UPDATE: Louise may not have won Miss Universe New Zealand, but she says she had an awesome time, posting on Facebook: "WOW what a night!! I have been so overwhelmed and truly touched by all your amazing support over the last few months! Thank you so much for investing your time, energy, money but most of all emotions into supporting me on this journey! Unfortunately no crown but an amazing learning opportunity and growth period for me! Back to reality on Monday and straight away on exercise with work!"
When Louise Nelson was coming to the end of her training as an intelligence officer for the Air Force, she realised it wasn’t what she wanted to do. But there was a problem: what she wanted to do was not allowed as a commissioned officer and no one had ever become a non-commissioned officer.
But convention isn’t something that is in Louise’s DNA. While serving in the Air Force she has started a mentoring programme for young women and is strutting the catwalk as a finalist in the Miss Universe New Zealand pageant.
“I decided that being a helicopter crewman was something that resonated with me and felt quite passionate about so I wrote a letter to the Governor General and he approved my decommission, making me the first person in the Air Force to successfully resign commission. I became a Corporal Helicopter Crewman,” she said.
“Since then, several other people have followed suit and successfully decommissioned.”
The lesson was clear: “If you’re passionate about something and really want to do it, don’t take no for an answer, because there are always people who stand in your way and stop you from reaching your goals and achievements. Push for the things important to you.”
In amongst her time doing search and rescue missions with her crew, Louise has been heavily involved in launching two excellent community initiatives.
“I started a mentoring scheme for young women called Boots and All that pairs women aged 13-21 with women aged 21-30 years old. They begin a ‘Big Sister’ kind of friendship and the idea is that the mentors are old enough to have life experience and a bit of nous, but young enough to still be cool.
“I’m also a lifeguard out at Himatangi Beach, and I’ve been working with the club there to get school lessons or beach safety more enforced in that local community. There’s a lot of children out there who although they’re at the beach don’t have basic swimming skills. We can tell them to swim between the flags as much as we want, but if they can’t swim then there’s no point.”
It was through aspects of both her community work and Air Force life that prompted Louise to give the Miss Manawatu competition a go.
“I thought entering Miss Manawatu would create a really good platform for me to get my community initiatives going, but I was also the only female in my work environment, and I wanted to make sure I was really maintaining my femininity.
“I think it’s really easy when you’re female in an all-male dominated role to lose touch with that and a really important thing for a woman to maintain,” she said.
Louise credits her mum, Lindy, for instilling determination and confidence into her.
“Mum wasn’t a businesswoman when I was growing up, she was a mum , but when my sister and me left home she set up the Agri Women Development Trust and last year was named Next Business Woman of the Year.
“Her being able to change position from a really strong supportive mother into a really strong businesswoman has provided a huge amount of leadership for me and shown that women can be successful in different aspects of your life.”
Vote for Louise as Miss Universe New Zealand
If you want to help Louise win Miss Universe New Zealand on Thursday 18 September, you can vote for her by texting Louise to 3557. Texts cost 99c each so please check with the bill payer first. Terms and conditions can be found at www.nextmissnz.com.
Alternatively you can ‘Like’ Louise’s Facebook page where you can purchase 15 votes for $10.