Pageant scandal bemuses beauty

23:49, Jun 05 2012

The Queenstown beauty queen who placed highly in the Miss Universe New Zealand pageant says she was never told she had to apply for citizenship.

The media spotlight has been turned on pageant organisers after it was discovered Miss Otago, Monique Cooley, who was third runner-up, and Miss Howick, Avianca Bohm, who won the Miss Universe New Zealand title on Sunday night, are not New Zealand citizens.

Ms Cooley was born in Australia but has lived in New Zealand for 12 years, and Ms Bohm is a South African citizen.

Just before leaving for a 10-day holiday in Hawaii yesterday, Ms Cooley told The Southland Times she had "no shame" in the citizenship situation because she had lived in New Zealand for more than half her life, regarded herself a Kiwi and would still consider representing Otago in the pageant next year.

"Everyone knew that I was originally from Australia, but New Zealand is my home, and unfortunately it was never made clear to me that I had to apply for citizenship," she said.

"I had a call from one of the judges last night, who taped the conversation, then got it out to the media, which is why both me and Avianca have been written about today," she said.

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Between catching connecting flights, Ms Cooley had only been able to speak with pageant organiser Val Lott's husband and business partner, Allan Parker.

"They are trying to deal with it in the most positive way possible ... The judge that's spreading this whole thing, Jack Yan, I don't know why he's doing it.

"I am not the winner, I am the third-runner up, so I really don't know why I've been flung into this whole situation. I feel like he's trying to put the whole pageant into a really negative light.

"When he called I thought he was just trying to be supportive ... I don't know what's happened behind the scenes between the organisers and the judges ..."

Mr Yan is a judge of the pageant, but also a sponsor.

Pageant organisers said they knew Miss Bohm emigrated here from South Africa and was not eligible, but say they didn't think the Auckland resident would win.

They are now scrambling to get citizenship to allow her to represent New Zealand at the Miss Universe pageant in December.

Ms Lott is blaming an "oversight" for the mixup but Mr Yan said judges were not told of the citizenship issues - or that competition rules required contestants to be New Zealand citizens.

"If we had been told that Avianca was not eligible how come we hadn't been told that the other foreign national was also not eligible?" he said.

Ms Lott claimed she had told Mr Yan that Ms Bohm was not a New Zealand citizen and therefore couldn't win.

The Southland Times