Born in Samoa, Anapela Polata’ivao's ancestral roots stem from the villages of Vailoa, Vaiusu, Fagae'e and Safue. Raised in South Auckland, Aotearoa, her first acting role, was at age eight in Lotu Tamaiti - a day in Samoan culture where children are honoured and celebrated. Her high school summers were spent rehearsing and performing shows with The Maidment Youth Theatre at Auckland University. In 2000 she graduated from Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School.
Theatre credits include Makerita Urale's Frangipani Perfume, Victor Rodger's My Name is Gary Cooper and Club Paradiso and Sia Figel's Where We Once Belonged.
In 2005, she gained a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Film and TV Awards for her role in TVNZ series, The Market. She co-directed Kila Kokonut Krew's highly acclaimed musical The Factory. The show toured extensively in Australia and had a five-week season at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014.
. In 2013 she was an Executive Producer for The Factory web series under the guidance of Robin Scholes and was also a core cast member. In Zia Mandviwalla's short film Night Shift, Polata’ivao won Best Actress at the Fresh Shorts Awards 2012 and later went on to win Best Actress at the International Short Film Festival in Spain. Other film credits include The Breaker Upperers, Tusi Tamasese’s One Thousand Ropes and the upcoming Bunny King.
In 2015 she shared the Auckland Fringe Festival Best Director award for Victor Rodger’s Girl on a Corner. She directed a new version of Tusiata Avia’s Wild Dogs Under My Skirt in 2016 which won her a Best Director nod from the Auckland Theatre Awards. The play has since featured in Festivals throughout New Zealand and in 2018 it won Wellington Theatre Awards for Best Production and Best Actress for Polata’ivao.
Wild Dogs Under My Skirt will be performed at the SoHo Playhouse in New York off-Broadway in 2020.