Miss Universe NZ first to wear tā moko in competition

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Nineteen-year-old Harlem-Cruz is the gumboot wearing beauty queen who will be the first New Zealand contestant to wear tā moko on the Miss Universe world stage, in the past tattoos have not always gone hand in hand with pageants.

She got her tā moko when she was 16-years-old which symbolises her family "it represents my ancestors and was created by Charles Paringatai for me to show my sisters, brothers and my parents."

Pageant organisers of Miss Universe and Miss Universe New Zealand say they respect cultural diversity and that there is nothing in the national or international rules that forbid any contestant from expressing herself through any aspect of her cultural identity.

"Both the national and international rules focus more on the ethical and moral standards of a contestant, and on this note, there is nothing to fault Harlem-Cruz. As she sets off to Miss Universe to compete for Aotearoa, she can do so knowing that her Maori culture will be appreciated," says Jack Yan, Miss Universe New Zealand general counsel.

"This whole journey of being in the competition was about changing stereotypes around Maori so that's why I won't hide it as it would be against everything I'm about, which is being true to my Maori heritage," says Atarangi-Ihaia.

The competition will be held at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas on November 26.