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Model Maia Cotton’s romantic engagement in the Bay of Islands

Model Maia Cotton rings in the new year with an engagement to her high-flying American partner Max Feldstein.

New York-based Kiwi and Victoria’s Secret model Maia Cotton (Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Hine, Te Uri Taniwha) had a romantic marriage proposal in the Bay of Islands on New Year’s Day while back home in New Zealand for the holidays.

Cotton, 24, was surprised by her boyfriend, New York venture capitalist Max Feldstein, 32, while her father, celebrated artist Shane Cotton, mother Luanne and sister Mika watched on from the bushes.

Feldstein — who invests in start-ups and early-stage companies in the sports, media and entertainment industries — had visited New Zealand a few times before and had also got to meet Cotton’s family during their visits to see her in the States.

The Cotton family have moved permanently from Auckland to Russell in the Bay of Islands.

“We used to go there every summer growing up,” Cotton tells Spy.

“Max knew I would want to share the moment with my family, and so he planned to do it over the holidays while we were all together.”

Cotton says her new fiance has a bit of the old-fashioned chivalry in him.

“Because we live across the world, I’m told there was a FaceTime call between Max and Mum and Dad.

“Max and I woke up at the crack of dawn to have a sunrise swim. When we arrived at the beach and the sun was creeping in, that is when Max proposed, and then the family came in and we had a great day of celebrating together.”

Cotton’s ring is a stunning diamond solitaire.

The couple met in New York in 2019, about a year after she first moved to the Big Apple and walked in her first Victoria’s Secret show.

“My best friend Kendall and I were flatting together in 2018, and funnily enough, Kendall was dating Max’s flatmate.

“She introduced us. I have Kendall to thank for the introduction! Kendall and Max’s old flatmate are also still together to this day,” says Cotton.

When the in-demand top model isn’t on the road working, she and Feldstein live together in trendy Soho and enjoy the A-list social scene with an array of interesting and fun friends.

Many of them work in industries across the fashion, culture, hospitality and business sectors, and Cotton says they are a creative bunch whose favourite things to do are attend music and art events.

After infrequent travel due to restrictions throughout the pandemic, Cotton has spent a lot of time on planes in the last year.

“Most of my travel was across the US, but I also had work in places as far as China,” she says.

Some of her favourite jobs last year were a Makeup By Mario beauty campaign, a Juicy Couture fragrance campaign, and a Cult Gaia fashion campaign she shot in Death Valley in California.

“The Makeup by Mario job in particular, was quite exciting. That work was featured on city buses in Manhattan and billboards across America. Beauty campaigns like that are always surreal to see come to life, and it was so much fun to shoot.”

Cotton has a few goals for the year ahead. In addition to continuing her beauty and fragrance work, she’d like to expand her fashion work to Europe and potentially return to the runway at some point.

Cotton says the secret to the love between herself and Feldstein is that they are best friends. “Max makes me laugh every single day, but also challenges and pushes me when I need it.

“He encourages me with my work and helps me get out of my comfort zone, which I like,” she says. “I try to do the same for him. I love that we have just as much fun doing the mundane, day-to-day tasks as we do when we’re somewhere exciting. I couldn’t feel luckier.”

As for their wedding, Cotton says she has always wanted to share New Zealand with her friends in the US.

“I can’t think of a better excuse than for our wedding. We are sorting out the details, but love the idea of having it on the mainland.”