Using beauty competitions to highlight social issues

Beauty pageants are being used as a vehicle for young Māori to push issues of importance into the spotlight.

Taupunakohe Tocker and Roimata Fox are set to star in a new play called Te Puhi which was inspired by 1962 Miss New Zealand winner Maureen Waaka.

Te Arawa actress Cian Elyse White drew on the legacy of the late Maureen Waaka whom not only put Māori women on the map but went on to become a Rotorua District councillor and esteemed community leader.

Both Taupunakohe Tocker and Roimata Fox spoke to Kawe Kōrero Reporters about the play and its importance for showing the power of wāhine Māori.

Fox says, “Although we have tāne in our cast who play beautiful roles, this particular piece is very enriching for whahine.”

Tocker who plays the lead character Te Puhi says beauty pageants can be used as a platform for women to be a voice for change.

She says, “I think all women have their own rights and if they want to compete in pageants, it's up to them, their family and iwi.”

Kawe Kōrero Reporters also spoke to Harlem-Cruz Atarangi Ihaia who has just made it into the top 20 of the Miss Universe New Zealand competition.

Ihaia says, “I thought, this could be a way I can achieve my dreams. My goal is to be a role model for all teenagers in NZ. We can do anything.”

Mr Polynesia Australia winner Shannon Karaka also spoke to Kawe Kōrero Reporters about using a beauty competition to raise awareness around mental illness.

Karaka says, “Mental illness in Australia is very common. More common than a lot of people think.

“Usually 80% of men suffer from mental illness.”

He says he lost a friend and an uncle to mental illness.

“It’s something very personal and close to my heart and when Mr Polynesia came around and I found out it was about raising awareness for mental illness, I felt it was my responsibility to be a part of it and do what I can,” says Karaka.