All it took was an elegant gown and a passion for volunteering to steer Melbourne girl Olivia Wells to victory as Miss Universe Australia.
The 19-year old medical student prevailed against 29 other contestants on Friday night and will now head to Moscow to represent Australia in the pageant final in November.
Dressed in a flowing cream and silver evening dress, Ms Wells expressed both surprise and joy at her win, saying she hoped to represent all Australian women in her role as Miss Universe ambassador.
“It’s surreal to go from being a young girl who was interested in science and maths at high school to winning this,” she said.
“I’m representative of 99.9 per cent of Australian women who are not perfect, who aren’t size zero, who were picked on at school.
“This morning my dad looked at the odds on Sportsbet and I was 55 to one, and I said, `don’t put money on me or you’ll jinx me’.”
The 30 contestants took to the stage for swimsuit and evening wear parades before a question-and-answer segment narrowed the pool to five finalists.
When it was her turn, Ms Wells was asked which disadvantaged communities she would like to help, were she to win the crown.
In answer, she drew on her experience as a volunteer to refugee and migrant students and her interest in working as a doctor in developing nations.
“Continuity is really important when it comes to volunteering and helping people,” she said.
“I think it’s important to realise that there are people in our backyard who need our help.”
This year’s five finalists included strong contingents from Victoria and New South Wales, also including Marsi Fernandez, Tegan Martin, Kristy Coulcher and Mary Vitinaros.
Ms Wells – who is studying for a bachelor of medicine and science – said she didn’t think her goal of becoming a surgeon was incompatible with winning the crown.
“I might cop flack for the rest of my life for being the surgeon who was a pageant queen but you know what, why are they mutually exclusive,” she said.
“My passion is working overseas in underdeveloped nations and I don’t think that in those countries people are going to care that I was a pageant queen, they’re going to care that they’re getting basic medical attention.”