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Aboriginal Teenager Reaches Miss World Australia Final And Breaks Records

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Photo: Magnolia Maymuru Miss World NT / Facebook
It's hard to believe Miss World still exists in 2016, what with the sparkling tiaras, pinned sashes, male judges, and points cards, not to mention the bikini round.

While the misogyny and maddening levels of objectivity and marginalisation that these types of pageants promote have been poked fun at in films such as Drop Dead Gorgeous and Miss Congeniality, and satirised in Beyoncé's "Pretty Hurts" video, there's nothing funny about the questionable and negative standardisation of female beauty that the convention upholds, values and spreads. It's disturbing to accept that young girls still look to archaic debutante shows such as Miss World and measure themselves against the models of femininity they put forward. But it's important to acknowledge.

Today, the race towards the much fêted tiara got a lot more interesting, with the news that 19-year-old Aboriginal teenager Maminydjama Maymuru, who goes under the pseudonym 'Magnolia', is the first Aboriginal model to represent the Northern Territory region in the Miss World Australia finals this coming July.

According to The Telegraph, Maymuru hails from a remote outback town called Yirrkala in the north of Australia. Much like Naomi Campbell and Jourdan Dunn, Maymuru was scouted in pretty ordinary circumstances (at a cash point) by model agent Mehali Tsangaris. Initially, she refused to take part in a catwalk show in favour of finishing her school exams. A year later (last October), Tsangaris spotted Maymuru out shopping again and approached her. This time she accepted the opportunity to feature in a catwalk show in Darwin.
Photo: Magnolia Maymuru Miss World NT / Facebook

Fast forward to now, and Maymuru is becoming a beacon of hope for the diversification of beauty standards in notoriously segregated Australia. She explained to ABC why she had a change of heart and had decided to reconsider modelling as a career. "I thought, I'm a woman just like everybody else. If people don't accept me just because I'm indigenous or from community, it won't bother me…".

She later explained to Buzzfeed why she wanted to get involved with Miss World: “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.”

Despite Maymuru's home community, Yirrkala, being 30% Aboriginal, the largest majority of any state in the Northern Territory in Australia, Aboriginal women are largely underrepresented in both the Australian and global fashion industries. For a long time models such as Sarah Harris (who is half indigenous Australian and half German-English) have been singular examples of indigenous beauty.

Maymuru was explicit in telling ABC that she's nowhere near being swallowed up by her new-found fame. "I'm happy to go back home and get into normal life. I'd trade anything to just have a Saturday and Sunday somewhere fishing and camping," she said, adding,"Yirrkala is irreplaceable. It's home."
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