A young Samoan woman has created history after being named first runner-up in the international Miss Global beauty competition.
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In a stunning display of talent, poise and cultural pride, Haylani Pearl Kuruppu just missed out on the top spot; with the title of Miss Global going to Miss Puerto Rico overnight.
This achievement is a historic moment for the small Pacific nation of Samoa, as it is the first time the country has achieved a top-tier position on an international beauty contest stage.
Kuruppu is of Samoan descent on her mother’s side and has Sri Lankan roots through her father. She is a former Miss Samoa and was named Miss Samoa Global late last year ahead of this latest competition.
Her title is different to that held by current Miss Samoa Moemoana Schwenke, who is gearing up to represent the motherland at the Miss Pacific Islands pageant being held for the first time in Nauru, in two weeks.
Samoans all around the world - including many fans in New Zealand - stayed up to watch the pageant in the early hours of this morning in support of Kuruppu.
This year’s contest was held in Vietnam.
Miss Global Samoa, along with contestants from Australia and New Zealand, advanced to the top 20 ahead of the sportswear and evening-wear categories.
Kuruppu was always easily spotted by the sei (flower) behind her ear and as she promoted Samoa and the Pacific on the global stage through language and traditional siva (dance).
During the interview session, Kuruppu spoke of her grandmother and the inspiration she drew from her; particularly after losing a number of family members recently.
“Throughout the last three months, she has lost her son, brother and sister,” Kuruppu revealed.
“I truly believe that resilience is something that every woman should empower and should have. It’s such a great attribute to be a queen...she has inspired me to be the best version of myself.”
Confusion at “Samoa” as wrong contestants step forward
No pageant is complete without drama, of course.
As the competition got down to the crunch, and the top 20 was called, there was confusion when the announcer called “Miss Samoa” - and Miss Bahamas walked up, taking a slight bow, pointing to the sky and blowing a kiss to the crowd.
The announcer is heard saying: “I’d like to repeat, the next one that was supposed to step forward was Miss Samoa. I believe we have the wrong candidate that has stepped forward - that’s okay.”
Kuruppu is seen striding forward then, giving a hug to the Bahamas contestant before winking at the camera.
There was confusion again when the top five was named and again, when Miss Samoa was announced, Miss Somalia walked forward.
Contestants from Vietnam, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Thailand also advanced to the top five.
For the final leg of the competition, Kuruppu had to discuss a quote picked at random - one from Hellen Keller - The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched; they must be experienced with the heart.
Kuruppu discusses her journey as a former Miss Samoa, emphasising her empowerment in Samoa for young women.
“During my reign as Miss Samoa, I was able to empower young women to be beautiful, to be powerful and to know that being different is beautiful.
“Women can be the best versions of themselves - that is exactly what this platform has. It embodies that.”
Kuruppu ended off with a strong belief that the next Miss Global would be inspiring and truly the best.
Grace Tinetali-Fiavaai is one of 12 cadets in the Te Rito journalism programme, which has a focus on training more culturally diverse reporters to ensure newsrooms reflect Aotearoa’s multicultural society. Grace has a keen interest in telling Pasifika stories, South Auckland and sports.
Hero Image: Haylanni Kuruppu, representing Samoa, was named first runner-up in this year's Miss Global beauty pageant. Photo / Miss Global