Waterford Rose Kirsten Mate Maher has been awarded the title of 2018 Rose of Tralee. She is the third Waterford woman to win since the beginning of the competition.
Maher, 21, said she was “speechless” last night as she was crowned in front of the crowd at the Dome in County Kerry. She beat fellow fan favourite Shauna Ray Lacey from Carlow to the title, whose raw personal story of family drug addiction and poverty made headlines around Ireland. Speaking about her win, Maher said: “I couldn’t have picked a winner out of tonight and I certainly didn’t expect it to be me”.
Maher has also become the first African-Irish Rose of Tralee. The student and part-time model’s father is from Zambia and her mother is from Waterford. They met when her father, an army officer, was training in the Curragh and took a holiday in Waterford. He had to return to Zambia shortly before her birth and didn’t meet Kirsten until she was almost two. “I still have the teddy bear he gave me,” she said.
While on stage with Daithí on Monday evening, Maher said that there had been too much attention put on the colour of the skin throughout the competition. “It’s something about someone that you touch off but you don’t dwell on, and I felt it was dwelled on too much and used too much when there is a lot more to me than just my skin and hair,” she said.
Maher currently works in a boutique in Tramore, Co. Waterford and had recently been accepted to a course at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) to study Multimedia and Application Development. But, after her win, she admits she might have to hit the defer button.