For our second issue of Lei, we searched for fresh faces to feature on our cover and in our lifestyle editorial depicting the perfect date on O‘ahu’s east side. The men we chose weren’t just pretty faces—they were also talented and charming gents with good taste. Meet public defender Tyler Iokepa Gomes.
Growing up in Kailua as the eldest of four, Tyler Iokepa Gomes (pictured left) first considered becoming a lawyer when he realized he was particularly good at winning arguments with his younger siblings. But it wasn’t until he was majoring in Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa that he decided to pursue law school.
After receiving his bachelor’s in Hawaiian Language, he went on to attend the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawa‘i, interning at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs during his studies and KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance after earning his JD.
Next, he worked as a law clerk to the circuit court judge who instilled in him the confidence he needed to take on his current job as a deputy public defender.
“He was one of my biggest influences, personally and professionally,” says Gomes. “He’s given me a number of choice mantras to live by, including the secret to love: ‘Be interested, be interesting.’”
It paid off. In 2019, Gomes was appointed by Hawaii Gov. David Ige as deputy to the chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
Meet Our Other Cover Model: Brandon Smith
Favorite place to eat: “My parents’ kitchen”
Favorite place to go out: “Manifest. They tolerate my bad dancing.”
Favorite item of clothing he wore at the shoot: “The white Aloha Sunday shorts with the sailboats [from Aloha Beach Club]. I bought them the week after the shoot.”
Best surprise from the outing: “Everyone from Lei—the photographer (John Hook), partner in crime (Brandon Smith), and the stylists (Bradley Rhea of Barrio and Carrie Shuler)—made the whole experience fun and easy.”
What he loves about Hawai‘i: “Both the Hawaiian culture and local culture. They’re different but symbiotic.”
Where he will be in 10 years: “I’ll still be here, walking up and down Bishop Street in any combination of old aloha shirts and slacks, with malasada sugar on my face.”