Pageant success is more than skin deep
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.