Miss World is the oldest, largest and leading international beauty pageant and hosts a variety of stunning ambassadors from 130 different countries. But this year, a young woman from Yirrkala is pioneering diversity in Miss World Australia. Magnolia Maymuru is a Yolngu woman representing her home state, Northern Territory in the event, competing for a chance to be crowned Miss Australia.
It's the first time in Australian history that a traditional Indigenous Australian has been selected to represent the Northern Territory at the Miss World Australia National Final, which will be held sometime in July this year.
Maymuru, 19, is from the remote community of Yirrkala in North Eastern Arnhem Land and belongs to the Belang of Djarrakpi. She spoke to Darwin’s Mix 104.9 yesterday morning about how she feels about her recent success,
“I’m very nervous,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ll be representing my state in such a well-known event and I know a lot of people will be watching me. My family at home, all of Arnhem Land … and all over Australia.”
Magnolia Maymuru was discovered by Mehali Tsangaris, director of NT Fashion Week while at an ATM in a Darwin shopping centre. Tsangaris says he approached the Arnhem Land beauty perhaps with a little too much excitement, straight up asking her if she'd like to model for NT Fashion Week. But it was not only her natural 5'10" stature that caught his interest,
“She’s a very professional and driven young woman," Tsangaris says. "And her immediate response was, ‘I’m really sorry, but I’ve actually got my year 12 exams at that time and I’m not able to do it.' A year later I ran into her again and she said she’d do NT Fashion Week 2015 because it didn’t mess with her schedule studying a diploma in business administration.”
Magnolia currently works as a recreational officer for children in her community and is passionate about the education and development of younger generations. She says that she is using this opportunity to inspire young Australians,
“I feel very privileged and thankful that I was chosen for this. I just want to do my best and hopefully be a really good role model and inspire many young people.”
While being very happy for the opportunity, Maymuru, who is very connected to her culture, told NITV about how she wants to transition into the modelling industry gradually and carefully:
"Culture is very important up here and Arnhem Land is made up of different people, different languages and different communities," she says.
"Depending on which tribe we come from, which totems or skin name that we have, there are specific things that we can't use or do,"
"Before I do anything, like even wearing some clothing with a particular animal on it, I talk to my family, because I don't want to offend anyone in my community or from another tribe. Since I got the opportunity, my family and I have talked about the difference of living up here and going down south and thinking of the best ways that I can blend culture, so that its respectful and there are no cultural misunderstandings."
Hopefully Magnolia is the first of many traditional Indigenous Australians to challenge beauty standards. While she has all the assets that it takes to be a professional model and compete in national events, by keeping true to her cultural values, Magnolia can inspire the Australian fashion and beauty industry to welcome, encourage and support more Indigenous people onto the scene.