First-time pageant contestant Merepeka Raukawa-Tait crowned Miss Te Arawa 2022

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

A 19-year-old Eden Brons won the Miss Rotorua Beauty Pageant crown last week but she wasn’t the only winner.

Whānau Ora commissioning agency chair Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is now the proud wearer of the Miss Te Arawa 2022 sash and crown, after competing in her first pageant.

She says the feeling was fantastic to get the “icing on the cake”.

“It was a wonderful experience,” she says. “On the night I was so excited."

In the past few months since announcing that she would stand on stage in the pageant, the preparation for such a competition was a “tough ride”, as she puts it.

14 weeks of prep pays off for Merepeka Raukawa-Tait's first-ever pageant appearance.

“It was every week on a Sunday so you had to put your whole Sunday aside for 14 weeks. So you had to be prepared to stay the distance. I had to get used to walking in heels again, all of that sort of thing.

“Then you’ve got 20 women where most of us hadn’t known each other, all from different backgrounds. I have to say I do applaud Kharl WiRepa, the pageant director, to be able to take a diverse group of women, meld them into a cohesive team and make sure they look great on the night.”

Though putting on makeup for the pageant was new to her, trying new things and revisiting things she used to do and the people she met added to the fun.

“For me, the biggest thing was getting to know people in my community that, probably, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know.

“The way we look at beauty, to me, is actually quite wrong. We, of course, love to see beauty in our young people but beauty is with us throughout our entire lives. If it comes from within, it’s with us for all of our years. 

“It was a lovely understanding that we all shared with each other towards the end.”