Napier's gumboot-wearing beauty queen has broken stereotypes by being herself.

Harlem-Cruz Atarangi Ihaia was crowned Miss Universe New Zealand at SkyCity Theatre on Saturday night.

The kohanga reo teacher is the first person representing Napier to have won the competition and the first Maori woman to place first since a management change and restructure in 2013.

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Miss Ihaia entered the competition to break stereotypes for Maori women but as she progressed she also wanted to change the stigma of the pageant girl and create a new perception of beauty.

"To break the image of every young teenager wanting to be the next Kylie Jenner, I just want to prove that we can all be ourselves and to inspire, hopefully, the world," she said.

Forty family members made their way to Auckland from Napier to see the 19-year-old on stage and could not believe it when she won.

"My family, they were all on the edge of their seats, they were screaming and they were crying," she said. "When I won my nan said she couldn't move, she just started crying."

Miss Ihaia had known that she would be in the top 10 because she had raised more for Variety - The Children's Charity than any previous entrant and, therefore, had immunity to at least 10th place but never expected to come first.

"It feels like I'm still in a dream, I still can't believe it."

The best part of becoming Miss Universe New Zealand was not winning but the fact that she has made her country proud and inspired others to be themselves.

"I feel like I've won it for everybody in New Zealand. I feel like I've won it for my culture.

"I'm really happy that I've made my whole country proud, my community proud and become an inspiration for young women to not just dream about something, to make it happen."

She will now have to prepare for the global final of Miss Universe which will take place in a yet-to-be announced location on November 26.

Her main goal for this is not to win but to show the world New Zealand and Maori culture.

Miss Universe New Zealand executive and national director Nigel Godfrey said Miss Ihaia was a worthy winner and would make a difference to the competition.

"She addresses an area with young women that few wish to. She identifies that some young people have the wrong role models.

"People looking up to Kylie Jenner and the Kardashians is not where she comes from.

"She wants to use the platform to push being yourself and being proud of yourself."

Her support base from Napier was also the biggest organisers had seen since they took over management, he said.

"We're overjoyed that she is from Napier. Having a winner from a small city in New Zealand is nice."

This year's judges were Teuila Blakely, Frankie Stevens, Samala Robinson, Anna Jobsz, Evana Patterson and Areena Deshpande.