Photo recall: Hard graft behind Miss NZ beauty pageant

By Poppy Wortman

With plenty of work and no play, the competition was more than just standing around looking beautiful

Lorraine Fleming (Miss Taranaki) takes an impromptu dip. Photo/NZH, Photo research/Emma Land.
Lorraine Fleming (Miss Taranaki) takes an impromptu dip. Photo/NZH, Photo research/Emma Land.

It was a beauty pageant but 1989 Miss Otago, Margot D'hondt, says the Miss New Zealand contest was far from being all glitz and glamour. "It was actually really hard work," D'hondt, pictured on the right, says.

"We worked for about a week getting the show ready and had all these obligations with the press, so it was actually a very unglamorous job we had to do."

This included creating camera-happy moments in the chilly October weather. D'hondt was impressed when Lorraine Fleming, the 1989 Miss Taranaki, put her hand up to be pushed in the pool.

"Lorraine was a dairy farming girl and was a bit stauncher than the rest of us. We all had our makeup and hair perfect, but she was quite keen. I was just smiling and not getting involved, being a bit wussy."

And being an 18-year-old university student at the time, D'hondt copped some disapproval from her peers for competing. "I was from a pretty feminist background, so did get a lot of flak from my fellow students because it wasn't considered a particularly feminist thing to do."

In 1989, Miss Auckland, Helen Rowney, pictured second from left, represented New Zealand at the Miss World pageant in Hong Kong.

Miss Universe New Zealand executive director Nigel Godfrey is excited this year's show will again be televised. "For the past 21 years, it's just been a tiny competition taking place in a hotel room and no one really knows about it. We want New Zealand to start embracing it again, and we want the winner to become an ambassador for the country."

They don't want "train wreck TV". The question-and-answer part of the competition has been abandoned, he says.

"It puts girls in a position where they might screw up, and that's not what we're about. We're about showcasing the best of what they have to offer."

Thirty years on from being crowned Miss Universe, Lorraine Downes remembers the huge mixture of emotions, saying it was "thrilling, happiness, shock, can I do this? New Zealand, I did it. In 1983, when I competed, the public interest was huge and New Zealanders loved to watch the show on TV, so it will be interesting to see how New Zealanders view it in 2013".

Miss Universe New Zealand will be held at SkyCity on October 5 and broadcast on Juice TV.

- Herald on Sunday

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