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Beauty queen wants to communicate value of win

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Priyani Puketapu

Bachelor of Communication student Priyani Puketapu is determined to show that brains can go with beauty after winning the Miss Universe New Zealand pageant.

The first-year student, and aspiring TV presenter, describes the event as a great confidence booster for young women.

“There’s a little bit of a stereotype out there that beauty contestants are not as academic as one would hope, but that’s just not true. All 13 contestants either have or are studying toward university degrees,” Ms Puketapu says. “This event is good for boosting the confidence of young women, particularly those with low self-esteem.”

Ms Puketapu, from the Te Atiawa iwi, was placed first runner-up in the same competition two years ago and was declared the 2011 winner last night, earning her a trip to the Miss Universe world final in Brazil in September.

“It’s been quite a challenge to balance the commitment of Miss Universe New Zealand with my studies,” she says.

At this stage she is uncertain whether winning the national title will mean temporarily putting those studies on hold.

The 20-year-old originally studied law at Victoria University but decided her creative interests were better suited to studies at Massey.

“I’ve danced since the age of four, enjoy public speaking and have an interest in human rights, and in particular women’s rights, and would like to major in journalism.”

A roving role, similar to one carried out by Breakfast television weather reporter Tamati Coffey, was an aspect of television she was keen to pursue.

“I love meeting people and being in different locations each day and love to travel too.”

That’s one wish that will be met by her prize trip to Brazil. Another hope is to learn te reo and more about her Maori heritage – something she has been progressing toward with regular visits to the Waiwhetu marae.

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