Harlem-Cruz Ihaia crowned Miss Universe NZ

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Harlem-Cruz Atarangi Ihaia (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou) is the new Miss Universe NZ.

20 women competed for the crown at the grand final in Auckland in the weekend.

High heels or gumboots, Harlem-Cruz Ihaia can do both.

"We can do anything, my favourite shoes are Red Band gumboots but also high heels so we can do both."

Harlem-Cruz says her Māori heritage gives confidence in her identity.

"Believing in myself that I can do this. I'm Māori, my goal is to stand Māori in that competition to show the world this is New Zealand, this is Māori, this is us."

She raised over $11,000 over five months and won the entrepreneurial section of the competition. $160,000 in total was raised by the fundraising efforts of the competitors which went towards the Variety charity to sponsor children in need.

"I sold hāngi, set up a gala as well as organised a formal evening dinner."

She has a message for young Māori women albeit women around the world.

"Be yourself, be Māori, don't change to be like Kylie Jenner or the Kardashians, as well as any other culture just be proud of your own people."

The international Miss Universe competition will be held in November with the location yet to be revealed.