Fair Go: Man takes out top spot in NZ modelling pageant but is denied 'dream' trip prize

Romeo Yusupov is a model, an actor, and a wrestling champion. As of last year, he added a new string to his bow, becoming the reigning title-holder of Mr Elite Global Earth New Zealand 2018.

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Romeo Yusupov was promised a trip to Las Vegas to compete in the Mr Elite Global Earth pageant. When it didn’t happen, he went to Fair Go. Source: Fair Go

The Italian Chechen, who moved to New Zealand as a young boy, was persuaded to enter the pageant after hearing about the amazing prize.

The winner would get an all-expenses paid trip to an international pageant. It included flights, accommodation, and entry fee.

The pageant organiser, Anjini Lata, repeatedly spoke of the pageant taking place in Las Vegas in July 2019. The prize was definitely exciting enough to convince Romeo to enter, so he signed up, took catwalk lessons, honed his physique and was over the moon when his name was called out to say he'd won.

"My mind was racing, my heart was racing." He sank to his knees on the stage and thanked God that his dream of going to the USA was about to come true.

Straight after this, as summer set in last year, Romeo started preparing in earnest, stepping up his training and buying new clothes. He had sponsors helping him, knowing it would be to their advantage with the exposure he'd get in the Las Vegas contest.

He was told to expect to be asked to do media interviews alongside Anjini Lata for promotion and exposure.

But as the months rolled by those interviews never happened, and Romeo felt he was being left in the dark.

He made contact with Anjini Lata, repeatedly asking what was happening about the upcoming international pageant. He needed to know because he was turning down other work to keep the time free.

Months went by, and eventually Anjini Lata came clean saying that there'd be no trip to Las Vegas in July. In fact, there'd be no trip to any international pageant in 2019, as she was financially and emotionally stretched.

Romeo told Fair Go he felt sorry for the organiser, but even more sorry for himself. "When you work for something so hard and you finally get it then it's all snatched off you, well it's very emotionally and physically draining. I was robbed of the prize I deserve."

After pressure from Romeo, Anjini Lata said a trip would be organised for the following year.

Fair Go rang her, and she repeated this, saying she couldn't give any details but it would happen next year and she didn't want us to contact her again.

The trouble is, a year's delay is difficult for Romeo, who doesn't want to turn down more offers of work, so he wanted to know if a contest organiser has the right to change a prize to suit them.

According to the Fair Trading Act, they most definitely don't. The organiser has to deliver the prize exactly as offered.

In all the written communications, it clearly stated that the trip to an international pageant would be in 2019, so Fair Go emailed Anjini Lata to clarify this. We also explained that if this couldn't be honoured, she would need to compensate Romeo with an alternative prize of equal or greater value.

In a call from her lawyer, this was accepted. There are no plans yet in place, but Fair Go will be keeping on top of developments, and hopefully, Romeo will get his prize before the year is out.