19-year-old Harlem-Cruz Ihaia has been crowned Miss Universe New Zealand 2017 at the recently concluded grand final at Skycity Theatre on Saturday night, which was televised free-to-air and live streamed. She was crowed by Tania Dawson, Miss Universe New Zealand 2016. Harlem-Cruz will now represent New Zealand Miss Universe 2017 competition to be held in November.
Harlem-Cruz is a teacher at Te Kupenga o te Mātauranga kōhanga reo in Onekawa. Her motto is, ‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’
Harlem-Cruz runners up included – Brooke Houia (1st runner-up), Shek Delos Santos (2nd runner-up), Sarah Le Grince (3rd runner-up) and Holly Waghorn (4th runner-up).
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.”
“To break the image of every young teenager wanting to be the next Kylie Jenner, I just want to prove that we can all be ourselves and to inspire, hopefully, the world,” she said.
Ihaia wins a limited addition Honda Jazz RS Sport and will do four overseas trips, including to the grand final, as Miss Universe NZ.