Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

NZ student chases Pakistan beauty crown

South Aucklander Maria Mughal, 23, will represent New Zealand in the Miss Pakistan World beauty pageant in August. She came here with her family in 1991 when she was 3. Photo / Greg Bowker
South Aucklander Maria Mughal, 23, will represent New Zealand in the Miss Pakistan World beauty pageant in August. She came here with her family in 1991 when she was 3. Photo / Greg Bowker

A New Zealander will this year have a shot at winning the Miss Pakistan World crown.

Aucklander Maria Mughal will vie with contestants from the Middle East, Europe, US and Australia for the pageant's top prize next month.

The pageant, which is open to Pakistani women around the world, is in its 10th year and is condemned by many members of the Muslim community.

It has never been held in Pakistan because of security risks and will this year take place in Ontario, Canada.

Miss Mughal, a 23-year-old Auckland University of Technology business student, migrated from Pakistan with her Muslim family when she was just 3 years old.

"We moved over in 1991 ... for a better life.

"Our village in Kashmir, Pakistan is right on the border [with India].

"Since Pakistan separated [from India], there have been several wars ... and this is why we decided to leave."

Coming from a country like Pakistan, where the way of life is largely directed by religious beliefs, New Zealand seemed so liberal, she said.

"It was quite difficult growing up, especially because my family are quite traditional."

Miss Mughal, who attended Aorere College in South Auckland, no longer counts herself as a practising Muslim. She credits her strict upbringing as a driving force behind her decision to enter the competition.

"I am one of eight kids and the eldest girl in the family.

"It was so hard trying to make my parents understand that living in New Zealand was a world away from Pakistan.

"Even the simple things, like playing sports and hanging out with friends was so challenging."

Entering Miss Pakistan World demonstrates the bringing together of two cultures - Kiwi and Pakistani, said Miss Mughal.

Pageant organiser Sonia Ahmed said many contestants had been threatened for taking part.

"Every year since 2003 there were always different kinds of threats.

"Some were against girls who went to international pageants because they represented Pakistan whereas some were against girls who wore bikinis," said Ms Ahmed. In 2008 the swimsuit round was removed because it caused controversy in the Muslim community.

Miss Mughal said: "[By competing] I'd like to show that I have found a balance between my Pakistani background and my Western life."

- NZ Herald

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