Miss Universe New Zealand Harlem-Cruz Atarangi Ihaia has caused a frenzy on Twitter after showcasing her traditional Māori tā moko on the Miss Universe stage.

While several Twitter users questioned showcasing a tattoo during the typically conservative competition, most have been left singing her praises.

Fans first spotted Ihaia's tā moko on her shoulder during Miss Universe's national costume prejudging on November 25, with many tweeting their support upon learning the significance to Ihaia and her family.

When speaking to Māori Television the 19-year-old explained that she got the tattoo at 16-years-old to represent her whanau and proud heritage: "It represents my ancestors and was created by Charles Paringatai for me to show my sisters, brothers and my parents."

Advertisement

While Ihaia didn't make the top 16 during the competition, many have still asked the question on whether her tattoo hurt her chances of advancing, with one user stating: "Did I see a tattoo on New Zealand's shoulder?? I kinda dig it but doubt the judges do."

According to Māori Television however there is no officially ruling against showcasing a tā moko.

"There is nothing in the national or international rules that forbid any contestant from expressing herself through any aspect of her cultural identity."

A Miss Universe New Zealand spokesperson added: "Both the national and international rules focus more on the ethical and moral standards of a contestant, and on this note, there is nothing to fault Harlem-Cruz. As she sets off to Miss Universe to compete for Aotearoa, she can do so knowing that her Maori culture will be appreciated."

While tattoos have traditionally been taboo in international pageants, it is worth noting that Miss Spain still made the top 10 in 2014 while baring an upper thigh tattoo.

However, no Miss Universe winner to date has ever showcased a tattoo during the competition.