Beauty queen's big dreams 'I HAD TO LEARN TO WALK AGAIN'
Woman’s Day Magazine NZ|January 31, 2022
Rotorua mum Te Aroha doesn't let her spina befida limit her
Hayley McLarin

With all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and ages represented, it breaks all the stereotypes we've come to expect in beauty pageants. Haere mai to Gowns & Geysers - a reality show following the selection process for Miss Rotorua.

Among the stars of the series is Te Aroha Hapi, who entered the pageant to prove that a disability need not be a hurdle to becoming a role model or a beauty queen.

Suffering from a mild form of spina bifida, the 28-year-old had to embrace many new challenges for the TVNZ OnDemand show, including walking in stilettos - because of her condition, she'd never even owned a pair of high heels.

“I spent most of my teens in hospital," the Rotorua mum tells Woman's Day. “I was playing outside at school when one of the other students yanked me off the jungle gym. I had a little bump on my tailbone, which shifted to my spinal cord. Then my nerve roots started wrapping around it and limiting parts of my body as it progressed.

“I had to learn how to make my legs walk again, so mastering heels was nothing compared to what I've been through.”

Te Aroha was 10 years old when she was diagnosed with lipomyelomeningocele, where tissue pushes between vertebrae, impinging on nerves.

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