Tomorrow, the events for Miss Universe New Zealand begin. The contestants don’t converge on the Museum Art Hotel till Sunday, but the preparations begin: the pageant director, Val Lott, and her husband, arrive in Wellington, and any last-minute details get finalized.
This is my sixth Miss New Zealand pageant, and the eighth national one I’ve been involved in. I’ll be joined on an enlarged judging panel this year by Samantha Hannah, former fashion editor of this magazine; May Davis, runner-up to Miss South Africa some years back, returning to the mix; Carl Manderson, the wonderful Salute salon owner and a talented hairstylist in his own right; Danijela Unkovich, runner-up to Miss Universe New Zealand in 2010 and a young lady who managed to answer my trick question about Tito and the break-up of Yugoslavia in a surprisingly personal fashion; Dr Wayne Morris, a physician who is new to the panel, whom I will enjoy meeting; and Shika Braddock, the fashion designer behind her eponymous label, and whose gowns we will see at a fashion show on the 30th.
With 10 contestants—a sign that not all is well with the economy—we should have a more intensive interview session. Each judge, I am sure, is well aware of the issues surrounding pageants, including their relevance today. I also believe each one of us would love to see women who reflect our country regardless of whether they conform to some figure; in the last five years we’ve managed, at least, to attract young women in to the competition who vary wildly in height. Finally, too, there was official recognition from Miss Universe of the transgender community this year, though I was surprised to learn that this group had been excluded in the past. (If the law says someone is a woman, then what right does any pageant have to go against that? Are we looking for a Human Rights’ Commission case?)
In my years, we have always strived to find from our entrants a winner who is best summed up as ambassadorial: bright, cosmopolitan, and genuine.
This ambassadorial criterion already makes the choice of the next Miss New Zealand a difficult one, and while the formal criteria laid down each year do not change, a changing judging panel and changing times mean that it is very difficult to say to a contestant, or a sponsor, precisely what makes a winner. If human cloning is ever invented—even of Scarlett Johansson—it won’t guarantee first place.
One sponsor approached me at the end of the 2009 competition, having been certain that her entrant had the right qualities, so why did we not choose her? Contestants who miss the crown have also asked where they fell short. The latter group, however, usually already know, and merely seek confirmation.
There is, again, no one answer. If you took the previous five winners and subjected them to some psychological scale, I imagine there would be few correlations other than a reasonable amount of intelligence. (After their reigns, a similar test would definitely show that they have seen behind the veil of how media can work, both advantageously and disadvantageously.)
The real answer is that each winner has had a quality that is over and above her competitors to such a degree that she stands out. It’s nothing to do with looks, figures, height or blogosphere buzz. (In Sweden, acknowledging this, we abandoned the smimwear segment, and some of the international jury’s work was done based on written responses to a Q&A. It’s no surprise that master’s degree holders had been winning the title.)
It’s almost trite to say that there must be an X factor, or, now that that term has been coopted by Simon Cowell et al to mean something else, a certain je ne sais quoi. In 2007, Laural Barrett was more poised and her earlier life abroad equipped her better than her rivals; in 2008, Samantha Powell—newly married to fiancé Tony Lochhead this month—was considerably more enthusiastic, and infectiously so.
This accounts for why some repeat contestants do better—and why some do worse—because the competitors have changed. And it’s that mix that often intrigues us: what do they bring forth this year?
While we won’t see a Ph.D. candidate this year such as Nancy Yan (no relation—the transliteration may be the same but the original form is not), we will see three returning contestants from the 2011 competition. We also have our first entrant from the Wairarapa for many years, as well as a Miss Otago, the sole South Islander this year.
How they will fare is anyone’s guess. But I wish them all good luck, and I look forward to meeting all the contestants this Sunday. On June 3, we will have a new Miss New Zealand, taking over from Priyani Puketapu, who has served her year with dignity and grace.—Jack Yan, Publisher
5 thoughts on “Over and above: what will it take to win Miss Universe New Zealand 2012?”
Good to see a post from you about this as there is still nothing on the official Miss Universe NZ website, not even who the ontestants are this year!
Thank you, Penelope. We’ve also published profile pics and bios of the contestants today:
NZ is always underrated at Miss Universe. We’ve sent wonderful delegates in recent years, but we’re unjustly ignored. I now live in Japan, and just found out about the advantages of listening to the voice of pageant fans. Missosology.Org and Missosology.Info are close to being accurate when it comes to predicting and supporting the eventual winner at Miss Universe. I just checked the list of some people, and the overwhelming choice is Talia Bennett – Miss North Harbour.
Forgot to tag the website.
Thank you for your input, Craig, although we do our tasks independently of a blog. While there may be a few reports on Missosology that get it right (I have visited, but only ex post facto) there are equally some on the internet that are one step away from fiction.
I remember one some years ago (now defunct) which made some wild claims about the judging process. My response was: I didn’t see you in the room!
If we have done our jobs rightly—and that includes subjecting contestants to very in-depth interviews, which fans won’t be privy to—then our choice may well coincide with what fans are thinking anyway. Talia has an equal chance with everyone else.