The woman crowned Miss Universe New Zealand for 2018 is calling the experience "surreal".

Wellingtonian Estelle Curd took out the top prize on Saturday night at a lavish event in Auckland's Sky City Theatre.

Speaking to the Herald shortly after the event, Curd said her nerves were running high, but she was thrilled to see her hard work pay off.

"Just standing there and getting the crown placed on my head was such a beautiful moment for me."

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The event saw 20 finalists narrowed down to 10, then five, and the finally the one who would hold the crown for a year and drive away with a new car.

Miss Universe New Zealand 2018 Estelle Curd is crowned by the the 2017 title holder Harlem Cruz. Photo / Chris Loufte
Miss Universe New Zealand 2018 Estelle Curd is crowned by the the 2017 title holder Harlem Cruz. Photo / Chris Loufte

The event, hosted by Sonia Gray and with special guest Frankie Stevens, saw child supervisor from Napier Harlem-Cruz Atarangi Ihaia hand over the title.

Curd would be back to her job working in management for a car company on Monday - though she had plans to continue championing diversity in the workplace down the line.

She completed a masters thesis focusing on New Zealand's ageing workforce and planned to continue working in this space as well as boosting diversity in the workplace.

"For me, that's around getting more Maori and Pacifica and women into the workforce," she said.

"I definitely have some ideas in terms of a charitable focus and more women empowerment focused as well.

"Really excited to see some ideas come to fruition, but you've got to hold on to those ones."

It wasn't Curd's first experience competing for the crown - she was also a contestant for Miss Universe in 2014.

Estelle Curd has been crowned Miss Universe New Zealand 2018. Photo / Chris Loufte
Estelle Curd has been crowned Miss Universe New Zealand 2018. Photo / Chris Loufte

She as also a finalist for New Zealand's Next Top Model in 2010.

In 2016, the victory proved almost too much to take for 23-year-old media studies and drama teacher Tania Dawson when she "had to have a moment" backstage after it was announced she had come out on top of her 19 fellow finalists.

"Just with all the lights and camera flashes, Tania was just feeling a bit overwhelmed and unwell. We had to take her backstage for a bit," Jack Yan, the event's 2016 general counsel, said.

"It's the first time that has happened to us."