Stiletto Camp: The beginning of the Miss Universe New Zealand Journey


(UPDATE: Please support me on my journey by clicking here.)

I arrived at Stiletto Camp aligned to my own worth and values and I came out of the camp, inspired to be an even better version of myself.

I didn’t enter the pageant to chase validation or approval from others, or to flaunt my beauty; I entered Miss Universe due to other intentions. As always, true beauty begins with self-love and compassion for oneself and when you have the two, whatever you do, you will do so with integrity. If your intentions are pure, God will make it easier for you to achieve the things that you want to accomplish.

My intention to compete for Miss Universe is because I believe that the journey will help me with my growth as a person and I want to empower young girls along the way. I chose to compete in Miss Universe rather than any other pageants due to the values that it has. Miss Universe is not a typical ‘beauty’ pageant. The pageant itself is more focused on one’s character and their ability to do a successful entrepreneur challenge to help a charity in need (for New Zealand it is Variety). There were no measurements of my height or my weight and so it isn’t superficial or demeaning. I can personally vouch that Miss Universe is more than physical beauty and I wouldn’t have competed in the pageant if it was against my own morals or values.

When I first met all the girls at the camp, I had no judgements and I didn’t find myself comparing myself to them. Remember, what you think of other people is a reflection of yourself. Rather, I admired how each contestant was beautiful in their own unique ways. Tania Dawson, the winner of Miss Universe New Zealand 2016, said on the first day of the camp that Miss Universe is not a competition between other people, but a competition within yourself.  Although I do wear the hijab, I didn’t find it at a disadvantage from the other contestants and all of them treated me like I was any other girl. In saying that, all the girls competing were so lovely and any of them would do an amazing job as Miss Universe New Zealand. Just like life, the competition is a journey itself. It’s also important to remember to focus on your own journey as you need to make sure that you are on the right path for maximum growth or else you will remain stuck by focusing on others.

Nonetheless, the camp was full on for three days. On the first night, Nigel (the director of Miss Universe New Zealand) and Jack (General Counsel for Miss Universe) discussed Miss Universe and the ‘journey’ towards the title. As mentioned before, we also had Tania as well as Seresa Vianca (Miss University NZ 2016) who talked to us about their own journey as 2016 finalists in Miss Universe New Zealand. For the second and third day of the Stiletto camp, we were taught how to walk and dance in heels by Jade. During the camp, we had our makeup done by Samala Robinson Academy where we then had our photo as well as video shoot taken. It was my first time to have my makeup professionally done and I can say that I was happy with the final look: a bronzy smokey eye with nude lips which was done by Kathline. We also had to do an interview with Jack and Nigel. On the final day of Stiletto camp, we had a talk by three different ladies where they gave us advice on health and beauty to looking and feeling our best. We had a spokesperson from an organic skincare range, Caithy, to talk about the importance of taking care of our skin and how to achieve glowing skin. Our second speaker was a nutritionist and former Miss Universe New Zealand finalist where she talked to us about how to eat healthily. Our last speaker/lesson was on make-up which was done by Evana Patterson where she taught us some tips and tricks to do easy and flawless makeup looks.

Because I was an out-of-towner, I stayed in the same accommodation with nine other girls. I know that some people may stereotype pageant girls as catty and possibly fake, but the people I met during the stiletto camp were some of the nicest and genuine people I ever met. All ten of us would go out to dinner together and we spent hours huddled in one room where we talked about ourselves and past experiences. From meeting all the girls at Stiletto camp, it was awesome to have met strong, like-minded girls and it was amazing that all of us lifted each other up- just like how all girls should be. There was no sabotaging, there was no drama, just all of us girls having fun, getting along and even helping one another.

I would like to thank the organisers (Jack, Nigel and Aloha (administrator)) and the helpers of Miss Universe New Zealand as they were very accepting and accommodating to my faith. For example, they went out of their way to get a long-sleeved white shirt so I didn’t have to wear a singlet. Although at the international stage for Miss Universe you see all the girls wearing a bikini, there is no rule whatsoever that they must do so- it is only because of personal preferences and so at the camp, they allowed me to wear whatever I wanted when they took photos of us in swimwear. Their attitude to different cultures and religions really warmed my heart and it made me grateful to live in a country like New Zealand where we embrace diversity. Because of the culture that we have, I never had any troubles, harassment or mishaps with my hijab and it has never stopped me from any opportunities. And it definitely did not stop me from competing in Miss Universe New Zealand.

The stiletto camp is only the beginning of the Miss Universe New Zealand journey. Although I have no idea if I will progress in the competition, I have already learnt a lot from it. For starters, I learnt how to walk in my stilettos and even dance in them too. I learnt that I can improve on my confidence, not because I am not happy with myself but because my nerves can still get to me. I was also inspired by other qualities that other contestants and Tania, as well as Seresa, had. Regardless of me making it to the finals, my own journey of growth wouldn’t end here. InsyaAllah, if God wills, I hope that my journey in life will lead to more opportunities and blessings. All and all, I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to compete in Miss Universe New Zealand. And although Miss Universe is not a beauty pageant, I felt more beautiful by the end of stiletto camp as it inspired me to work even harder in becoming the woman that I want to be.

(UPDATE: Please support me on my journey by clicking here. )

Nurul Shamsul