My major problems with the way I looked started in primary school. I was bullied from primary school to year 10. I became very depressed and extremely self-conscious.
I remember in year 8, I was only a little chubby. One of the names I was called was “Chunky Butt”. This was by my friends and people who I thought were my friends. At first I thought it was funny. But when people say it over and over again, it’s not the nicest feeling. When you’ve got social media in your face and skinny girls made to look so beautiful - it takes its toll.
In high school it became a lot worse because you become a lot more aware of your body and what other people look like compared to you. I stopped going swimming because I hated the way I looked and I just stopped putting myself out there.
I started losing sight of who I am because I was trying to fit in to a stereotype of the perfect girl and I couldn’t fit in. I don’t have perfect skin or perfect legs or a perfect face or anything.
It's easy to say, "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." But, speaking from experience, it is very hard to put that into practice. I never saw myself as beautiful. I only saw imperfections and flaws. But the moment I starting changing the way I was thinking, everything changed. My friends and family love me for who I am as a person, not because of how I look.
Entering the pageant
I actually remember my first day when I went in and applied to do the pageant. I was so shy – I was literally shaking and I knew for the fact I wasn’t going to win.
When I think back now I didn’t know what process was going on in my brain to say 'this might make it better'!
I wore my first bikini when I was 18 just before the pageant. And there were barely any people around me so it was all right. But I thought, by showing a large group of people 'I can do this and not be the stereotype of the perfect girl' - it might be ok. People can see that girls like me can do this, and it’s alright. The fear was definitely there but I don’t think I was really thinking about it to be honest.
I was in there for my own purposes to build up my confidence and not be so shy. But as the weeks progressed, I built up my confidence thinking, 'I actually can do this'. I can walk the stage with a swimsuit and a really tight dress and it’s all right.
My mind was absolutely blank (on stage). I was freaking out beforehand. I remember walking out there and my heart was going crazy. The only thought I had was ‘don’t trip!’
When they announced I won Ms Confident I was thinking ‘oh this is not possible’ – this can’t be right. I went up there and when they put the sash, it was so surreal.
Mum and dad were not so supportive of me entering the pageant. They had their own ideas on things like that. But they both came on the night, as did my brother and grandma. It was so good to have them supportive of my journey and post-pageant helping me build the confidence in terms of the way I speak to people. They played a massive role in helping me get to where I am now.
I’m at university now. I’m doing a Bachelor of Health Science at Western Sydney University. I’m working as a fitness instructor. I want to be a PE teacher. It’s built up confidence in so many areas other than the way I look. A lot of what the pageant helped me with was not only how I looked on the outside but to appreciate who I am as a person.
What the pageant did for me though was to know that I didn’t have to be perfect to fit this beauty standard – I just had to be myself. It took a lot of time to get there but I’m happy I got there.
I can’t believe how much it’s done for me. I still have those days where I look at myself and feel bad. But I think that’s normal. It’s been something that’s been in your head your whole life that you’re not perfect. I look at myself now and think this is the way I look, 'You’re alive. You can walk. You’ve got your family and friends. Appreciate all the other things in your life and don’t focus on the way you look.' I don’t look at myself and think I have scars, or cellulite. I just put it out there.
Lebanese Beauty Queens airs on Wednesday 16 May, 8.30pm on SBS.