New Miss Rotorua hopes to bring Chinese and Māori cultures closer

By Jessica Tyson

For decades, Chinese have had a special relationship with Māori in Te Arawa, as one of their main tourist business customers.

But now that relationship is likely to grow even closer with the naming of the first Chinese Miss Rotorua, crowned over the weekend.

The winner of the Māori-owned pageant is Kogi So, a 37-year-old real estate agent and mother of two. She stole the hearts of judges with her elegance, mana and wairua on stage.

Kogi says when she was crowned she felt a sense of acceptance as a Chinese woman. She was born and raised in Hong Kong with Indonesian and Chinese parents. In 2015 she decided to move to Rotorua.

“It’s all because of the kids’ education. I want to give them a better life.”

Kogi has two daughters who were really happy to see their mother win.

“They’re really proud of me and I couldn’t hold my tears when I saw them run up to the stage. That was a really neat moment for me.”

Kogi also won the Miss Congeniality award at the pageant. She says she decided to first enter the pageant to be a role model for her “two princesses”.

“I wanted to let them know that the true beauty is not only the outside, it’s all about the inner beauty and I just want to show them how to be kind to yourself and to be kind to others.”

Kogi So was crowned by former Miss Rotorua 2020 Atutahi Potaka-Dewes who is a radio presenter at Te Arawa FM.

As Miss Rotorua 2021, Kogi hopes to build a closer relationship between Chinese and Māori in Rotorua, “and show that no matter what is your skin colour, no matter what is your nationality, we all [are] one”.

Throughout the competition, contestants took part in wānanga and activities to learn about the Māori culture. Kogi says she learned the similarities between Māori and Chinese.

“I think Māori culture and Chinses culture is quite similar. We like to value the elderly. We like to value relationships and food. We like to treat friends,” she says.

Throughout the pageant contestants also organised their own fundraising events to support a number of charities. Kogi helped to raise funds for Brave Charitable Trust which works towards supporting rangatahi affected by sexual harm.

Kogi says she has another women’s empowerment seminar coming up to help raise money for Brave as well as more events.

Miss Rotorua 2021 awards:

  • Miss Rotorua - Kogi So
  • Miss Multi-cultural - Shivangi Segvakar
  • Miss Te Arawa - Te Aroha Hapi
  • Miss Teen Rotorua - Ada Manaia 
  • Miss Manawāhine - Ash Ram
  • Mrs Rotorua - Karina Binoy