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Next Miss Aotearoa needs te reo

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(Yvonne Tahana, NZ Herald) There will be no embarrassing Miss New Zealand-type spats at the Miss Aotearoa pageant, the organiser says of the contest which begins today in Hawkes Bay.

Angela Cudd, 23, from Ngati Porou, won the indigenous title in 2010 but is now the pageant director after the show took a break last year.

The art of fact-checking has weighed heavily on her, Ms Cudd joked, especially after the national competition awarded South African born Avianca Bohm the Miss New Zealand crown despite her not having citizenship. An ensuing slanging match with the pageant franchise holder culminated in Ms Bohm being stripped of the title.

“I’ve worked hard to make sure everything’s above board, our girls have given me their whakapapa (genealogy), but we’ve also taken measures to make sure the girls are looked after – that they enjoy this as a celebration.”

It was a quick introduction to pageants for the former tomboy who has seven brothers and three sisters and whose family celebrated sport and academic success when she was growing up. Two years ago she entered Miss Wellington and the day after competed in Miss Aotearoa.

“I grew up a tomboy … I didn’t buy my first foundation until I was 19. I entered pageants because I wanted to learn how to be a girl.

“I really entered to boost my confidence … there’s something about a pageant that solidifies knowing who you are as a person – but also the pretty dresses and hair, ha ha.”

Miss Aotearoa reflects traditional beauty competitions but also adds an extra emphasis on the Maori world and te reo. Ms Cudd said the girls were expected to have a wide view of the world and be able to articulate who they were.

“I never felt completely myself unless I was doing something to do with my culture. I did kapa haka all through high school, I’d put on the piupiu … and that’s when I felt the most me. For me, Miss Aotearoa is less about the pretty hair and makeup and more about my culture and my people and community.”

The six girls will compete over a week, taking part in a photo shoot, official sashing, public Q&A session, the Te Koanga Fashion Show and formal interviews.

They will also present at the national Waiata Maori Music Awards next Friday before the final crowning next Saturday.

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