The future of Miss Universe New Zealand Otago is in doubt
after an apparent dispute between the director of the event and
the executive director of Miss Universe New Zealand.
Nineteen contestants will compete for the title of Miss
Universe New Zealand Otago tonight at the Otago Boys' High
School theatre, but it will be the last Otago pageant linked
to Miss Universe New Zealand for the foreseeable future, Miss
Universe New Zealand executive director Nigel Godfrey says.
Mr Godfrey told the Otago Daily Times he would pull the pin
on any future links between his organisation and the Otago
competition run by Donna Dobbinson, after controversy
surrounded this year's event.
Several contestants and parents of contestants approached the
ODT with concerns about the event, the treatment of
contestants and costs they had incurred.
Contestant Zeisha Jones said she pulled out of the
competition because it was ''damaging my confidence'' and had
made her ''upset''.
She was not trying to be ''nasty'' but wanted others to know
about her experience.
Miss Jones said she had been called an ''embarrassment to the
competition'' and was dressed down for getting her mother
involved after she had some concerns.
''If I were to treat customers ... like that in my job I
would be fired instantly.''
She had tried to raise her concerns with Mrs Dobbinson, but
''she doesn't listen'', she said.
Miss Jones said she was also concerned by the $100 she spent
to be photographed for the competition by Mrs Dobbinson's
The money was in addition to a $80 registration fee and $40
training fee contestants were expected to pay.
''I knew withdrawing would mean kissing my money away, but my
happiness is more important than money,'' she said.
Another contestant's mother told the ODT her daughter was
upset after critical remarks were made about how she looked
during the swimsuit section of the competition.
The contestants competed in the swimsuit section in stilettos
at the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool in March ,while the pool
was open to the public.
Mr Godfrey said public swimsuit competitions were against
Miss Universe New Zealand's rules and regulations.
''I have no idea why that event was held the way it was,'' he
''I haven't had an adequate response.''
The event was filmed for tonight's show, but ''that video
will not screen'', he said.
Miss Jones said the swimsuit competition was ''very
nerve-racking'' and it was disappointing to find out the
national body did not condone how it was run.
Mr Godfrey said he was disappointed to hear Miss Jones had
pulled out, but had offered her a free place in Miss Universe
New Zealand's ''Stiletto Camp'' to make amends.
He had offered the contestants an ''opinion'' that the $100
cost of the photography session was excessive and there was
nothing in the contestants' contracts which stated they had
to accept it, but none of them had approached Mrs Dobbinson
for reimbursement, he said.
He and his team arrived in Dunedin on Thursday and had
changed aspects of tonight's show, he said.
Only two contestants had pulled out because of any
controversy, but he would not be continuing the franchise
model in future, he said.
Mrs Dobbinson, who has has run the pageants since 2011, said
any discontent was ''very big news to me'' as she had been
approached by only one concerned parent.
Three contestants had pulled out, one because of health
reasons, one who got ''involved with drama that didn't really
exist'' and another who would not provide a reason why she
left, Mrs Dobbinson said.
The swimsuit competition was staged the way it was to
''produce a movie Miss Universe New Zealand asked me to
Any suggestion she had made disparaging remarks to
contestants was wrong, she said.
''I have never, ever, ever, ever said anything negative about
The $100 photo shoot was $75 for photos for the contestants'
own photo-books and $25 for hair and make-up and was ''not
related to the competition at all''.
It was offered to them as ''something extra'' and ''most
girls jumped at it'', she said.
''They got a huge amount out of it,'' Mrs Dobbinson said.
She had ''differences'' with Mr Godfrey, she said.
''I have found Nigel hard to work with,'' she said.
''I have given him some role in the competition for [tonight]
because I felt as national director he should have some
She rejected an suggestion he had taken over.
''We have worked our butts off for this event,'' Mrs
''I don't know what has gone on this year.''