Miss Universe New Zealand, Avianca Bohm, grew up in South
Africa. The 22-year-old is a New Zealand resident but not
yet a citizen. She has sought legal advice in an attempt to
continue her reign. Photo / Sarah Ivey.
The winner of Miss Universe New Zealand has called in
lawyers after being told to give up her tiara by organisers.
The New Zealand Herald understands director Val Lott has
delivered a letter to 22-year-old Avianca Bohm, who was
crowned this month, advising her that she is ineligible to
represent New Zealand.
She also held a meeting with Ms Bohm in an effort to persuade
her to quietly give up her title.
This year's beauty pageant quickly turned ugly when it
emerged Ms Bohm, who was born in South Africa, does not have
New Zealand citizenship. It has also emerged Miss Otago, who
was thirs runner up, is an Australian citizen.
Yesterday neither Ms Lott nor Ms Bohm could be contacted.
But the regional licensee of Miss North Harbour, Melissa
Martin, welcomed the decision, which would crown runner-up
and Miss North Harbour Talia Bennett.
"The young woman is just ineligible to hold the title. It's
not a witch hunt," she said.
"It's right and wrong. It's black and white - there's no grey
However, Ms Bohm has sought legal advice in an attempt to
continue her reign and has the backing of the competition's
head judge, Jack Yan.
"The impression I've been getting ... is that as long as
Avianca arrives at Miss Universe with a New Zealand passport,
she's fine," Mr Yan said.
He said yesterday that he understood the process to speed up
her citizenship was under way.
"From what I understand it will be [successful], because the
exact same circumstances happened with Miss World New Zealand
Department of Internal Affairs spokesman Tony Wallace said he
could not comment on individual applications for citizenship.
However, the citizenship office does urgently process
applications on humanitarian grounds or in cases where
urgency is required in order to represent New Zealand.
The Minister of Internal Affairs, Chris Tremain, approves or
Ms Lott was aware that Ms Bohm did not have citizenship when
she entered the competition, but said she had told Mr Yan
that Ms Bohm should not win.
He denied this, and after the competition Ms Lott said she
was confident Ms Bohm would gain citizenship and be able to
represent New Zealand.
It now appears that she has back-tracked in the face of
strong protests on social media and from supporters of Ms
The day after the competition Ms Bohm told the Herald she had
been talked into entering pageants by Ms Lott, who she met in
- Nicholas Jones, New Zealand Herald