The best-known beauty pageant in the world – Miss Universe – will enter its 69th year in 2021. Having evolved in the 1950s when most entrants didn’t have dedicated careers, many question the relevance of the pageant today and wonder if we should still be judging women for their beauty on a global stage.
But for Melbourne local Maria Thattil, entering was less about her looks and more about the opportunities the contest could lead to. Flying the flag as Miss Universe Australia 2020, the 27-year-old is a human resources manager as well as a part-time model.
“Attaining your goals and challenging yourself doesn’t happen via one set route,” she says.
“Maybe you’ll get to your goal through a degree, or maybe you’ll get there through another path, or a combination of circumstances. Sometimes, our journey looks different to not only what others might expect, but what we might expect for ourselves.“
Calling the pageant “an opportunity to challenge herself“, Thattil’s time as a finalist was spent entirely in lockdown. Her mum became her photographer, her brother was her trainer and her home kitchen became her new workspace. She even created an Instagram series focused on empowerment and self-awareness in the worst of times.
“Showing up for the program whilst trying to stay calm and connected during a pandemic wasn’t easy,” she confesses.