She may not have made it to the national final, but ex-Great Lakes College student Leilani Vakaahi said her experience as a contestant in the Miss Universe Australia competition was full of positives.
The 26-year-old was one of 27 girls selected to take part in the State final in Sydney.
“The whole experience was absolutely amazing," she said.
"It was a crazy four weeks from when I found out I was a state finalist up until the finals."
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Held at the Cafe Del Mar on March 8, the final saw Leilani interviewed by the competition's judges before taking part in her first runway modelling experience, which she described as intimidating but really fun.
"I didn't realise how experienced some of the other girls were with modelling and shoots and pageantry," she said.
I met some really amazing young women.Leilani Vakaahi
While she was obviously a bit disappointed not to be among the six girls chosen to progress to the national final, Leilani said she was still proud of her achievements and felt that if she was to enter again next year, she'd be a lot better prepared.
"The judges literally ask you a couple of questions and you have three minutes to sell why you deserve to be at the national final," she said.
"Looking back I wish I got my point across a lot more concisely, but it was really tough going in there with no idea what to expect. Next year I'll know exactly what I want to say and exactly what I want to get across."
Regardless of the result, she said the experience had given her a new level of confidence and some new interests to pursue going forward.
In particular, she'd like to do some more modelling if the opportunity arises and also keep vlogging, which was one of the challenges she had to participate in as part of the competition.
Asked whether she'll be entering again in 2020, she said she'll have to see where her life and career is at, but having had a taste of her first pageant, it's something she'd definitely consider.
"It was such a rewarding experience," she admitted.
"I would strongly recommend other young women to do it - you don't know where it could take you."
As a part of the competition, Leilani managed to raise close to $2,500 for children's charity Toybox International, while overall, the contestants raised more than $135,000 for the charity, with that figure set to increase by the time the contest has finished.
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