Monique Sawyer is no stranger to a busy life - she is a mother, wife, lawyer, advocate... and a pageant queen.
The Frederick Irwin alum has made her mark during her first year in the pageant world, winning first place in her division in the 2023 Ms Premier Elite Pageant, and taking out second runner-up in the prestigious Mrs Galaxy Australia competition.
Inspired by both the women in her own life and influential women throughout history, Monique set out to use her new platform to advocate for those without a voice.
As a mum of two boys - Isaac, in his teens, and Theodore, who is just a toddler, Monique said children's welfare and education were her main passions - leading her to select children's charity Fostering Hope Australia for her pageant philanthropy.
The Australia Galaxy Pageant was an entirely new experience for Monique, who brought Theodore and her husband Maurice along with her for moral support.
The day before the Galaxy Pageant activities were set to begin, Monique and her family touched down in pageant land, with her in head-to-toe pink - of course.
"I always say, when you're competing in the Mrs category it's a team sport," Monique told the Mail.
With her printed out pageant schedule at the ready, Monique and her family checked into the hotel and prepared for a week full of glitz and glamour.
First was orientation and check-in, meeting the other contestants, reigning queens and the pageant director.
Next, they rehearsed their opening number, took part in a photo shoot and prepared for the eco-fashion round.
The theme for eco fashion was critically endangered species with all clothing to be thrifted, and Monique chose the Amur leopard.
"It's the most endangered of all the leopards, and it's hunted largely for its beautiful spotted fur. There are only around 100 left in the world," she said.
"Any opportunity to advocate I'll take - and it was the perfect opportunity for me to up-cycle my clothes and repurpose them for a cause."
Contestants accrued points across a number of categories, including swimwear, evening wear, fashion wear and interview.
They also earned points based on appearances made wearing their sashes and their advocacy.
Monique joked that wearing a sash was "a great conversation starter".
"When I took some photos down at the airport people who must've thought I was a celebrity wanted to take photos with me," she said, laughing.
"It can bring a lot of happiness - little girls will come up to me and say hello."
Monique supported women-owned businesses, getting her swimsuit for the pageant made by a small business.
She also designed her own fashion wear, sketching out the design to be made with a red bodysuit and intricate crystal stones.
This colour was particularly poignant for Monique, who wore it in honour of heart disease awareness.
"It's very important to me. My brother passed away from heart disease before I was even born... It was a way for me to have him at the pageant with me."
Monique said waking up on pageant day was like "waking up on Christmas morning".
"I didn't sleep the night before," she said.
"We had rehearsals in the morning, had a break for lunch and then got our hair and makeup ready."
After a full night of pageant festivities, it was time for the crowning.
Monique was named second runner-up in her category, and celebrated her fellow queens on stage.
She also took out People's Choice, Best in Evening Gown and Most Photogenic.
"My favourite thing about pageants is the sense of community and sisterhood they provide," Monique said.
"You're building relationships with likeminded people who are passionate about their causes and helping others."
Monique said the experience provided her an opportunity to reflect on all of the things that were important to her, and everything she was grateful for.
The pageant bug has also bitten the rest of Monique's family, with little Theo set to enter his first pageant this year.
She will be sharing with him her unofficial pageant coach, her older son Isaac.
As for Monique's next venture - she is working on a book about her life, and said to "watch this space".
To follow Monique's pageantry journey, find her on Instagram at www.instagram.com/moniquesawyerofficial.
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