Miss Samoa New Zealand 2017 has been crowned.
Natalie Leitulagi Toevai from Afega, Vailele and Vaisala, won the Miss Samoa New Zealand pageant at Mangere's Fale Samoa on Saturday night.
Miss Samoa New Zealand 2017-2018: Natalie Leitulagi Toevai. Photo/ Supplied- Miss Samoa NZ.
The 23-year-old is a post-graduate student and a part-time teaching assistant at the University of Auckland.
She says she's still trying to process the win.
"It was a night to remember," she says. "It still feels surreal."
Toevai won the Best Siva Samoa category and the Personality Award.
She says the pageant re-affirmed to her the cultural values she was raised with.
"The sense of community was evident throughout the journey," she says. "The sense of pride that united us as Samoan people especially here in New Zealand.
"Our youth have issues with our identity so that night re-affirmed me of my position."
Miss Samoa New Zealand pageant in South Auckland. Photo/ Supplied- Miss Samoa NZ.
She will be representing New Zealand at the Teuila Festival in Samoa in September.
Toevai says she hopes to show Samoa that Samoans living abroad are strongly rooted in their culture.
"It doesn't matter whether you're half Samoan or quarter or full," she says. "We love our country even though we're away. It doesn't take away from the fact that our hearts are still back home."
She says it was hard juggling the pageant preparations with her full-time studies, but the support from her family and friends carried her through.
Toevai's cousin Julia Toevai won the title in 1992 and her aunty Sharon Iputau won in 1994.
"It's something my family is familiar with it and I'm very priviledged and blessed to have been a part of it," she says.
First runner-up was Manufa'aifomailagi Rowena Fuao, second runner-up was Brittany Tasesa Stanley-Wishart and third runner-up was Kahlia Renee Tapsell-Ulae.
Pageant director Ulalemamae Te'eva Matafai says the four contestants are all winners.
"They're all winners for taking the bold step to enter the competition," she says. "It's about celebrating our culture as Samoan tama'ita'i."