Miss Universe NZ 2017

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

Pink Ribbon Breakfast @ MR TOMS

Every year NZ Breast Cancer Foundation empowers thousands of New Zealanders to take part in Pink Ribbon breakfasts. This year there were over 3000 breakfasts held in NZ during the month of May.

I held one in partnership with MR TOMS bar & restaurant in Ponsonby. They created a beautiful cooked breakfast, with goats cheese omelettes, salmon eggs bene and gorgeous pink cupcakes.

It’s important to me to support Pink Ribbon because they are the voice of the messages that help save women’s lives. And more than that, their ground breaking research will save countless lives in the future. Right now NZBCF is putting money into researching a vaccine to prevent young women developing breast cancer. That would be such a blessing for our future generations. It would stop Breast Cancer in its tracks, and hopefully eliminate the need for mastectomies.

Pink 4
Evangelina, CEO NZBCF came and said a few words. She talked about the alarming rate of women getting Breast Cancer in NZ, and the even greater risk for Maori women. I spoke about my journey with BRCA and the breast cancer in my family.

My dear friend Helena McAlpine was greatly missed. She was always the star at these events with her bold messages and insane sense of humour. Hosting these events without her feels a bit like going dancing without my high heels, but it was also a good reminder of how special she was, not just to me but to so many people in the room.


Helena’s husband Christopher Barton joined us in saying a few quick words of support for NZ Breast Cancer Foundation and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Our brave speaker for the event was Tamzyn Adding, who was only diagnosed with cancer a year ago and has bravely fought through her mastectomy and treatment. She talked about how hard it was to tell her three children about her illness, and how scared she was on her initial diagnosis. But ultimately how hard she has fought to be alive. She is one brave woman!

(Tamzyn on the right & her sister on the left)

I thank everyone who made the effort to come to our special Pink Ribbon event… to listen, to connect and give money to this wonderful cause.

A special thanks to Essano – natural skincare products who donated a beautiful gift for every guest and prizes for the raffle. Along with the NZ Boutique Wine Festival, Tui Fleming from Dear Mummy NZ and Dani Strong from Dani Vitality Nutrition – who all kindly donated to the cause.


All together we raised over $900 for Pink Ribbon and which was the cherry on top of an awesome event, filled with important messages.

A big thanks to Olivia Mullholland, the Marketing support at MR TOMS who so passionately helped pull this event together.

And to Mianetto Prosecco who put together the sparkling pink Mimosas for guests to drink on arrival.

For more information on breast cancer in NZ check out… NZBCF Website

To work with MR TOMS on an event MR TOMS Website

Ladies Who Lunch @ Harbourside

Ladies Who Lunch Facebook Page


The fifth ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ event was held on 6th April @ Harbourside Restaurant in the Viaduct. 70 Auckland women attended this glamorous event, which started with a glass of Soho Wine in the Harbourside Bar area, overlooking the Viaduct Harbour and ferries.

Tickets sold out in a record 14 days to this event and I couldn’t believe the demand there was for women to come along! Every ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ ticket includes a 2-course meal, an impressive goodie bag and a glass of wine on arrival. Plus a bunch of prizes and special deals that are given away on the day.

The real purpose of the lunch is a fun social occasion that women can really relax and enjoy themselves at. The focus is on the ladies! And with the busy and often crazy lives we lead, I encourage these women to take a couple of hours out of their busy week and do something for themselves. Many of the ladies come on their own and everyone has made new friends by the end of the lunch. It’s also a great networking opportunity with many career women, business owners and mumtrepreneurs in the room.

We were lucky to be sponsored by brand new Dry Cleaning Ap – Laundromap, who gave every woman a $20 voucher to try their new wash/dry/fold service.

Also onsite was Dry & Tea with a mobile ‘Touch Ups’ Salon. So the ladies were treated to 15 minute sessions of professional hair styling which meant a room full of absolutely beautiful looking hair!

Glamorous fashion label Augustine was generous enough to give away a $200 voucher on the day and dress me in a beautiful gold dress. Every guest also received a current season Augustine Look-Book and Kelly Coe, designer of Augustine came to the event herself with her gaggle of gals and drew the winner of the prize.

MOR candles were definitely the beautiful touch that enhanced the room. Their fragrant candles added a sensory experience to the event while their beautiful selection of hand-creams, candles, soaps and pretty things made every table look special.

