Miss Universe NZ crown controversy: 'We're moving on'

By Kieran Campbell

Talia Bennet was crowned Miss Universe New Zealand after Avianca Bohm lost the crown due to citizenship issues. Photo / Hagen Hopkins
Talia Bennet was crowned Miss Universe New Zealand after Avianca Bohm lost the crown due to citizenship issues. Photo / Hagen Hopkins

The director of Miss Universe New Zealand has cut short a television interview this morning after repeated questioning about why South African-born Avianca Bohm was stripped of her crown.

The interview on TV One's Breakfast show was intended to be the first for the replacement Miss Universe New Zealand Talia Bennett.

But the new winner barely got a word in.

Check out the interview here.

Yesterday it was announced that Ms Bennett would take the crown from Ms Bohm who had failed in her bid for citizenship.

Five minutes into this morning's interview, the competition's national director Val Lott said she would not answer any more questions about Ms Bohm and the decision to break the pageant rules to allow an international entrant.

Ms Lott maintained the head judge went "behind my back'' to choose Ms Bohm as the winner, despite being told she had been allowed in the competition only for experience.

"I said to Avianca you haven't got citizenship ... I'm going to take you in [to the Miss Universe final] and you cannot win. And the head judge knew and it was most unfortunate [he and another judge] decided to go behind my back,'' Ms Lott said.

"It's been a battle but, however, I've won and I'm happy we're now moving forward.

"It happened, it was very disappointing. But it's all cleared up now, thank goodness, and it will never happen again.''

Ms Lott denied it was a bad look for New Zealand.

"It's fantastic publicity. It hasn't been good publicity [but] all publicity is good publicity.''

When pressed about why Ms Bohm felt she had entered under false pretences, Ms Lott said she would not speak about the former winner anymore.

"We're moving on,'' she said.

"Talia is the new Miss Universe New Zealand and that's the end of it. We've had two months of nonsense and it's finished.

"Sorry, we've told you it's clear. We're not going round and round in circles, it's not a child's game. We're moving on with Talia [and] we're excited.''

Ms Bennett, 23, was runner-up at the competition.

She did manage to say in this morning's interview that she was looking forward to the Miss Universe beauty pageant in Las Vegas in December.

"I think it's unfortunate [that Ms Bohm was stripped of her crown] but at the end of the day rules are rules. We want the best girl to step forward,'' Ms Bennett said.

"So it is unfortunate on her behalf but I'm more than happy to step forward. I'm just focusing going forward on the competition and to do the best I can.''

Ms Bohm confirmed yesterday in an email from South Africa that she had failed to gain New Zealand citizenship.

The stoush over her eligibility for the Miss Universe New Zealand crown became murkier when she recently gave an interview to a South African newspaper accusing Ms Lott of distorting facts to "save her own ass''.

Ms Bohm also said the Blues rugby side "suck'' and claimed the Miss Universe New Zealand title was rightfully hers.

- APNZ

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