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Byron Shire
May 17, 2021

A modelling pageant with a difference

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Melissa Hargraves

A local Indigenous beauty pageant has broken ranks with traditional formats of crowning a winner by awarding each entrant with their standout character attribute and nurturing qualities like strength and resilience.

Twenty-one entrants in the Miss NAIDOC 2013 were supported by a lively all-aged crowd at the Lismore Workers Club over the weekend.

The event is in its third year, with Youth Connections North Coast (YCNC) being on board for the last two, which has helped the event grow to what it is today.

Sharnie Roberts is a local Indigenous lady who completed a traineeship with YCNC and is now a cultural wellbeing facilitator with the locally-based organisation. Ms Roberts started modelling at age 10 and now appears on TV and the web.

‘A few years ago I invested time in courses and training to perfect things and learn more about the industry,’ Ms Roberts told Echonetdaily.

Ms Roberts conceived Miss NAIDOC and has ran the event ever since.

‘It started off as a modelling competition and was more individualised,’ she said.

‘I shifted the concept as it didn’t seem fair or right to me. It is now based around confidence, strength building and resilience. Each girl gets to present themselves in their own way.’

There are two age groups in the event: 7-11 and 12-21. A workshop ran prior to the event which covered hair and makeup. Skin health and nutrition was also presented, finishing up with a mini-photo shoot.

The catwalk presentation saw each entrant prized with individual sashes of Miss Caring and Miss Athletics among others.

Ms Roberts acknowledged that most Koori girls are shy.

‘This event is about having fun as well as building confidence,’ she said.

Seventeen-year-old Madika Phillips participated in Miss NAIDOC 2013 and has been a finalist in the nationally-run Miss Country Girl.

Ms Phillips wants a career in modelling and was excited about the event but acknowledged that ‘not enough events like these are on’.

Indigenous women are hugely underrepresented in media images, particularly in modelling and TV work, an observation Ms Roberts supports.

‘It does need a bit if a shake up. Even in ads it is a rare occasion to see an Indigenous face, so this is a good place to start,’ she said.

Charmaine Gilchrist, of national casting agency Gilchrist Management, told Echonetdaily that the demand for Indigenous models and actors is on the rise.

‘In the last few years I have seen more briefs, particularly with TV commercials asking for mixed nationalities,’ Ms Gilchrist said.

She stresses that there is more to modelling than just looks and that models need to be confident and take steps to be represented by agencies as well as be prepared to travel due to most of the castings being in Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne.

Money raised from the event goes toward youth homelessness, a core issue addressed by YCNC where the majority of young people who come through the door are Indigenous. For more info, visit http://ycnc.com.au

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