The girlfriend of a Kiwi Mongrel Mob member with a Notorious face tattoo has spoken out in his defence, saying people have judged him unfairly.
Waiora Tareha says she was surprised by the global attention her boyfriend Puk Kireka received – including being mocked by US rapper 50 Cent – after he admitted to Hawkes Bay Today last week, that he would face difficulty finding work with his prominent black and red facial tattoo.
"From that small write-up, somehow it managed to make its way around the world," Tareha told Stuff.
"It reached the likes of 50 Cent, who then posted Puk's picture on Instagram resulting in over 300,000 likes."
Kireka gained worldwide notoriety when UK newspaper the Sun published an article based on his interview with Hawkes Bay Today, with the headline "MOB JUSTICE Gangster with 'Notorious' tattooed across his face moans he can't find a job".
50 Cent then fired his shot, publicly commenting on Kireka's facial tattoo by posting a screenshot of the Sun's article to his Instagram.
"What the f*** is really going on man. I wonder why he can't get a job," the rapper wrote.
Tareha admits the amount of criticism and negativity directed at Kireka has been hard to accept and says people are making the mistake of judging a book by its cover.
After serving two stints in prison, the 31-year-old is trying to turn his life around and is aiming to study sport and recreation with an eye to finding work as a personal trainer.
"No one wants to see someone they love talked about negatively by strangers who have no knowledge of their upbringing or their true selves," she told Stuff.
"I do believe he was unfairly judged all because he has a facial tattoo."
Tareha admits she was wary of Kireka when they first met at a Napier fitness group, Patu Ahuriri, which is commited to helping people make positive changes to their lives. However, her opinion quickly changed once she got to know him.
"When I initially met him I was very stand-offish because I am not used to seeing someone with facial tattoos like that or being around gang members," she told Stuff.
"As I got to know him through training together I realised he's just like everyone else and has an enormous heart for his family and the community."
Tareha's comments come after she set up a Givealittle page earlier this week, asking Kiwis to help support him as he looks to complete his studies. So far the page has raised $543 in donations.
"Help Puk on his path to his dream job by supporting him with his education, course and study fees so that he is able to obtain his Cert, Diploma and Bachelors degree in Sport and Exercise Science to become a Personal Trainer," Tareha explains on the page.
"As his partner I would like to help him in any way I can."