This year was the second year that I judged Miss Universe NZ, and what an absolute honour it was. Last year coming into this competition as a judge I felt like a bit of a newbee, coming into it knowing very little about how it all worked, with only the old school pagents in my mind. But I was really quite blown away at how far this competition has evolved and just how much effort the girls put in to Miss Universe NZ. So this year I was right in there, connecting with the other judges, and scoping out the contestants. I really enjoyed looking at all the ‘pre’ efforts these ambitious young women make to secure their place in the Grand Finals.
On the night it was all screened live on Bravo TV and streamed live on YouTube. The programme rated really well and it felt like so many of my friends in NZ and even overseas were tuned in!
From hundreds of entries there are only 20 places in the Grand Final, so the competition is very tough. What amazes me is that these young women (aged 18 – 28) spend 3 months running their own campaigns. This includes raising money in their local communities for Variety and other charities of their choice. Many of the contestants raised over $3,000 and one, a said winner, Harlem-Cruz Ihia – raised an astonishing $11,000. To achieve this goal you need to have, heart, soul, business smarts and determination.
As part of the competition the finalists were treated to a trip to five star Thavorn Village Resort in Phuket, Thailand. The trip was a chance for the girls to take part in the official Miss Universe NZ photoshoot, connect with the other girls and boost their social media pages with content for voting.
At our final ‘pre-judging day we heard each of these 20 women sit with us and explain their fundraising project outcomes to us, as well as a chat about themselves, who they are and why they are here? I cried my way through several of their talks. Some of these women were extremely empowered, some were proud, some were unique in beautiful soul-deep ways and some were already so accomplished that I was quite blown away.
The brands that power this event are really quite generous and the products that we tried were second to none. Beau Joie Champagne features stunning handcrafted copper bottles, that will no doubt feature on the mantlepiece for many evenings to come. The Caithy Argan Oil and Natural Creme’s were so nourishing, and the Avene beauty products were such a treat – you can’t go past anti-aging.
I was pretty chuffed with my Christian Paul watch, designed in Sydney, these time pieces are so stylish and perfect for everyday wear! Avene is a long time, respected beauty brand. And I’m loving my Anti-aging Eye & Lip Contour Creme. Plus we were treated to a lovely dinner at Azon, where they served a delicious soft shelled crab in coconut curry (amongst other yummy things). Check out that Filipino restaurant if you’re in Parnell!
And as for our deserved winner, Harlem-Cruz Ihia. Never have I heard a young woman speak with such passion about changing her community and aspiring to be a strong rolemodel for other young women in New Zealand. Harlem is passionate about bringing education to diverse areas, and she hopes that all women will strive to be the best they can be and realize their dreams. I was so moved by her talk with the judges and on the night of the Grand Finals I was really impressed with her poise and elegance. I should also add that Harlem raised the most money for Variety and the SCOT foundation. She was the true winner on the night and seeing her whanau perform the Haka brought tears to our eyes.
I look forward to seeing what Harlem will do with her Miss Universe Crown and I hope she’s having a great time driving around in her Honda Jazz!
Stay up to date with Miss Universe NZ: http://www.facebook.com/MissUniverseNZ