Amber-Lee Friis dies 'suddenly' at 23, as fans mourn the Miss Universe's 'unlimited potential'
Miss Universe New Zealand finalist Amber-Lee Friis passed away earlier this week at the age of 23. Breaking the news on Facebook, The Talent Tree posted, "It is with immense sadness we acknowledge the sudden passing of a beautiful and talented Wahine Amber-lee Friis."
The post further read, "Amber-Lee was one of our original Models for The Talent Tree and a finalist in 2018 Miss Universe NZ (Miss World New Zealand)." The boutique agency, which represents a tight-knit community of talent, added that "our sincere aroha and condolences to Amber-Lee's family and friends. R.I.P beautiful lad."
Soon after the news was revealed, many in the pageant world began expressing their condolences to the model. "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 on Facebook. "Continue shining brightly, Amber-lee, just as we remembered you."
No sooner was it posted on social media, fans expressed their condolences. "Omg so sad," one comment read and another said, "Amber-lee, a remarkable and short journey. A life well lived and loved." Another fan wrote, "Oh my gosh so awful.. what happened to her?"
"So sad to hear. Deepest sympathy to her family," one fan wrote and another posted, "That is devastating news for one so young. RIP." One friend said, "‘Beautiful inside and out Ambier!! Thank you for always being a genuinely kind and loving friend," and another posted, "Rest in peace you Beautiful girl, I cherish every moment I spent with you till we see each other again."
Sharing fond memories of the finalist, the CEO of Miss World New Zealand, Nigel Godfrey, said, "She was a force to be reckoned with. 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," Nigel continued. "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."
Amber-Lee previously opened up about up being bullied during her childhood. "I remember sitting in my room one night and thinking how hard life could be," she once shared. "At a young age you feel the world is weighing on your shoulders." She also said, "I was like a lost sheep before I started writing down goals and started focusing on what I wanted to do. I felt stuck and helpless. No one ever has to feel that way." Reports say that during her school days, her classmates called her ‘Chimoan’ because of her tanned skin and slanted eyes.
While not much is known about her death, the New Zealand Police Department said in a statement to People that a "sudden death" was confirmed on May 18 and that the death had been referred to the coroner.