Raukawa Tuhura didn't even know about the NZ Web Fest awards until she was named a finalist.
So when she was named "Best actress in a New Zealand narrative" last weekend, it was "surreal".
Tuhura, who is transgender, has been "struggling in the acting industry for quite a long time because of the typecasting around transgender actors and actresses".
"So getting the award, it really made me feel like I should never give up," she told the Rotorua Daily Post.
Tuhura cried as she watched the online award ceremony at home in Rotorua with her family, and this week, admits she still can't quite believe her win.
"I never thought that I'd get that kind of award."
She was nominated for her performance as a transgender schoolgirl, Pania, in the TVNZ webseries In the Rainbow.
It was filmed in the Bay of Plenty early last year, and was created and directed by Te Puke-raised teen Rose McMahon.
The series about LGBTQ+ youth in New Zealand was inspired by true stories and is still showing on TVNZ OnDemand.
Tuhura got an audition through her agency and saw Pania's character as a "powerful statement".
"You don't see many trans characters on mainstream platforms. Pania is one of the few."
She also saw parts of her own life in Pania's story.
"I really related to her resilience ... Being happy despite the people around you that might want to bring you down."
Having the set in the Bay of Plenty was also "a breath of fresh air" for Tuhura, who has done most of her acting work in Auckland in the past.
She said working with McMahon was also an "awesome" experience.
"Rose is very young and she is very talented."
Tuhura said friends and family who have seen the series told her it was "an emotional watch".
"It opened a lot of eyes. A lot of people just don't realise we go through complicated situations."
Tuhura's nomination was one of five for In the Rainbow at this year's national awards but she was the only winner from the cast and production team.
In the Rainbow was also chosen to air at the next Sydney Web Fest.
Other category winners at the New Zealand festival included comedian and actor Tom Sainsbury and broadcaster, writer and video producer for The Spinoff, José Barbosa.
Tuhura hopes her win will help her play "a broader range of characters" going forward.
"I just want to represent transgender women, whakawāhine, in the industry, because there aren't many."