19-year-old Harlem-Cruz Ihaia has been crowned Miss Universe New Zealand 2017 after taking out the grand final at Skycity Theatre last night, which was televised free-to-air and live streamed.
Born and bred in Kahungunu, she won the Entrepreneurial Challenge and top honours before a judging panel that included Teuila Blakely, Frankie Stevens and Samala Robinson.
Harlem-Cruz is a teacher at Te Kupenga o te Mātauranga kōhanga reo in Onekawa.
In an interview with Te Kāea earlier this year, she said she entered the competition to try to break the stereotype of young Māori.
"I went there with a strong belief in my Māori identity and if they didn't like it, oh well, I would've left the competition. I really want to stay true to my Māori culture in this whole thing and that's what sets me apart from the other girls."
In typical Māori fashion, members of her whānau burst out of the crowd and performed a rousing haka in honour of her win.
Harlem-Cruz said after her win that the victory was unexpected.
Her motto is, ‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’
This year’s finalists have helped Miss Universe New Zealand raise over $140,000 for the children’s charity Variety.
2nd: Brooke Houia
3rd: Shekinah delos Santos
4th: Dr Sarah Hensby-Bennett
5th: Holly Waghorn