Miss Universe NZ stripped of her tiara

By Kieran Campbell

Avianca Bohm, 22, who was crowned Miss Universe New Zealand on Saturday night, is confident her citizenship will be fast-tracked, saying it is just a matter of paperwork.  Photo / Sarah Ivey
Avianca Bohm, 22, who was crowned Miss Universe New Zealand on Saturday night, is confident her citizenship will be fast-tracked, saying it is just a matter of paperwork. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Replacement Miss Universe New Zealand winner Talia Bennett says it is "sad and unfortunate'' how the crown came to be stripped from South African-born beauty Avianca Bohm.

Organisers for the event this morning announced Ms Bennett, 23, as the new winner after Ms Bohm, 22, revealed in an email from South Africa that she had lost her bid for citizenship.

Miss Universe New Zealand spokeswoman Zeisha Fremaux said the brief email from Ms Bohm had come one day before the August 1 deadline given for her to fast-track her citizenship by so that she could retain the crown.

The competition has been mired in controversy since Ms Bohm was picked by judges who had reportedly been told the South African was not entitled to win because of her nationality.

The stoush over her eligibility became murkier when Ms Bohm gave an interview to a South African newspaper slamming Miss Universe New Zealand organiser Val Lott for 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.

In a statement this morning, Ms Bennett said being finally crowned the winner was "a wonderful honour''.

"It has been sad and unfortunate how events have unfolded and I am truly humbled in accepting my selection,'' she said.

She said she was "mindful of the very high standards'' and she accepted "the challenge and responsibility ... to justify this significant honour''.

In the statement released by Ms Fremaux's company, Zeisha PR, Ms Bennett says she stands by Ms Lott, who herself and other contestants have "grown to love''.

Ms Bohm's agent Amanda Bransgrove said her client, who is in South Africa, would be bitterly disappointed by the news.

She was critical of the way event organisers had handled the affair.

"I don't think [Ms Lott's] intentions were pure. They were self serving.''

Ms Bennett will compete in the Miss Universe beauty pageant in December.

- APNZ

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