Pageant judge praises contestant

00:00, Jun 07 2012

The Queenstown beauty queen outed for not being a Kiwi while competing in a Miss Universe New Zealand pageant is a great ambassador for Otago, one of the judges says.

Judge Jack Yan yesterday told The Southland Times he definitely did not tape a phone call to Miss Otago, Monique Cooley, after she placed third runner-up in the Sunday-night pageant, then "fed it out to the media", as Ms Cooley was reported saying yesterday.

"There was a phone conversation between us on Monday, but that was in no way taped, or consequently fed out to the media, and I would never do that," Mr Yan said.

"In fact, when I first talked to a reporter about the matter, I tried to keep Monique's name out of it, and only referred to her as a `foreign national'."

The situation came to a head when it was revealed that pageant winner Avianca Bohm was a South African citizen.

Ms Cooley, 22, is officially an Australian citizen, but has lived in New Zealand since she was 10, and in the pageant's aftermath said she had "no shame" about the citizenship situation, and would be keen to compete again next year.

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When asked if there was a rift between judges and organisers, Mr Yan said there was not, and said that another contestant might have been behind the outing of the two contestants as non-New Zealand citizens.

Whatever the outcome of the war of words and who went to the media, Mr Yan said Ms Cooley was a great competitor and representative of Queenstown and the Otago region, and he would love to see her compete again – even in the unlikely event that he would judge the competition again.

"Given there has been controversy about this, it's probably a safe bet for her to get residency, but she is a wonderful contestant who is really sincere.

"It was no accident Monique scored so highly because she is a sincere, decent, very warm girl, who is very much a proud Queenstowner and fantastic ambassador for the Otago region," Mr Yan said.

Ms Cooley left for a Hawaiian holiday earlier this week.

The Southland Times