Anyier Yuol, also known as Teresa, has come a long way since she came to Australia 15 years ago.
Now 24, she grew up in a refugee camp at Kenya. And when she moved here, she only knew one word, “hello”.
The woman with the South Sudanese background said Australia was a cultural shock but coming from a war-torn country motivated her.
Today the Blacktown resident has a Bachelor of Arts degree, works in community development and just launched, a black-tie pageant event for African women in Australia – the Miss Sahara Pageant.
Now she’s calling for contestants of African descent from across south-west Sydney.
“The aim of Miss Sahara is to empower African women and to promote cultural diversity in Australia,” Miss Yuol said.
“When I entered my first pageant it helped empower me as a woman and develop self-confidence. So this is a cause supporting women’s rights, the African community, migrants and refugees.”
After spending the last four years in and out of pageants, she realised there was a cultural gap in the Australian modeling industry.
“When is an African woman going to represent us in major pageants? I believe women of colour deserve to be seen no matter what shape or size. Our unique beauty deserves to be recognised. David Jones had an African ambassador, which is great, but we need to see more. As a minority we feel we’re not represented and that’s what Miss Sahara aims to do.”
She also told us about the reality of what it is to be an African woman living in Australia.
“I was working at a fast-food restaurant when I was at school. One night I had racial slurs thrown at me by a customer. He was screaming and swearing at me in front of my customers and it was very confronting – especially because I hadn’t done anything wrong. It was because of my skin colour. Racism still exists.”
She hopes positive events such as the pageant will shift the representation of African people.
“I want the wider Australian community to focus on something important other than negatives, such as gang-related events. African people were portrayed in a bad light but the people involved in those incidents were a minority.
“I came to Australia as a refugee but look where I am now. I’m working hard to make a difference, step by step.”
The winning prize is $1000 and contestant entries are open.
- Event details: April 14, Swissôtel Sydney. Tickets are $180 for entertainment, a three-course meal and alcoholic beverages
- Tickets: bit.ly/2DFDl7S.
- Website: misssahara.com.