When Māori Television Presenter for Rereātea was crowned Miss World New Zealand over the weekend, her work colleague affectionately known as 'Aunty Mere' stood up to acknowledge the victory from the audience that made the whole room fall silent. It was an unexpected gesture that Jessica Tyson of Te Atihaunui-a-Pāpārangi described as a beautiful moment.
"When I did hear her start the karanga my eyes started to tear up and it was such a beautiful moment, and it was so special to see that our Māori culture was being embraced at the event," says Tyson.
Miss World is one of the big four major international beauty pageants and over the years have fallen prey to stereotypes. Second place getter and school teacher Natasha Unkovich told Kawekōrero she believes the competition is still relevant.
"One thing that I was really mindful of while doing this journey was making sure that I really shared it with my community, so especially my school community and it was fantastic because it really showed the kids, the parents, and the whole entire community that it's so much more than glitz and glam it's all about beauty with a purpose which is what Miss World New Zealand really encompasses," says Unkovich.
Tyson says the competition provides the contestants with a platform to raise awareness about charities and issues they are passionate about. She says not only is great for self-development but being a role model for other wahine Māori and rangatahi.
"They are beautiful, they have so much talent behind them, so much potential I want to see more Māori beauty queens up on that stage please, I think there's so much potential for us Māori beauty queens as well as good representatives for our country," says Tyson.