Another young woman is making our community proud by representing it on the national stage. India-born Kiwi Tuljai Parker is one of the top 20 finalists for this year’s Miss Universe NZ (MUNZ), and is preparing hard for the national beauty pageant. In a conversation with The Indian Weekender, she revealed more about herself, her values, interests and the “pool party”. Here are a few excerpts:

IWK: For those who don’t know about you, how would you introduce yourself?:

Tuljai Parker: It has been a long and beautiful journey since coming to New Zealand 19 years back.

I came to NZ when I was two.  My parents, who are both PhDs in science, came here for a better lifestyle. They tell me stories of their struggle during the first year. It was a very bold step for them to leave their family, friends and lucrative jobs and to come to an unknown place where they knew nobody or what to expect or how they would survive. But they had the will to be successful and to take charge of their life. Slowly they worked their way up, and now we are settled in Palmerston North.

However, life has not been very smooth, as my parents were often working in different cities most of the time, due to their professions. My dad often jokes that this is the secret to their long-lasting marriage.

My mum is the one who built my confidence, who helped me become a versatile and multifaceted woman and who made me believe as a kid that “I could do anything I put my mind to”.  This is why I am here today, representing New Zealand at a national event.

IWK: How has been your life growing up in New Zealand?

TP: I relate to several cities of New Zealand. We briefly lived in Auckland for about a year, moved to Palmerston North for about two years, and then settling in Hamilton for almost fourteen years where I completed all my schooling.  During my Year 13 at school, mum was transferred to Palmy. After school, I had considered different careers like medicine, engineering, flying and architecture. I chose engineering and innovation management at Massey.

Given the opportunities in Auckland, later I decided to move to Albany by myself. It was outside my comfort zone as it was the first time, I had to stay without my parents and do everything all by myself. But this is the sacrifice I have to make so I can achieve all I want to in life. It has, however, taught me a lot about myself and also to become more independent and self-reliant.

Tuljai Parker (Photo: supplied)

My junior years in school I was involved in several extracurricular activities so that I could have a more rounded personality. I achieved junior black belt in Kyokushin karate, played violin as a member of the Waikato Youth Orchestra, participated in several cultural activities such as dance and drama with Indian associations, did indoors rock-climbing, learnt swimming and tried out various other activities. Now I work part-time as a 'learn to swim' instructor.

I am presently in my final year (i.e.Year Four honours) of Engineering and Innovation management.  The degree has a mechatronics component (i.e. robotics) and innovation management which helps us learn the process of bringing a new product to the market. I am quite looking forward to completing the degree and using my knowledge to help start-ups or established companies bring new products to the world market.

IWK: How do you feel about being an Indian in a foreign land?

TP: I think we all should be proud of our culture and heritage. Indian culture is unique and shows an amazing unity in diversity. India and Indians have, for centuries, contributed to the good of the world.

I like my Indian heritage, and I am also mindful of recognising Kiwi ethics and values. I can speak a bit of Hindi (learned from movies and when I did my internship at Siemens in Mumbai) and Marathi (from my dad and grandparents) and am almost fluent in Tamil, my mother tongue. But at home, we speak English which is a common language for all three of us. I plan to learn a foreign language possibly French or German over this year.

IWK: Have you always wanted to be in beauty pageants?

TP: Would you believe if I said, I had never worn any makeup except lip gloss or the occasional lipstick until my audition at MUNZ semi-final round? I believe in inner beauty which is another virtue instilled in me by my family. Of course, I will have to be made camera and audience ready for the competition and will adorn the necessary makeup then. But I will leave this in the hands of the professional experts from MUNZ who did a fantastic job on my face during the semi-finals. Thanks to Samala Cosmetics. I am confident they will present me in the best manner for the finals too.

Tuljai Parker (Photo: supplied)

IWK: How do you represent the Indian community?

TP: A woman is multifaceted and has several dimensions.

As an Indian-born Kiwi, I represent values that Indians hold high, such as respect for elders, focus on education, tolerance, family first, enjoy all festive celebrations, and adore our culture and century-old traditions. I am proud of my heritage and acknowledge this fact.

On the other hand, I have been raised in Aotearoa / New Zealand which also has very good values such as honesty, integrity, empathy, gratitude and kindness. Therefore, I represent us all. Every New Zealander, no matter where you are and what you do, if you agree with any of my values, then I represent you.

IWK: How are you preparing for Miss Universe NZ?

TP: I am organising a Charity Fund Raiser in the form of The Pool Party at QBE’s Albany Stadium Pools on Saturday, 5 August. This being a community fundraiser, I have made it a family event. 50 per cent of the money raised will go to Variety—the Children’s Charity to support underprivileged Kiwi kids in need and 50 per cent will support my journey in Miss Universe NZ. Tickets are only $10. So I would urge everyone to please contact me for tickets. Keep those votes coming, donate to the charities and help me win this.  I know we can do it if we all put our mind to it. Check me out on Facebook @TuljaiParkerMUNZ

Appeal to the Indian community:

As the only Indian in this competition to have reached the finals, I need the help and support from all my Indian community members.

I make a strong appeal to go to my Facebook page, vote for me and also contribute to the Variety Children’s charity from the link on my page. 

You can vote for Tuljai at http://bit.ly/2pIc5zs or by scanning the QR code. Votes cost $1 and for every $5 bundle sold, $1 will go to the SCOT Foundation to help children and orphans in need!