Also onsite was an Eco Minerals makeup artist there with products from online beauty store http://www.ecoboutique.co.nz


There were so many great feedback comments from the ladies about the food at Harbourside. We enjoyed a delicious King Ora Salmon starter, followed by the choice of Crispy Skinned Snapper or Duck Confit main. The quality of the dishes was absolutely incredible. Not surprising as that Harbourside is currently ‘Winner Best Restaurant’ at the Hospitality Awards NZ!

The goodie bags were valued at over $150 per guest and featured beautiful Lindi Kingi bracelets, Kronenburg Blonde Beers, a European cookbook by Flip Grater, Absolute Essential ‘Stress Less’ oil, OI ladies products, Arbornne samples, Lemuriun Springs Water, Mildred & Co vouchers and heaps more.


One of the ladies who came along is talented photographer Carmen Bird who is a regular contributor to Woman’s Day. She took these Ladies Who Lunch photos!

Also onsite was Red Carpet TV’s talented Director and Videographer Deb Brynand.

Check out the Red Carpet TV video here!


To join the Ladies Who Lunch group simply like the facebook page for all the updates http://www.facebook.com/ladieswholunchNZ


EA Power


Last week I was honoured to feature as the guest speaker at the Robert Walters Executive Breakfast, an annual event held for their top EA’s. The list of EA’s was impressive, with representatives from many of the country’s top businesses.

The topic was ‘Closing the confidence gap between men and women in senior leadership’ and a big part of it was looking at how we gain confidence as women to set ourselves on the path to senior positions.

Researching the topic was interesting. I could not believe that in such a gender equal society we still have only 13 – 15% of women in leadership positions. The numbers didn’t seem right? And on investigation it wasn’t a case of competence, so much as confidence that has been proven as the missing link.

I showed the guests some of a TED TALKS discussion by Facebook COO SHERYL SANDBERG

Sandberg gives examples of confidence issues in women and talks about the obstacles faced by women wanting to further their careers. One of her most powerful statements was ‘keep your foot on the throttle until the day you leave’. She advises that regardless of your future plans, you should keep moving in a forward direction until the very day you leave your organization.

We also discussed work life balance and the importance of wellness in your daily lives. About a third of the guests already had workplace wellness plans in place, and many of the EA’s wanted to implement plans within their organization. Some interesting research has been carried out by Robert Walters (as part of their White Papers on ’empowering females in business’) which suggests that the majority of both employees and employers see the value of a workplace wellness programme. That to me is a win!


When aiming for career leadership, research suggests three key steps to progressing your career:    1> Mentoring 2> Training Programmes 3> Networking with Senior Leadership   (in that order)

We discussed the importance of mentors, and the way we can work with our mentors as an ongoing part of our careers. I shared several of my role models with the audience and I was surprised to learn that not a single person in the room had a mentor or role model that they were working with to further their careers. I wondered if this was to do with our Kiwi mentality of ‘hanging back’? Or perhaps a lack of confidence in approaching a mentor? So much research points to mentors as being the single most important step to career success – so why is this not the norm in NZ? That is a question I cannot answer.

Anna's mentor - Erica Crawford


One of my beloved Kiwi role models is Wine Entrepreneur, Erica Crawford. Formerly of Kim Crawford Wines and more recently Loveblock Organic Wines. Erica’s business savvy is second to none and her career speaks for itself. After eight successful years of growing the Kim Crawford business the wine label became a top wine exporter to the US and Canada. The company was eventually sold to Vincor International and Erica was able to pursue new ventures in NZ’s wine and lifestyle industries.


I gave this example to the audience and encouraged them to find their own role models and mentors – a ‘smart support person’ who is willing to work with them on their future careers and give unbiased business direction.

plane mask

I closed the talk with a simple yet powerful life analogy. “Look after yourself so that you can look after those around you.”

No one can be powerful and project happiness onto others unless they are really happy within themselves. While we know this – it can be easy to forget. Whether we are mothers, partners, colleagues, friends, daughters or otherwise, it’s always great to remind ourselves of our own needs.

I loved meeting the EA’s at The Langham and the discussion that followed. I look forward to more inspirational talks to come.


More interesting reads here on ‘The Confidence Gap’ & women’s leadership: