A South Auckland grandmother says her "bucket-wish dream" has come true after finding out she's made it into the finals of the Miss National New Zealand pageant.
Jacqueline Williams, 60, says she has had a passion for beauty and modelling since she was a teenager, but it took the Covid-19 pandemic to make her finally fulfil her modelling dream of entering a beauty pageant.
This competition is no Miss Universe or Miss World, and in fact contestants have to pay a fee to take part - the mother of three adult daughters and a grandmother to a 10-year-old boy says it still has "done wonders" for her self confidence.
Competition organisers have confirmed Williams is the oldest contestants, and she is likely to be between 30 and 40 years older than her other finalists.
"I used to do modelling many years ago, and I remember when I took my daughter to one of her modelling events many years ago I was thinking to myself 'gosh I wish I could be in her place'," Williams said.
"But never in a million years did I think I would enter a pageant, but now that I'm in, I just know this is my calling."
It all started last year, when the coronavirus lockdowns taking place in Auckland when Williams saw the event being advertised on the internet.
"When I saw it didn't have an age limit, I said 'oh my goodness, I'm going to give this a go'," said Williams.
"The Covid-19 pandemic is just the wake-up call that we have to live life to the full, and seize every opportunity to do what we want in life. I just had to make my bucket wish dream come true."
Williams submitted her photo, did an interview through a Zoom video call with the organisers last September and got sponsors to cover her participation fee - which amount neither she nor the organisers would disclose.
"I was at work when I got a call and told that I was in the finals," said Williams, who is temping in between jobs.
"I know I will be competing with others who are a lot younger, but I feel a lot younger than I am and lots of people say I don't look my age either."
Williams said when she broke the news to her husband Paul - he nearly fainted.
"He was so excited for me. Paul was just blown away, and he said to me 'you go girl'," she said.
"I'm lucky to have a husband who's so supportive and encouraging, even when I go for my regular pageant practices."
Williams is a part-time Nutrimetrics consultant, and a taekwondo martial arts practitioner. She is a singer in a band called Keychange, which her husband is also a part of.
"I feel that age is just a number and real beauty comes from within," Williams said.
"It just gives me goosebumps thinking about competing in that final, but I want to be an inspiration to other more mature ladies and bringing a realisation that beauty has no age limit."
Organiser Olga Ovsyannikova says Miss National NZ is aimed at celebrating the country's cultural diversity.
"Our aim is to help all women feel beautiful, confident and powerful and become role models for their community," said Ovsyannikova.
"Finalists will be judged on their inner beauty, attitude, ability to help others and how they inspire others."
The pageant finals will be held on October 9, and although the total number of finalists have yet to be finalised, Ovsyannikova revealed most contestants were aged between 18 and 30, and Williams will be the oldest.