November 17, 2017
First beauty queen showed multi-faceted face of Maori
Moana Whaanga, the first Maori to be crowned Miss New Zealand has died aged 82 after a stroke.
Mrs Whaanga, or as she was known then, Moana Manley, entered the 1954 pageant to raise money for her swimming club.
Aroha Awarau, who wrote a history of Maori beauty queens for Mana Magazine, says while fellow Te Arawa Miss New Zealand Maureen Kingi-Waaka’s 1962 win drew greater public attention, Ms Whaanga’s win a decade before was historically significant.
"She showed Aotearoa, both Maori and Pakeha worlds, that Maori can be not only beautiful, they can be intelligent but they can also be multi-faceted. Moana was a champion swimmer. She was selected to represent New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games but she didn't end up competing because of her commitments to the Miss New Zealand pageant," he says.
After the win Maori groups from around the country raised funds to send her to compete in the Miss Universe pageant in California, the first New Zealander to do so.
A service for Moana Whaanga will be held on Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Chapel, 19 Redoubt Rd, Manukau.
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