Tess, Morgan and Natalya. Source: Te Ao Māori News
Contestants of Miss World New Zealand 2019 are hoping to showcase their Māori heritage when they take to the stage at the final in May.
This year three contestants are Māori, including Natalya Aroha Jackson of Ngāpuhi and Ngāti Porou, Tess Austin of Ngāi Tai and Morgan Hands of Ngāti Hei.
Jackson, 18, lives in Christchurch and is a hip-hop dance teacher, former kapa haka performer and martial artist.
She says she loves being Māori and wants to embrace it throughout the competition.
“For one of my talents I’m wanting to do kapa haka,” she says.
She’d also like to perform haka fusion and speak te reo Māori whenever she has the chance.
“In some of my interviews ill combine some of my reo.”
Natalya Jackson teaches dancing in Ōtautahi. Source: Facebook
Jackson says it was her aunty who persuaded her to enter the competition.
“People have always told me to do modelling and then I got the opportunity to come, she says.
“I really wanted to put myself out there and just try something new, and with the experience I’ve had so far, I’m loving every moment of it.”
Finalist Morgan Hands, 23, of Ngāti Hei works as a social media marketer for Vodafone NZ after studying marketing, economics and politics at The University of Otago.
She says she’s proud to be a Māori woman in the pageant.
“I’m really proud of the fact that I represent someone a little bit different and all of us come from different backgrounds,” she says.
Morgan Hands spends a lot of her time training for netball and going outdoors.
The most challenging part about the pageant for her is time.
“We’re all really busy women and we have to do a lot and put a lot of effort in as well as having the confidence to be yourself and go out on stage and just give your best.”
This year contestants will be judged in sections including interview, public speaking, charity efforts, sports, evening gown, beachwear, cocktail dress, social media and more.
“It pushes me outside of my comfort zone which is really important for personal growth, says Hands.
Tess Austin, 17, recently started her own swimwear company after studying business and says being able to represent her culture in the pageant is “amazing”.
“My favourite part is meeting all of the other contestants and learning about their cultures, as well as raising money for charities because that's a huge part of my family, she says.
"It's just so amazing to see what my iwi is doing to support me."
This year, as part of their Beauty with a Purpose charity project, contestants are fundraising to support Brave, an organisation founded by Miss World New Zealand 2018, Jessica Tyson of Te Atihaunui-ā-Pāpārangi.
Brave works to raise awareness about sexual violence affecting young people in Aotearoa through projects to educate rangatahi about sexual harm.
The winner of the pageant will have big shoes to fill after Tyson won Miss Oceania and placed in the top 12 at Miss World 2018, the highest that any Miss World New Zealand has placed in the last two decades.
The Miss World New Zealand 2019 final will be held in Auckland on May 26.