AceShowbiz - Heartbreaking news has come from the beauty pageant world. Amber-Lee Friis, a former Miss Universe New Zealand finalist, passed away suddenly at the age of 23 years old on Monday, May 18, and Daily Mail reported that she took her own life.
The young model, who previously opened up about being severely bullied at school, was one of 20 finalists to compete for Miss Universe New Zealand title in 2018. Police confirmed they responded to a "sudden death" on May 18, and has since referred the death to the coroner.
Friis' former agency The Talent Tree brought to light the tragic news. "It is with immense sadness we acknowledge the sudden passing of a beautiful and talented Wahine Amber-lee Friis," the agency's Facebook statement read. "Our sincere aroha and condolences to Amber-Lee's family and friends. R.I.P beautiful lady."
Upon learning about Friis' sudden death, Miss World New Zealand CEO Nigel Godfrey turned to Facebook to confirm her passing. Tragically she passed away yesterday, the world is a lesser place without her in it," he wrote. "She had a great deal more to give and it is a dreadful tragedy that she won't be here to realize her unlimited potential. RIP Amber Lee you have left us far, far too soon."
In the tribute post, Godfrey additionally shared his memory of Friis. "A couple of years back when we were running 'the other one' Amber-Lee Friis swept into our lives, she was a force to be reckoned with," he recalled. "This was one of the many International stories that she generated after entering, and it's so sad to read it now."
Describing Friss as a feisty and beautiful soul who "definitely took no prisoners", he continued, "She was genuine, honest and she had an energy few others possess, her heart was most definitely in the right place." He added, "We liked and respected her and were very proud to call her a friend, long after the competition had finished."
Noting Friis' accomplishments, Godfrey went on to praise her, "Amber Lee turned her life, and indeed her experience with us around, and into an incredibly positive force for good. In the years since she has been loyal and supportive and we value that above anything."
Back in 2018, Friis opened up to NZ Stuff about overcoming her struggles with self-confidence after years of being bullied over her tan skin and slanted eyes. "I remember sitting in my room one night and thinking how hard life could be. At a young age you feel the world is weighing on your shoulders," she said.
"I had a negative outlook on everything. I pictured myself as being an angry, fat, old lady but then I thought: This is not what I want to be like," the model recalled, before revealing that she made a decision to set goals, save money and work out when she turned 18. About her participation at the Miss Universe NZ pageant, she recalled being the only contestant with tattoos and an ear stretcher.