Web row ends pageant dream

By Kathryn King

Olivia O'Neil with the dyed brown hair that lost her the crown. Photo / Wanganui Chronicle
Olivia O'Neil with the dyed brown hair that lost her the crown. Photo / Wanganui Chronicle

Teen beauty Olivia O'Neil has been forced to hand back her crown after a Facebook spat with a pageant organiser over dyeing her hair.

Olivia, 15, Miss Teen Wanganui, was told she had to give up the crown because she wasn't meeting the "expectations" that went with winning.

Now Olivia - with her parents' support - has exposed the tantrums behind the provincial beauty pageant, saying she was yelled at and told she would not "go far in this world".

Olivia only had the crown for three months when she posted a new profile photograph on her Facebook page showing newly-dyed dark brown hair.

Pageant organiser Barbara Osborne saw the picture online and asked: "Is that a wig?"

Osborne continued: "I hope it is, don't give me heart failure","Oh my God, I hope it's a demi". "Please tell me that's a wig".

Olivia replied saying it was not a wig and if Osborne didn't think it was "pageant worthy" then beauty pageants might not be for her.

The comments led to Osborne saying: "Well you better decide, miss. Hand over your crown with an attitude like that. I'm sure someone will step into your place with manners."

When Olivia handed over the crown, she said Osborne told her she "would not go far in this world".

"I don't think you can tell a 15-year-old that they aren't going to go very far in life. It's hurtful," said Olivia.

She said she and the other girls were criticised for their appearance, complexion and hair, told to wear more makeup and yelled at.

"She was always really harsh on the girls. And when she says things like 'present yourself better', 'wear lots of makeup', 'do 20 sit-ups', it gets to you after a while."

Olivia's father Vaughan O'Neil said the girls were still children and comments of that sort were unfair.

New pageant spokesman Jevan Goulter yesterday confirmed that the crown had been removed from Olivia because she had changed her hair colour. "The expectation in holding the crown [was] that she maintain the image she had when she won it."

He said he had emailed Vaughan O'Neil to say that the pageant organisers were happy to meet Olivia to discuss the expectations.

Goulter denied that Osborne had "yelled" at the contestants. He said that "advice" was given, and conceded that the teenagers could have interpreted her comments, and the way she made them, as "yelling".

"In a beauty pageant, it's not about sugar coating and providing lip service to the girls. They should be treated the same way as in any other beauty pageant in the world."

Goulter said Barbara Osborne was no longer involved in the organisation, although her daughter Chandra Osborne was still a director.

Barbara Osborne would not comment.

- Additional reporting: David Fisher

- Herald on Sunday

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