Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

From 'too big' to top beauty

Kiwi model shrugs off early knockback to triumph at 'grand-slam' pageant in Japan

Casey Radley says she's shocked at her third placing in Miss International because she's not "pageant-trained''. Photo /  Norrie Montgomery
Casey Radley says she's shocked at her third placing in Miss International because she's not "pageant-trained''. Photo / Norrie Montgomery

A model who was told she was too big to make it in the industry has been named second runner-up at the 53rd Miss International Beauty Pageant in Japan.

Aucklander Casey Radley said she was shocked to come third out of 68 contestants because she was not "pageant-trained".

"It was a real honour and a real shock," the 21-year-old told the Herald from her Tokyo hotel room.

"In this pageant all the girls were such high calibre. I couldn't believe it. It was very surreal. I think it's one of the best results we've had for New Zealand for a long time."

The moment was live-streamed around the world on the internet because Miss International is one of four annual "grand-slam" pageants, including Miss Universe, Miss World, and Miss Earth.

On Tuesday judges for Miss International 2013 crowned Miss Philippines Bea Rose Santiago the winner in a pageant where elegance, grace and intelligence is coveted.

For placing second runner-up, Miss Radley won $8000 cash, a trophy, her tiara and assorted jewellery and will be given some responsibilities in exchange for the title.

She was also voted Miss Friendship by her fellow contestants.

The Auckland University psychology student and part-time model said it would be her last pageant, having already competed in Miss Teen World in America when she was 16, where she won Miss Congeniality, and winning Miss Queen of the World NZ, Miss Tourism Queen Ambassador of Oceania and Miss International NZ.

"It's good to go out with a bang."

Life experience and her love for the fashion industry, dancing and modelling had drawn her to pageantry, but Miss Radley said part of the reason she was calling it quits was because of the lack of support for pageants in New Zealand.

"There's such a prejudice when it comes to pageantry. Everyone thinks of pageantry as something old and dated. There's quite a stereotype in New Zealand. It's a hard mission to try to change that perception."

In Tokyo she had been part of an international press conference and would feature in a billboard and receive other media exposure.

But it had been a hard slog to get sponsorship for the event where she had to do her own hair and makeup, and re-use her winning gown from Miss International NZ - a big "no-no".

The former Rangitoto College student jumped to pageantry after a bruising encounter in the modelling world when she was 15.

The size 10 model was told at an Auckland agency - which she would not name - that she needed to drop two dress sizes if she wanted to be more successful than just a "promo girl" or plus-size model.

"The person who owned the agency said, 'Look sweetie, you've got a pretty face but you're nothing special and you'll never be on the front of a magazine'."

Miss Radley said she felt humiliated and quit the agency because she did not believe in dieting.

"If that's the way they were going to speak to me in front of me, what would they say behind my back? I said 'Take me off your books' and went outside to my mum ... and we went and had some McDonald's."

Miss Radley, who emigrated to New Zealand from Britain when she was 6, said she was proud to be a size 10 and she now successfully represented herself, booking her own modelling assignments.

She hadn't had time to think about what she might do with her $8000, but yesterday she was flying to Rome to meet her boyfriend, Eventfinda co-founder and chief executive James McGlinn, for a Christmas holiday.

- NZ Herald

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