Beauty queens reveal ugly pageant truths

By Celeste Gorrell Anstiss

Elizabeth Aitken. File photo / APN
Elizabeth Aitken. File photo / APN

A former Miss Universe New Zealand is urging young women to avoid beauty pageants.

Elizabeth Aitken, then Elizabeth Gray, represented the country in the worldwide final in 2006. This week she said if she had a daughter, would never let her enter a beauty pageant.

"I don't see how they can be good for the mind or the soul. It's a very degrading thing to do," she said.

Aitken was horrified to discover the woman crowned Miss World 2006, 18-year-old Miss Puerto Rico, had undergone six cosmetic surgery operations before walking across the stage.

"If beauty pageants have any future they need to change in a big way. Women should not be judged and given a ranking on how beautiful they are or how they look in a swimsuit. It is degrading and needs to change."

Aitken's damning comments came as the head of the Miss World franchise waded in to the Miss Fiji controversy, and said she would be travelling to the island to try to sort out the fiasco.

Miss World Fiji, 16-year-old Torika Watters, was stripped of her crown because she was not old enough to compete.

The organiser, New Zealander Andhy Blake, had told her he had special permission from the global headquarters to enter a teenager one year short of the minimum age.

Miss World chief executive Julia Morley said she would be heading to Fiji from her home in the US "as soon as possible".

"Sadly I am aware of many problems that have occurred," Morley told The Associated Press.

Earlier this month, Watters was forced to pass her crown to an older competitor.

She has slammed the competition, saying it was a "fiasco". "I was worried about the lies, the deception, the lack of transparency and the lack of professionalism. I knew there were issues with money. Some of the girls had not received the promised prize money and were unhappy," she said.

"I left Suva and the entire pageant fiasco because I was becoming very uncomfortable with the situation. I am now back in Nadi with my mum and just want to get on with my life."

Watters' father committed suicide two years ago and she entered the competition in the hope of raising awareness of mental illness.

Watters also suffered an online backlash from people who considered her "too European" to represent the island nation.

She appeared on TVNZ's Close Up programme but now admits Blake had instructed her on what to say.

Watters' mother Anne Hazelhurst said the pageant had burned her family. "Here's a 16-year-old who had lost her dad and wanted to speak to kids her own age going through depression," Hazelhurst said. "She thought she could have more of an impact. It hurts, it's upsetting," she said.

"She didn't go in to have the crown, she was going in for the purpose for the charity, which is something we really need here in Fiji. I'm not looking for an apology, I'm just helping my daughter move on."

Neither Blake nor celebrity judge Rachel Hunter returned calls last week.

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 28 Nov 2014 16:25:21 Processing Time: 262ms