Gentlemen and Miss Universe New Zealand sponsors prefer blondes.
Revelations of the beauty pageant’s organiser asking judges to crown a blonde to please a sponsor have rocked the competition.
Three judges have come forward and said they fell out with director Val Lott last year after they ignored her demands not to choose eventual winner brunette Priyani Puketapu.
One judge, who asked not to be identified, told the New Zealand Herald the organiser did more than drop a few hints.
“She actually did say, 'Jack Ren of China Town likes blondes, and I'd love to see a blonde win.”
"She had pushed for it pretty much right through the week [before the pageant]. We pretty much heard that every day."
The judge’s claims are backed up by emails between Ms Lott and another judge in which she says a sponsor had indicated they wanted a blonde to win.
In one email, Ms Lott said she knew Ms Puketapu would do well but she was insulted that the judges failed to consider her comments on who should win, the NZ Herald reported.
"It was clear to us that she [Ms Lott's preferred candidate] was the outstanding consistent person with the [total] package," Ms Lott wrote. "She should have been at least in the top 5.
"You all knew I had a contract for a blonde to also represent China Town," the email continued.
Ms Lott would not comment when contacted by the media yesterday.
China Town is a collection of nearly 160 Asian businesses in Manukau.
Mr Ren, the chief executive, said while he did have a favourite contestant, who was blonde, it was nonsense to suggest he pushed for her to win.
"I did get a little bit disappointed, because everybody has their own people that they like.
"But my wife, she liked the winner [Ms Puketapu]. She said the winner was good ... There's definitely not any agreement between us and Val."
Ms Lott has been at the centre of controversy surrounding the crowning of this year's winner, South African-born Avianca Bohm, who does not have New Zealand citizenship.
The 22-year-old blonde will compete in December's Miss Universe pageant only if her citizenship application is fast-tracked.