NZ Women Just Aren’t Skinny Enough


Entrants for the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant pose for the press while one of their number, Miss New Zealand, faints under the hot sun of Long Beach, California. 1954.

According to Miss Bikini NZ organiser Katrina Turner, the quality of women entering NZ beauty pageants isn’t high enough. They just aren’t pretty or skinny or toned or as top shelf as they should be. Why aren’t the prettiest girls entering our competitions, she asks.

Maybe these days NZ women are sexy and they know it. If we’ve reached a plateau where our women don’t feel like they have to be judged at a pageant to know they are stunning, then I’m a happy gal.

You can tell I’m not a beauty pageant fan. The incredibly narrow criteria of ‘beauty’ they have and expect from women is very harmful, and child beauty pageants are even worse. The day pageants as they exist now become extinct in NZ couldn’t come soon enough for me. And this organiser isn’t helping improve the pageant industries reputation.

She claims pageant haters are ruining her industry. What’s a pageant hater? If it’s someone who appreciates natural beauty, thinks women are sexy with their clothes on, doesn’t objectify women, and loves them ‘imperfections’ and all, then I’m proud to be a pageant hater. Heaven forbid a bit of cellulite and curves, or even being 5ft8. I’m 5ft5, so no hope there, but this shortie has quite happily modelled at shows for, well, the vast majority of women.

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The part of the beauty industry I loathe the most is the obsession with the ‘perfect’ body. That entrants must either fit the Barbie (pageants), or size 0 (modelling) mould, or be deemed too ugly and fat. The search for a winner photographers have to do the least photo-shopping of. It’s sick. And it makes some women who want to win very, very sick.

I cry for young women who fall into the trap of eating disorders and over-exercising – who spend their days trying to meet unrealistic requirements by making themselves throw up and work out to the point of collapse at gyms trying to get to model dimensions, or risk being deemed too fat and heiferish to compete. I know, I know, not all competitors do this. Some are just ‘naturally skinny’. That’s great, but I care about the many who do develop body dysmorphic issues thanks to the impossible expectations of the beauty world.
While the BMI is a flawed measure, this article shows the increasingly thin norm in pageant land. “A 2010 study shows the average BMI of Miss America winners has decreased from 22 to 16.9 in the last 80 years. A normal BMI is classified as between 18.5 and 24.9.” That’s a big push towards too skinny as the blueprint for pageant winners.

However on 3News in the weekend, Miss Universe NZ rejected Ms Turner’s obsession with ‘toning up’, saying that they do not encourage competitors to lose weight, and say that there are real concerns about Ms Turner’s legitimacy and credibility.

But this pageant organiser is completely shameless in her rejection of any kind of constructive criticism. “This is an industry based mainly on appearance, with criticism thrown at you all the time. If someone telling you to tone up offends you then this is not the industry for you.” Yet in the next breath – ‘Turner said the standards in beauty pageants in New Zealand had been too low for a while’.

Ms Turner – can you not see the correlation? Your industry is failing because most NZ women don’t buy into a particular type of beauty at the expense of any other quite so much, and comments like yours are not endearing them into competing. We are a nation of real women. We come in many different and equally beautiful packages.

Are we a bunch of ugly fat heifers then, us wahine? No.

We’re short. We’re tall. We are generally more curvy than European women, and it suits us. Our bone structure and body shape varies, and on the whole we are ok with that. We have short pixie hair, long tresses and stubborn curls. We have tattoos, piercings and love being walking art. We are a multi-cultural mix of gorgeousness. I actually love how not quite so obsessed with mainstream beauty ideals we are here. Because we are all beautiful, sexy and attractive. And we don’t need to strut around a stage in insane heels wearing two scraps of fabric at a human meat market to prove that.

“Miss Bikini NZ is not here to please you. We don’t strive to be liked.” So if she is not here to please us, and doesn’t want her pageant to be liked, then why run it? Why try to get media coverage for it? Why seek sponsorship? Why publicly wish the supposed prettier women would enter so she could replace her apparently substandard stock (yet in the Herald she calls them beautiful!)?

This is another reason pageants are in decline. The organisers of many of the smaller pageants react so defensively and publicly around these issues that they make things worse for themselves. Every gain feminism and human rights have won for contestants and models against the beauty industry happened after exposure and societal backlash against the industries discrimination and dehumanisation.

I have not yet seen an example of the beauty industry evolving towards a realistic perception of beauty without heavy external pressure. Obviously this isn’t just a New Zealand problem, it’s a worldwide problem. But every time someone in NZ buys into an international pageant franchise – whether they be the big time guys or the slightly dodgy ones – and sets up one of these associated competitions, they are buying into the unhealthy and damaging culture too.
I want to see a new, reformed beauty industry, and I know I’m not alone in saying that. I want to see amazing talent like transwoman Amy Brosnahan not have to fight to be included, and compete worldwide, if that is the way she can succeed and break down barriers that hold trans people back. I want to see true beauty shine, beauty every woman has. Inside and out beauty. Trans and ciswomen beauty. 60kg beauty and 100kg beauty. Short and tall beauty. Intellectual beauty. Diverse beauty.

No more Barbie clones forced to compete in a completely false alternate universe where they have to worry and critique every bit of their body in the mirror, all day every day.


  1. It would seem that pageants are on a decline, and that is a good thing. There rather trashy objectification of women is not not good for anyone.

    That said most New Zealanders could do with losing a bit/lot of weight.
    The alternative to not using BMI as a measure of health is not the false idea of being ‘healthy at any weight’. Whatever ones aesthetic preferences being overweight is a health issue.

    • it is a public legal way to exploit women,they also have the child pagaent over seas,there is alot of pros and cons about being a tiny frame,also being a big framed person….Beauty comes from within and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.if anybody i know wanted to enter things like these i would support them however i would ensure they arnt getting skinny just to do it,surely these women have others to support them that arnt just sitting around letting their friend,daughter,mother,sister,nana,wife drop all the kilo’s just to win,they care more than that?we are strangers to them and look at our response already

  2. I watched the TV interview with Katrina Turner. The words arrogant, defensive, and intolerant came to mind. Who knows, maybe she’s been able to trade on her physical appearance up till now and get away with her repugnant views. But that will ultimately change with the March of Years.

    Then she’ll be left with her less-than-charming personality.

    Good luck with that.

    Maybe ACT will take her on as a candidate…?

    As for so-called “beauty” pageants… I thought they had long been consigned to the sexist rubbish bin of history.

    • She’s not a happy camper this morning. This is a public FB post: “The interview with tv3 was well over an hour long. They cut things out as usual, to make it one sided. But thats to be expected. Happy with the exposure and our new haters… welcome.. we are creating a hate page just for you, just because you’re special. Finalist of Miss Bikini NZ you are all beautiful and I love you. Sorry for the media – thank the haters.”
      UGH. She’s a special kind of arrogant, that’s for sure.

  3. We have plenty of inside information to show this competition to be a money-making scam with someone who is all for publicity seeking stunts – until they backfire on her – at the helm. Call her out on any of it and she bars you from posting on the Facebook page. Feel free to contact me if you would like to know more. Incidentally, Amy has pulled out of the competition. She has her principles.

    • Funny that, I did post on her FB page this morning and she deleted it. It is very clear to me that she is an opportunistic scammer. Her behaviour last night on the Paul Henry Show was disgusting and if she thinks anyone except herself and her cronies were impressed she is very wrong. She was so transparent!!

  4. Great article accompanied by a classic photo, which makes the A & P shows look, well, just downright classy.

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