A Victorian policy adviser, who emigrated to Australia from the Middle East, has been crowned Miss Universe Australia 2019 in an encouraging nod to diversity for the traditionally conservative global beauty pageant.
Priya Serrao, 26, took out the title in front of a packed crowd at the Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne overnight.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Australians watched on at home as the speechless Ms Serrao was crowned Miss Universe Australia 2019.
The competition’s runner-up was Bella Kasimba, an Australian-Ugandan saxophonist.
RELATED: Unique training regimen behind the Miss Universe bodies
Born in India, Ms Serrao grew up in the Middle East before her family migrated to Australia when she was 11 years old.
Her family moved from India to Oman and then spent several years in Dubai before making Melbourne their new home.
In an interview with The Herald Sun, Ms Serrao said she had no prior modelling or pageant experience, putting the win down to “beginner’s luck”.
“I honestly just entered, part of it was the experience to be see what it would be like,” Ms Serrao told The Herald Sun.
“I didn’t even think … oh man, I can’t believe I’m here.”
Speaking to the newspaper following her win, Ms Serrao, who turned 26 last week, said she still couldn’t believe she had won the gruelling competition.
“I don’t know what to tell work,” she said.
“I’m quite nerdy and have a 9-5 job, and this is the other end of spectrum.”
Serrao works for the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions in Melbourne and will be a certified solicitor in August.
According to Ms Serrao, she was so sure she wouldn’t take out the top spot she didn’t even invite her family to the final ceremony.
“I thought it’d be sad (that) they’d see me not make it, and they’d miss out,” she told The Herald Sun.
But, against all odds, the stunning Victorian took the crown from 28 other finalists from around the nation in an event hosted by comedian Ash Williams and former Miss Universe Australia Olivia Wells.
Back in March, Ms Serrao made a low-key announcement on Instagram, notifying family and friends she and six other women had just been crowned state finalists for the Miss Universe Australia competition.
Beneath a series of photographs of her donning a “Victoria” sash, Ms Serrao wrote: “So this happened …
“So excited and chuffed (and a little in disbelief) to be a national finalist for Miss Universe Australia this year!” she wrote.
“I have a feeling that the next few months are going to involve a steep learning curve, but I can’t wait to get started.”
Originally published as Miss Universe Australia 2019 crowned