Indian-born Miss Universe Australia Priya Serrao says she will use her pageant win to raise awareness about diversity and multiculturalism.
A Victorian law graduate believed to be the country’s first Indian-born Miss Universe Australia says her win is groundbreaking for cultural diversity, adding she was proud to stand alongside another woman of colour who was runner-up.
Priya Serrao was crowned the winner at the final in Melbourne on Thursday night after beating more than a dozen finalists for the title.
Australian-Ugandan Bella Kasimba was first runner-up.
Ms Serrao said she was so sure she wasn’t going to be win - let make the top ten - that she hadn’t invited family or friends to the event.
“I just thought it would be a fun night,” Ms Serrao told SBS News.
“I’m in disbelief – I’m pretty overwhelmed.”
The 27-year-old law graduate was born in India and lived in the Middle East before moving to Australia when she was 11 years old.
Her first year in the country was tough because she “looked different”, the beauty queen said, adding that growing up she didn’t see the country’s diversity reflected in the media.
“I obviously didn’t fit in because of my looks, I didn’t know any of the celebrities but also I had an accent, and it was a difficult process.
“You don’t see people that look like me in Australian media, in politics, or executive roles in business.
"I’d love for that to change.
“You feel different and aware of your own ethnicity and culture.”
Ms Serrao views her win as Miss Universe Australia as ground breaking and wants to use her pageant win to raise awareness about diversity and multiculturalism.
“I don’t think Australia has had an Indian migrant as Miss Universe Australia.”
She said she was proud to stand alongside other women of colour in the top ten and top two of the pageant, including one with Sri Lankan heritage and another with Ugandan heritage.
“It was incredibly proud moment I don’t think that’s ever happened before.
“I think what we saw was an accurate reflection of Australia.”
Miss Universe Australia said it shared those sentiments.
“Priya said that she was proud that two women of colour were standing side by side at the end,” National Director Sophia Barbagallo told SBS News in a statement.
“For us we are just proud that two incredible women were standing side by side. Diversity can just happen. And we love that.”
Last year, Chinese-Australian Francesca Hung won the title.