Being crowned Miss Aotearoa New Zealand was icing on the cake after a great week learning from the previous beauty pageant winner for Rotorua's Marlena Martin.
The 24-year-old support worker and teacher aide for her brain-injured sister Tui, was crowned at a special function in Hawkes Bay on Saturday night alongside five other contestants.
The former Rotorua Girls' High School student told The Daily Post the entire pageant was a learning curve with the crowning a bonus at the end of a productive week of preparation.
The entire troupe got to spend time with previous pageant winner Angela Cudd, who offered them tips on how to be successful on stage.
"I felt so good. I entered to extend my learning and my experiences. I wanted to learn more about myself and learn about te reo Maori and how to be more involved with my roots ... I feel honoured and plan on making Maori proud."
Still, she couldn't believe it when her name was called out.
"I had to ask myself if that was my name. It was a surreal experience. Quite humbling ... I'd already felt like I'd gained so much from the other contestants and Angela that it was the icing the cake for me really," she said.
Ms Martin will represent New Zealand at the Miss South Pacific pageant being held in American Samoa on December 3.
She also wanted to thank her sponsors, Tamaki Maori Village, The Jade Factory and Westend New World along with her family for their support.
"I've learnt so much. it's been an amazing experience."
Contest organiser and two-time pageant winner Ms Cudd said it was time to hand the crown over.
"I was excited that whoever was going to win the role was going to be a good person."