Tajiya Sahay has put Cook Islands on the world map after her remarkable achievement at the 69th Miss World event in London over the weekend.
The 26 year old finished in sixth spot from 110 contestants who took part before becoming the first Cook Islander to claim the Miss World Continental Queen of Oceania title on Saturday.
The Miss World title went to Toni-Ann Singh, 23, of Jamaica. Ophély Mézino, 20, of France was the first runner up while Suman Rao, 21, of India was second runner-up. Nyekachi Douglas, 20, of Nigeria and Elís Miele Coelho, 20, of Brazil finished in the top five.
Sahay, who has maternal links to Mitiaro, dedicated her win to all her supporters in the Cook Islands and abroad.
“We may be small in number but we are certainly big in heart!” she said.
“Every step of the way, during my Miss World journey the nation was right there with me. The support of our community and the belief you all had in me, is a remarkable feeling.”
Heading into the Miss World event, Sahay said her goal was to go into it with a positive attitude, share the Kia Orana spirit, learn, grow and enjoy the experience.
“It was a true honour and I was relieved to hear my name for top 40 that was an accomplishment for me because all of the contestants were smart, talented and caring.
“I was in complete shock when I was called out for top 12. My face said it all on the big screen. This was all I wanted and I did it for the Cook Islands.”
Right at the end of the show, Sahay was announced the Miss Oceania. She succeeded Jessica Tyson of New Zealand.
“It was an incredible moment. I believe as a nation, we did this. Social media is a huge platform, and we were able to use it in a positive way by showing so much support. Every time I was online, on the other side of the world, I could see the Cook Islands cheering.”
Sahay said the Miss Oceania title would allow her to broaden her dream, and help in charities around the world.
Former Miss Cook Islands Reihana Koteka-Wiki said they were all proud of Sahay’s incredible achievement.
“Im so, so proud of her. She has worked so hard and this is an incredible achievement for our small country. She has put our county on the map in a way that has never been done before, this is the highest achievement,” Koteka-Wiki said.
Tajiya’s mum Ruth Sahay said: “I’m still finding it hard to believe that this has actually happened. Who would've thought? But we (Taji’s family) are extremely proud of her and what she has just accomplished, not just for herself but for the Cook Islands!”
Miss Cook Islands’ organiser Rohan Ellis said, “Tajiya will sign a contract with Miss World Org for a year travelling the world raising funds for charity projects around the world.”