Online beauty pageant a big hit

By Allison Hess

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First time Miss Mount Maunganui winner Maaia Reid-Bennett, 16. Photo / Janelle Reid
First time Miss Mount Maunganui winner Maaia Reid-Bennett, 16. Photo / Janelle Reid

The Bay's annual beauty pageant got through its new online format glitch-free.

Maaia Reid-Bennett, 16, was crowned Miss Mount Maunganui while Liam Whareaitu, 19, was declared Mr Mount Maunganui yesterday afternoon after more than 500 people voted for their winner online.

After 60 years of being hosted in traditional beauty pageant style, with a stage on the beach, talent shows, question time, sashes and a big crowd, Miss and Mr Mount Maunganui 2016 made the transition to online this year, leading to more people signing up.

I think we opened it up to a different audience.
Matt Davy

This year saw about 30 contestants sign up, said NZME central region brand engagement manager Matt Davy.

"In past events not a lot of people signed up but since it was done online with public voting a lot of people felt more comfortable not having to go on stage," he said.

"I think we opened it up to a different audience."

Mr Davy said while the public voted solely based on photographs of contestants, with no talent contest or questions to answer, personality shone through in the photos.

"A photo can really speak, you could see their personality.

"One girl had her fishing rod, there was a hipster and our Miss Mount winner had her surfboard," Mr Davy said.

He hoped in the future they could bring the pageant back to its former glory, which saw the likes of Miss Universe Lorraine Downes crowned in 1983.

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The new online format had contestants have a photo taken at Mount Main Beach which were then whittled down to the top five male and female contestants by the judges.

The top five were loaded to the ZM website where more than 500 people voted for their winner.

Miss Mount winner Maaia Reid-Bennett said she had been tricked by her aunty into entering.

"I had just come up from a surf and my aunty was like 'come get a photo with me, we could win stuff', so I did but I had no idea it was for Miss Mount," the local competitive surfer said.

When she found out what it was for she was hesitant but decided to just give it a try.

Then when ZM called a week later to tell her she had won she was "stoked".

Her family was likewise excited and happy for her, she said.

"My aunty called and said 'I pretty much won all those prizes for you'," she said.

Miss Reid-Bennett has been surfing since she was 10 and began surfing competitively when she was 12, recently reaching the U18 girls semi-finals of the national surfing championships in Dunedin.

Mr Mount winner Liam Whareaitu, a Mount man currently living in Christchurch, said he really did not want to enter but was coaxed into it by ZM ladies outside the pop-up Miss and Mr Mount station.

Mr Mount winner Liam Whareaitu.
Mr Mount winner Liam Whareaitu.

"I wasn't too keen on it but then they said you could win prizes," he said. Mr Whareaitu said it was "great" that he had won. While his mum was "all about it" and would be proud, he said his friends would probably just laugh and ask why he did something like that.

If the competition had been like it was in past years with a stage and crowds he said there was "no way" he would have entered.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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