International Women’s Day today also marks almost six months since the inspiring Evarna Koia, of Ngāti Maniapoto, won her title as Miss Rotorua.
Koia is a former methamphetamine addict and has been imprisoned for theft as a teen but she turned her life around after attending Sunday church in youth prison.
Since winning the crown in September 2019, Koia has been able to share her story to support others within the Rotorua and wider community.
“It’s been amazing, I’m still growing every day. It’s always good when you can give back to people and you can see the growth in people," she says.
Koia has now started her own youth group, Legacy Kaitiaki, which she runs from home.
“They don’t have to be in church. There’s also been people contact me through my Miss Rotorua Facebook page and I’ve been personally answering calls. It could be every day sometimes. But I just answer that call and I just give them words of advice and encouragement and just show them that I’m there to support because if they look up to me through Miss Rotorua then that’s a gift that I can give back.”
She has had a lot of people approach her in the street in Rotorua, interested to talk about her experience.
“They have asked me, ‘You're Miss Rotorua and you went through all of that? You had that background, you have gone through addiction?’, she says.
“Knowing that I can step out of that dark background and more or less embrace who I am and my story, it’s really inspired myself just to see how that ripple effect has gone through.”
Koia has also started working full-time at a clothing store, KILT Rotorua, selling clothing made by New Zealand designers.
“I’m happy that I get to support designers from New Zealand, I’ve also signed up to study te reo.”
She and her partner are looking to invest in a business developing clothing designs.
“But really just putting my time, my effort, into the community and at home and whānau.”
Koia will continue making an impact in Rotorua before crowning the next queen on 26 September.