Amber-Lee Friis, a former finalist for Miss New Zealand 2018, died on Monday, May 18. She was 23. A representative for the New Zealand Police in Auckland told Fox News that police attended to Friis’ sudden passing on Monday. A cause of death has not yet been revealed.
Talent Tree, a boutique agency based in Auckland that represented Friis, confirmed the news on Facebook. They wrote, “It is with immense sadness we acknowledge the sudden passing of a beautiful and talented Wahine Amber-lee Friis. Amber-Lee was one of our original Models for The Talent Tree and a finalist in 2018 Miss Universe NZ (Miss World New Zealand) Our sincere aroha and condolences to Amber-Lee’s family and friends. R.I.P beautiful lady.”
Miss World New Zealand also posted a tribute to the beauty queen. They wrote, “All of us at Miss World NZ are dreadfully sad on hearing this. Amber absolutely turned her contestant journey around, after an early ‘wobble’ she ended up as one of the most positive and supportive contestants we had in the 7 years we held the MU licence.”
Here’s what you need to know about Amber-Lee Friis:
1. The Daily Mail Reported Friis Died By Suicide
While the exact cause of death has not been publicly confirmed, Daily Mail reported that she took her own life.
Miss World New Zealand noted, “She overcame so much to join us in the first place and she won our admiration and respect from the get-go. She was a beautiful, exciting, and unique person with an extraordinary energy for life. Amber remained a positive and supportive friend to us once the competition was over and in the next couple of years, we were very proud to call her a friend. The world has lost a young woman who had so much to offer and that is an awful and absolute tragedy.”
2. Friis Opened Up About Being Bullied Growing Up & Gaining Weight While Depressed
In an interview with Stuff in 2018, the beauty queen said that she was taunted by classmates growing up in Auckland. They called her “Chimoan” because her “slanted eyes” and “tanned skin.” Amber is half-Samoan from her father’s side of the family and her grandmother is a chief in Savai’i.
Friis also revealed that she had less than an ideal upbringing. She had moved around 13 times by the time she was 15, recalling nights when there wasn’t enough food for dinner. She said, “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.”
At 15, Friis moved in with her boyfriend. While studying to become a mechanic, she worked at Pizza Hut three nights a week. Friis said that during this time, she gained a lot of weight. “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.”
3. Life Turned Around for Friis After She Moved In With Her Aunt & Uncle
Friis told Stuff that after turning 18, she moved into a caravan on her aunt and uncle’s property. “They helped me set goals and showed me I could do anything,” she said.
While working at an online advertising company, she was able to save up enough money to purchase a car and sign up with a trainer at the gym. Her trainer said, “If it’s not burning, it’s not working,” and within six months, she lost much of her gained weight.
“I thought, I’m not going to do anything an international supermodel wouldn’t do.”
4. Friis was Asked to Compete at Miss Universe New Zealand via Instagram DM
After receiving a message on Instagram asking her if she was interested in possibly competing in the Miss Universe New Zealand pageant, Friis thought it was a scam. Because of her tattoos and ear stretcher, she didn’t even think she could qualify to compete. But realizing it was a legitimate request, she decided to give it a shot.
In May 2018, Friis learned that she was picked as one of the Top 20 finalists to compete for the title in Auckland. “I could not stop screaming and crying,” she said. “It was the best thing ever.” She credited entering the pageant for changing her outlook on life.
“I was like a lost sheep before I started writing down goals and started focusing on what I wanted to do,” she said. “I felt stuck and helpless. No one ever has to feel that way. I want to help young girls see their potential and set up a life-plan to achieve it.”
5. The CEO of Miss World New Zealand Called Friis ‘A Force to Be Reckoned With’
Nigel Godfrey, CEO of the Miss World New Zealand competition took to his Facebook page to write a moving tribute to Friis. He shared:
“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. This was one of the many International stories that she generated after entering, and it’s so sad to read it now.
She was feisty, definitely took no prisoners, but she was a beautiful soul and you 100% knew what you were getting. She was genuine, honest and she had an energy few others possess, her heart was most definitely in the right place. We liked and respected her and were very proud to call her a friend, long after the competition had finished.
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. Tragically she passed away yesterday, the world is a lesser place without her in it. She had a great deal more to give and it is a dreadful tragedy that she won’t be here to realise her unlimited potential. RIP Amber Lee you have left us far, far too soon.