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Frocking up for mental health

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Stephanie Magno newly-crowned Miss Philippines-Australia. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

Stephanie Magno has always stood out from the crowd and now the University of Notre Dame Sydney student has been crowned Miss Philippines-Australia.

The 19-year-old second year nursing student said she entered the national beauty and charity pageant for Filipino-Australians to overcome low self-confidence and will use her title to heighten awareness of mental health among young people and combat the stigma that still surrounds it.

Stephanie said she has “always battled with self-doubt” but that family, friends and her faith gave her the confidence to complete the three-month journey to win out of seven finalists on coronation night on 28 September in western Sydney.

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“I thought that whatever the result, Christ will bring good out of it,” she said. “Without him I couldn’t accomplish anything.”

Stephanie Magno. PHOTO: Facebook

Her title also includes that of Miss Charity Queen Australia with part of the requirement being fundraising for a good cause. Stephanie raised $8000 through her own efforts, which included selling cupcakes on university campus and securing sponsors.

The annual pageant is a popular highlight of the Grand Philippine Fiesta Kultura Sydney, a long running and multi-award winning multicultural event that has become an institution for the Filipino-Australian community.

“In the end it’s not about being perfect,” said Stephanie. “It’s about entertaining the public and bringing to their attention something that is important so you can a real and positive difference within the community.

“I know there is a bit of a stigma around pageantry that it’s just about looking good on a stage, but this world has opened a door for me to make a real difference.

“I believe prevention is better than cure and I want to be able to make a difference especially with young people. When we start young we can really make a difference but the first step is admitting something is wrong.”

“The Filipinos have a real resilience. They tend to not voice their struggles and there is a misconception that to do so is a sign of weakness. I want to remind people that it’s OK to have these challenges.”

Runner-up 19-year-old Mae Limbacl agrees the event “is powerful platform” for advocacy.

“It’s also about sharing your blessings with others,” she said.

“A lot of people have the misconception that it’s just about the beauty but it’s so much more.  At the core it is to give back to the community. Even without the crown, to be working with an organisation whose values align with mine is such a great honour.”

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