When Atutahi Potaka-Dewes heard her name called as the winner of Miss Rotorua 2020 she was shocked.
She said entering the pageant was about helping to "break down" some barriers
and silence the naysayers that a person's size is a limiting factor to enter pageants. She never expected to win.
"It's about silencing that little voice in your head and saying to yourself I can do it," Potaka-Dewes said.
Potaka-Dewes said she had been persuaded by organiser Kharl Wi Repa to enter but be never expected to win, describing the experience of standing on stage as "quite daunting and scary" at first.
"I couldn't believe it when they called out my name and I was a bit shocked. I still trying to process winning the title, but I've loved being to share my win with my nana and koro," she said.
Potaka-Dewes, who is an announcer with Te Arawa FM radio, said she felt "very proud" and humbled to be able to represent her iwi, her hapū, her family and all the other Māori girls and women in Rotorua.
"The Miss Rotorua crown might be on my head but I'm standing up for all the other girls and women out there to show them that just because you're a bigger girl it doesn't mean you can't do the same things other people can do," she said.
Wi Repa said the competition did away with the stereotypical image of pageants and maintained a Te Arawa, and in general, the Māori view that embraced the beauty of the contestants in all their many forms.
He said 22 women aged 15 to 46 years - most of whom were first-time entrants - competed in the pageant, held at the Harvest Centre on Saturday night and attended by 350 people.
Among the judges were Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi and Vision NZ Party leader Hannah Tamaki, also in the crowd was Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey, who attended on behalf of the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust, which is another longstanding supporter.
"It was an absolutely fantastic, wonderful event for Rotorua and $31,000 was raised for local charities. We are so grateful to the Rotorua community, including local businesses for their outstanding ongoing support," Wi Repa said.
The $31,000 proceeds will be divided between charities Dress for Success Rotorua, Parkinson's Central Plateau, Fordlands and Central Kids, Linton Park Community Centre, and Meth for Mana.
Wi Repa said the Potaka-Dewes optimised what the pageant was all about.
"Atutahi's natural beauty shone through and her ability to stand up and speak in both English and te Reo and her great leadership means she's the perfect candidate to represent Te Arawa and this whole community as Miss Rotorua," he said.
Wi Repa said Dewes would attend a number of upcoming events as part of her year-long reign as Miss Rotorua including the Westpac Business Awards and the annual Santa parade.
The Miss Rotorua Pageant was up for three awards - People's Choice, Business of the Year, and the Community Resilience and Covid-19 Response Award.
The other 2020 Miss Rotorua pageant results:
Miss Te Arawa 2020 - Ngahuia Hona Paku
Mrs Rotorua 2020 - Anita Cole
Miss Mana Wāhine 2020 - Anahera Rangitoheriri
Miss Teen Rotorua 2020 - Ani Taare
Miss Multicultural Rotorua - Devki Oza