Born in Samoa, Anapela Polataivao's ancestral roots stem from the villages of Vailoa, Vaiusu, Fagae'e and Safune.  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.

Acting credits include Makerita Urale's Frangipani Perfume, Victor Rodger's My Name is Gary Cooper and Sia Figel's Where We Once Belonged. She co-directed New Zealand's first full length Tongan play, Kingdom of Lote, another milestone for her company Kila Kokonut Krew. 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 addition, she is an Acting tutor at the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts (PIPA) and is one half of the successful comedic duo Pani and Pani. 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, Polataivao 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.