Marlena Martin - recently crowned Miss Aotearoa 2012 - says she was attracted to enter the pageant because of its strong association with Maori culture - including knowing about tikanga and Te Reo.
Ms Martin, aged 24 and of Ngai Tuhoe and Te Arawa descent, was chosen by a panel of judges to be Miss Aotearoa who will go on and represent New Zealand at the Miss South Pacific parade.
She says rather than focussing on looks the contest was based on having a sound knowledge of being Maori, and she was fortunate to have plenty of whanau support.
Miss Martin says she was new to pageants and knew nothing about the competition beforehand.
She was keen to participate because of its kaupapa Maori criteria, including promoting the culture.
The challenge of being able to push herself excited her along with the confidence of knowing her family was behind her.
Ms Martin says she's proud to act as an ambassador for New Zealand.