Pageant suc­cess is more than skin deep

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE - CARLY GOOCH

MA­RINA Kere has learnt to be com­fort­able in her own skin.

The 20-year-old as­pir­ing model and Miss Uni­verse New Zealand fi­nal­ist, from Nel­son, has bat­tled eczema since she was a baby, when she’d scratch her arm un­til it was ‘‘com­pletely raw’’.

‘‘One of my first mod­el­ling jobs, mumhad to ban­dage up my arm and I had to wear long sleeves so you couldn’t see all the ban­dages on my arm. It was a bit of a strug­gle.’’

Once the eczema healed, she spent 10 years bat­tling vi­tiligo, the skin pig­men­ta­tion con­di­tion that af­fected Michael Jack­son.

‘‘We found out I had vi­tiligo be­cause it healed back in white patches. I’m quite tanned and olive so that was some­thing that made me quite self-con­scious.’’

But in an in­dus­try fo­cused on looks, Kere hasn’t let the con­di­tion get the bet­ter of her. ‘‘It is quite no­tice­able, you can see it in all my pho­tos but lots of peo­ple think it’s a birth­mark. Some­times peo­ple don’t even no­tice it.’’

Kere is now one of 20 fi­nal­ists to com­pete in the Miss Uni­verse New Zealand pageant in Auck­land, in Au­gust – an ac­co­lade she de­scribes as ‘‘sur­real’’.

‘‘I’m so ex­cited and thank­ful for the op­por­tu­nity.’’

She hopes her ex­po­sure will mo­ti­vate oth­ers to fol­low their dreams, and al­low her to be a pos­i­tive role model to peo­ple suf­fer­ing skin prob­lems – and to other Ma¯ori.

Half Maori, Kere is proud of her Nga¯ti Kuia, Nga¯ti Apa ki te ra¯ to¯ and Nga¯i Tahu her­itage.

Among the tasks the Miss Uni­verse fi­nal­ists must com­plete is an en­tre­pre­neur­ial chal­lenge, re­quir­ing con­tes­tants to hold events to raise money for chil­dren’s char­ity, Va­ri­ety. The par­tic­i­pant to raise the most money gets im­mu­nity into the top 10.

‘‘I’ve been re­ally look­ing for­ward to that. I’ve been pre­par­ing, writ­ing lit­tle busi­ness plans of what I could do and who I could get to help me.’’

Kere puts her drive for suc­cess down to her early strug­gles, grow­ing up with a teen solo mu­min a home where ‘‘there wasn’t much of an in­come’’. There were no tu­tus or tiaras in her house­hold.

‘‘I didn’t get to do things that other kids got to do, like play­ing sports af­ter school.

‘‘I feel like it was a kind of a good thing in a way, be­cause it made me work harder and strive to be suc­cess­ful and just push my­self.’’

Kere started work early to help pay for things she wanted to do and she has con­tin­ued to fund her en­deav­ours.

Last year she was se­lected to go to the United States with a Fu­ture Fi­nanciers Del­e­ga­tion through Crim­son Ed­u­ca­tion.

She worked her full­time job at a law firm while work­ing week­ends at The Ware­house to raise money for the trip.

Long-term, her goal is to start her own busi­ness and con­tinue her stud­ies.

‘‘I also love mod­el­ling but I know not many peo­ple get to do that full­time, so I will just fo­cus on gain­ing a solid ca­reer and do mod­el­ling as a hobby – and see what hap­pens.’’

The Miss Uni­verse New Zealand grand fi­nal will be held on Au­gust 4 at Auck­land’s SkyCity and broad­cast live on Bravo.

Ma­rina Kere has bat­tled for her mod­el­ing ca­reer and has reached the top-20 in the Miss Uni­verse New Zealand pageant.

Ma­rina Kere suf­fered the same skin con­di­tion as Michael Jack­son.

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