Standing in the spotlight to receive the 2019 Miss Cook Islands New Zealand award, Terito Story was moved to tears.
During her acceptance speech, the science student’s emotions came to the fore as she spoke of her mother, sisters, family and friends who had travelled to be there for her on the final night.
“My mum and one of my sisters Eileen who lives on the island of Mauke, the island I’m representing, flew here to support me,” she said.
Nineteen years old, Story is presently studying towards a Bachelor of Science at the University of Auckland.
She was surprised when her name was announced.
“I honestly felt shocked,” she says. “I stood next to six amazing girls all deserving of the crown and so for me to take the title was very overwhelming.”
Standing on stage, Story thought of her “Team Terito” supporters of Naomi Dashwood, Tepaeru French, Michelle Johansson and Natalie Faitala, for their time and effort they had dedicated to her throughout the pageant. “I wouldn’t have gotten so far if it wasn’t for them.”
Story had felt a bit disconnected culturally, she said, since leaving the Cook Islands in 2014 for Australia and then, last year, moving to New Zealand.
“I decided to join the pageant not only to gain experience and confidence, but also to grow closer to my culture.”
Story also wanted to prove to herself that she could, step out of her comfort zone and hopefully motivate other young girls to overcome their fear, and work toward their goals and toward what they feel is unachievable.
“I had so many people who encouraged me to do it because they believed in me.”
Her special moment was, standing on stage with the crown on her head looking out into the sea of people and seeing pride and happiness in the faces of her family and friends.
An important moment she says was significant, “was the realisation that I could achieve anything if I put my mind to it, organising and planning for the night improved my confidence in myself. I also learnt so much about myself which is a bonus.”
Meeting and connecting with the other contestants over the course of a couple of months was also a highlight for her, “they each have their own unique personalities which made getting to know them so enjoyable.”
Story understands pageants aren’t for everyone.
“Some girls don’t feel the need to join and that’s okay. I would encourage those uncertain few to join in because of the slight change you feel in yourself. You gain new skills, gain more confidence in yourself and also learn more about yourself.”
“You have the chance to grow closer to your community as well as meet new people, and despite the stress, there is so much fun.”
“It’s what you achieve and learn along the way that truly matters.”
Pageant president Abigail Temu Haurua congratulated the seven young women who she said had the courage and boldness in stepping forward to participate in this beauty pageant. It reflected the excellence of young Cook Islands women, she said, who would be future leaders in Aotearoa.
MISS COOK ISLANDS NEW ZEALAND RESULTS
Maine Kuki Airani Niu Tireni 2019: Terito Story
Maine Tapairu: Rebecca Enuakea
Maine Purotu: Esther Pekepo
Miss Stage Interview: Esther Pekepo (Vaka Takitumu)
Miss Evening Muu'muu: Rebecca Enuake (Enua Mangaia)
Miss Talent: Terito Story (Akatokamanava)
Miss Pareu Tie: Terito Story (Akatokamanava)
Special Awards: Miss Photogenic Rebecca Enuake (Mangaia)
Miss Personality: Esther Pekepo (Vaka Takitumu)
Miss Deportment: Vogue Ponini Pilisi (Enuamanu)
Miss President Award for leadership: Vogue Ponini Pilisi (Enuamanu)
Miss Patrons Award for compassion: Esther Pekepo (Vaka Takitumu)
Community Services: Kimberly Taoro (Vaka Puaikura)
Miss Heritage: Terito Story (Akatokamanava)
Miss Tiare: Kimberly Taoro (Puaikura)
Miss Maire: Vogue Ponini Pilisi (Enuamanu)