maminydjama maymuru is miss world australia’s first indigenous finalist

Beauty pageants are undeniably problematic, but a 19-year-old Yolngu woman is using the opportunity to show Indigenous girls that 'anything is possible if you continue to do it and you work hard.'

by Wendy Syfret and i-D Staff
13 May 2016, 1:46pm

If you believe their spin, beauty pageants are supposed to represent and inspire young women around the world to be their best selves. You know, assuming your best self is white, blonde, eternally smiling, and in a bikini. But this year Miss World Australia appeared to press against the industry's problematic heritage by selecting 19-year-old Yolgnu woman Maminydjama Maymuru as its Northern Territory finalist. Maminydjama -- who when modeling goes by Magnolia -- is the first Indigenous finalist in the contest's history.

The 5'10 East Arnhem Land local is still relatively new to modeling. In 2014, she was spotted by director of NT Fashion Week Mehali Tsangaris. Impressively the first time he attempted to scout her she turned him down; she was in 12th grade and focused on school. A year later he ran into her again and she decided to give it a go.

Previously Magnolia had never really considered it as a career. Describing herself to the ABC she said, "I don't read magazines or go onto E! News. I'm more of an outdoorsy girl. I like to hunt and go camping and go netting with my family." The finalist grew up in the remote community of Yirrkala in a family of celebrated creatives. Her great-grandmother has worked in the Louvre and her father was in the Yothu Yindi-affiliated rock/reggae band East Journey.

She decided to explore modeling and take part in the Miss World Australia pageant because she felt it was important for young Indigenous girls to see themselves represented more publicly. Speaking to Buzzfeed she explained: "The main reason why I agreed to do it is that I don't want to do it just for myself, I want to do it for young people all over Australia. That means black or white. I grew up both ways, the Yolngu way, and the Balanda way, which is the white man's way, the western way." For her it's a chance to inspire young women and show them, "anything is possible if you continue to do it and you work hard."

Magnolia's presence isn't the only positive element of the competition this year. The organizers have also decided to skip the swimsuit section, work closely with charities and community groups and feature more contestants from more diverse backgrounds. The Australian finals will take place in July, with the winner traveling to London to represent Australia in the global contest. We're not usually the pageant crowd, but a big win for Magnolia could change our mind.


Text Wendy Syfret
Image via Facebook

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