus, Ballet Hawaii, and the Friends of ʻIolani Palace, to help preserve and celebrate these significant cultural, historical and educational legacies. Nālei has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Economics and Business Management from Cornell University, and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
She currently lives in ʻAiea at the Akina ‘ohana kauhale with her husband, two teenage daughters, aunty and uncles. In her spare time, she cherishes those precious moments of singing or dancing hula with her daughters, preparing family meals with aunty, talking story down in the banana patch with the uncles, or enjoying the gentle cool breezes on walks up to Keaīwa with her husband.