Mother and dancer Alison Heremaia is proud to be the only Māori candidate who has so far entered the national Mrs Aotearoa beauty pageant.
Heremaia, 36, was encouraged by her friends to enter after recently going through a relationship separation and losing her confidence.
“Going through my separation … it’s helped me bring out my confidence and speak more confidently. It’s just challenging myself. I always think if you’re not challenging yourself you’re not really growing so this is definitely helping me in those areas.”
Mrs Aotearoa is a competition with contestants between 21 and 55 years old, who are married or were previously married and who have children. The purpose of the competition is to empower women and help them understand that getting married and having a family does not stop them from pursuing their goals or dreams.
A role model for her daughter
Heremaia says she entered Mrs Aotearoa to be a role model for her 17-year-old daughter Araliyah “to show you can still make it if you go through hard times because we definitely did and she was there for most of it”.
Heremaia says she has suffered from emotional abuse.
“It affects every part of you; the way you speak to others, the way you feel about yourself, the way you feel about yourself, the way you treat yourself and look after your body and so bringing awareness to that,” she says.
“[I] want to share I’m not ashamed of what happened to me and others don’t need to be ashamed as well.”
Proud to be Māori
Heremaia is from Ōtaua, a rural community in the Far North and now lives in Tāmaki Makaurau. Her hapū are Ngāi Tuteauru and Ngāi Tawake.
“I feel really proud to represent them, especially in Auckland where there’s a lot of Māori - especially a lot of us from Northland - we’ve had to come to the big city and find work. I feel really proud to be representing who I am and where I come from.”
Mrs Aotearoa is her first pageant and she’s never been involved in modelling. So far the journey has helped her step out of her comfort zone.
“It kind of makes me feel like I need to step up. I’m really representing my people, especially my iwi as well so that’s another booster for me to keep going and keep motivating myself.”
Heremaia studied for a bachelor of business majoring in human resources. She works fulltime in recruitment and part-time as a Zumba instructor, running classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
As part of the Mrs Aotearoa competition, contestants will be judged on talent, national wear, evening wear and random question. Candidates are also required to make a presentation or video to help raise awareness about two topics; domestic violence and saving the environment.
Candidates will host fundraising events to support charities. Heremaia has chosen to support Woven Earth, a charity that helps domestic violence survivors rebuild their future by furnishing their homes.
“I’ve had a few friends in that situation where they’ve had to isolate from families due to domestic violence so what Woven Earth does is once they help them find a home they come up with furniture for their home.”
Applications are still open for more women to enter the Mrs Aotearoa competition. Titles up for grabs in the pageant include Mrs Universe New Zealand and Mrs Earth New Zealand where winners will represent New Zealand internationally.