Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Beauty queen spat: Winner says 'I'm not selfish'

Avianca Bohm.  Photo / Sarah Ivey
Avianca Bohm. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Miss Universe New Zealand organisers are under fire as the pageant community battles over the crowning of a contestant without citizenship.

South African-born Avianca Bohm, who was crowned on Sunday, will compete in December's pageant only if her citizenship application is fast-tracked.

Runner-up and Miss North Harbour Talia Bennett is only able to speak to media if given permission from organisers.

But yesterday the regional licensee of Miss North Harbour, Melissa Martin, launched an attack on organisers over the "appalling miscarriage of justice".

"When things like this that are so blatantly wrong happen, it just reinforces the public's dislike of pageants and their disinterest in them," she said.

Pageant director Val Lott previously said she and the head judge knew Ms Bohm was ineligible to win the competition and should not have done so.

But head judge Jack Yan said he was never told about the citizenship issues of both Ms Bohm, 22, and third runner-up, Monique Cooley.

Ms Martin has now called for Ms Lott to give up her directorship, held since 2006, and demanded an explanation. Ms Lott could not be contacted yesterday.

But Mr Yan said he was 100 per cent confident that the judges' final decision had not been biased. "I certainly saw no evidence of a close friendship [between Ms Bohm and judge Danijela Unkovich, an allegation Ms Martin made] at all.

"I think they're known to each other, but then the Auckland pageant community is very, very tiny."

He said indications were that so long as Ms Bohm had a New Zealand passport by the December event date then she would be able to compete. "I believe she falls under a special category [for fast-tracking]."

Yesterday Ms Bohm said that despite the controversy she was still sure she would be able to represent New Zealand.

"There have been a few comments saying I shouldn't have my citizenship fast-tracked, and it's a selfish thing to do. But, I mean, I'm representing our country, I'm not doing it just for myself."

But Ms Martin said that even if citizenship were granted in time, Ms Bohm should be made to give up her tiara.

Ms Martin, 43, had competed internationally in pageants in the 1980s and 1990s with the likes of Lana Coc-Kroft - but said those glory days are long gone.

"Because Donald Trump has taken over ... I thought, great, it's starting at the top, hopefully it will filter down ... but New Zealand is still stuck in the dark ages."

- NZ Herald

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