Lifestyle & Human Interest

Former Miss Universe Finalist Amber-Lee Friis Dead at 23


Amber-Lee Friis had a rocky start in life. Growing up in West Auckland, New Zealand, she had more than the normal teen growing pains to contend with.

Some nights, there was no food to be had. Her classmates bullied her for her looks. By the time she was 15, she’d moved 13 times. By age 16, she was out of the house and working a job.

But she wasn’t happy. She struggled with weight and life, and started really trying to turn things around when she turned 18.

“I had a negative outlook on everything,” Friis told NZ Stuff. “I pictured myself as being an angry, fat, old lady but then I thought: This is not what I want to be like.”

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She worked hard and began succeeding on multiple fronts — one of which was being invited to participate in and then being selected as a finalist for the 2018 Miss Universe NZ.

“Oscar Wilde said, ‘We are all born in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.’ My goal is to demonstrate HOW to look at the stars when the dark clouds are covering them,” she wrote on her About page.

She was looking forward to helping other young girls who faced the same trials she had, but she was taken too soon.

While details surrounding her death are not yet available, sources confirmed that she died May 18.

In a Facebook post, Miss Universe New Zealand CEO Nigel Godfrey recalled how feisty, beautiful, honest and genuine the contestant was.

“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,” Godfrey shared.

“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.”

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“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.”

The Talent Tree also honored her in a post.

“It is with immense sadness we acknowledge the sudden passing of a beautiful and talented Wahine Amber-lee Friis,” it said. “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.”

“Our sincerest condolences to the friends and whānau of Amber-lee Friis, whom we have just learned from The Talent Tree has passed away,” Miss World New Zealand shared. “Continue shining brightly, Amber-lee, just as we remembered you.”

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