A pageant’s impact – Tessa Nicholas

Glamour, poise, outer beauty. There’s more to those who take the pageantry stage than meets the eye. Metropol writer Nina Tucker talks with Christchurch’s 2023 Mrs Aotearoa candidate, Tessa Nicholas.

Recently crowned Charity Queen at the Mrs Aotearoa 2023 grand finale in August, for her work in making the country a better place, Tessa Nicholas is the epitome of tenacity.

Tessa made a return from her younger years competing in pageants and taking crowns to contest for
Mrs Aotearoa 2023, an opportunity she didn’t expect.

“I never thought at this stage of my life, it was going to be possible again.” But it was, and Tessa was able to make a difference for herself and her community. “A lot of hard work and dedication goes into preparing for these pageants.

The enjoyment I had from working with charities has been life-changing for me.” Tessa’s efforts with charities 0800 Hungry, The Brave Foundation and the Women’s Refuge, alongside random acts of kindness to the less privileged earned her the Charity Queen 2023 status.

Tessa alluded that her career as a hairdresser has become a great tool in nurturing the well-being of others, using hair as a catalyst. “I try to be a good listener and navigate through whatever they have going on while making their hair look its best.” Gaining empathy from years of experience, and understanding the conditions, both in the hair and beneath, that can diminish self-confidence, Tessa has applied her position to heal others through kindness and creativity. “I am always in somebody’s physical space and they’re in mine. I can feel if they’re having a bad day or a good day.”

In lockdown, Tessa suffered a nasty dose of Covid-19, followed by long Covid, chronic fatigue, panic attacks and anxiety. Like many, travel plans were cancelled and hope started to fade. “Then, it was the financial strain of owning a business and not being out to work and make any money. I was deciding whether to close the doors or go back and fight for it,” Tessa remembers. It took “working every hour possible,” to keep her beloved business alive, an “extremely taxing” time. This became the start of a long journey of self-healing, to return to what she had always loved.

As many endeavoured out of the lull that was lockdown, Tessa approached it with determination and spirit in reigniting her passion for pageants. She recalls year-long efforts by herself and a “whole team of people” helping along the way, from the beginning to August’s grand finale. With hard work came great reward, Tessa says the pageant “revived” her confidence. “From a woman that couldn’t even get out of bed or leave the house, now I’m performing, singing, cat-walking, public speaking and doing podcasts.

It’s truly unbelievable really, I feel very proud of myself.”

Tessa has a full schedule, running her business and travelling to Auckland on weekends for pageantry practice. She’s only comfortable when she’s busy.

Amongst it all, Tessa still finds time to exercise and eat well. “It’s challenging, but it’s a challenge that I’m up for. The more I have on my plate, the better I function,” she adds.

At 17, Tessa entered the Miss Canterbury pageant and fell in love with the experience. She says it brings purpose and creates more to life than home and work. Learning about skincare, hair and makeup, nutrition, finding the confidence to speak publicly and care for your community, pageantry, Tessa says, comes with numerous benefits outside of physical appearance.

“It builds your self-esteem. It’s an encouragement for women to try new things.”She reveals there’s still excitement to the charm of it all. “I particularly love the glamorous side of it and being on stage.” Everything considered, Tessa says the best part is having the opportunity to do what she loves.

Many in the pageant industry have begun voicing change against society’s stereotypical perspective of beauty pageants, Tessa affirms the industry and behind-the-scenes work goes so much deeper than what the public sees. “Pageantry has never just been focused on outer beauty.

It’s made up of many components.” Listing the professions and pure dedication of so many pageant competitors, Tessa said all are welcomed in the industry, and diversity is embraced. “As humans, our perception of beauty is different from one person to the next, just as our taste in colours, or foods. What one person sees as beautiful, another may not.” From doctors, nurses, vets, and dentists, to hair stylists, real estate agents, social workers, stay-at-home mums, and beauticians, pageants see humans from all walks and ways of life, coming together for themselves and their communities. “It’s our sport, that’s what we love.”

Tessa won’t stop here, determined to continue this journey. “I want the public to see that this is a wonderful opportunity for women. Enhancing beauty, building confidence, starting new sisterhoods and experiencing something totally different from our lives at home.”

In mid-August Tessa was also crowned Mrs Elite Earth New Zealand and will go overseas next July to represent New Zealand.

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