SINCE Ipswich Girls Grammar School graduate Tanya Bali was named Miss India Australia, she has been breaking down cultural and social barriers one at a time.
The law student was announced as the winner of Miss India Australia 2015 in July this year and has been using her title to spread her culture and positive body image message all over the country.
"Girls apply for the pageant from all over Australia," she said.
"It's designed to recognise girls in the Indo-Western community and is a representation of Indian Australian youth.
"I wasn't the skinniest girl there but I'm proud that I won and my personality resonated with the judges.
"Body image is so difficult, especially for young girls. You have to learn to accept yourself and love who you are."
In 2011, Ms Bali graduated from Ipswich Girls Grammar School where she learnt the public speaking skills which won her the title.
"I did drama, debating, public speaking and theatre sports in school and that helped so much in the competition," she said.
"It can be difficult growing up as Indian in a Western country because you've got two conflicting cultures. When you're a teenager you're still figuring out who you are so it can be confusing.
"But I've learned to love who I am and Indian culture is a big part of my life."
The ambitious student said she aimed to use her new profile to raise funds and awareness for domestic violence charities.
"I've set my eyes on domestic violence and hope to host two to three big charity events to raise funds," she said.
"Charity is a big part of Miss India. I've worked for the RSPCA at Wacol for one year and really want to spend next year doing more charity work."
Ms Bali, who was an official guest of the Ipswich Diwali Festival, said she was proud to see locals embracing her culture.
"One thing about Ipswich is that it is supportive of Indian culture and really gets involved," she said.
After winning Miss India Australia, Ms Bali went on to place second in the United Nations Pageant in Jamaica and win Miss Photogenic.
"We worked in an orphanage in Jamaica, cooked food and visited a school," she said.
"I met so many amazing people and it opened up a whole new world.
"I'm studying law but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I really want to nurture this path and see where it leads."
Ms Bali said she aimed to compete in Miss Universe Australia in 2017.
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