Napier kohanga reo teacher Harlem-Cruz Atarangi Ihaia has crowned Miss Universe NZ.

Twenty women took part in the Grand Final of the event at the SkyCity Theatre on Saturday night with 19-year-old Ihaia coming out on top..

Ihaia told the Herald straight after the competition that she was "in a daze".

"It's indescribable. I feel like I've made my family so proud, I feel that all of my hard work has paid off and I just feel really relaxed at the moment that I've finally made it."


As the new Miss Universe NZ she hoped to 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.

"I just feel like I'm in a dream at the moment. I'm going to wake up in the morning and I don't even know what I'm going to feel."

Ihaia wins a limited addition Honda Jazz RS Sport and will do four overseas trips, including to the grand final, as Miss Universe NZ.

The global final will be held on November 26 at a yet-to-be announced venue.

Ihaia said she felt like she was
Ihaia said she felt like she was "in a dream" after winning the competition. Photo / Miss World NZ

Ihaia previously told Hawkes Bay Today the main reason she entered the contest was to inspire females in her family and other young Maori women.

"We can do more than that, I think this will give them the inspiration to do anything they want."

She had entered a variety of competitions in the past but never had any luck until being selected to take part in the national competition.

"I didn't think I was going to get through [and] it was so overwhelming when I found out, I cried for ages."

"In my family most of the girls go to kohanga reo or the meatworks for work.

This year's event is the fourth since a management change and restructure of the Miss Universe New Zealand competition; changes included the removal of a swimwear section, the introduction of a retreat for the Top 20 and altering the voting structure to see winners determined both by a judging panel and a public vote.

The judging panel in this year was comprised of Teuila Blakely, Frankie Stevens, Samala Robinson, Anna Jobsz, Evana Patterson, and Areena Deshpande.

The event included a Pacific Fusion fashion parade, which saw finalists wearing clothes designed by Sewtec students. It also featured an evening wear parade with gowns designs by international couturier Sidney Eculla, who few in especially for the event.

The 20 finalists came from all over the country, and were selected after they attended workshops and seminars held in May.

In July, they flew to Phuket, Thailand, on an international retreat, staying at the Thavorn Beach Village Resort & Spa, where they shot a swimwear calendar.

The finalists also raised funds for Variety, the Children's Charity, as part of their Entrepreneurial Challenge, helping deserving Kiwi kids; as well as SCOT Foundation, helping disadvantaged children in the Philippines.

To date, Miss Universe has donated over $125,000 to Variety, the Children's Charity.

Tania Dawson was crowned winner of Miss Universe New Zealand in 2016.