Canberra's Emily Tokic on what it's like to be judged in a swimsuit
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Canberra's Emily Tokic on what it's like to be judged in a swimsuit

For most women it's the stuff of nightmares - strutting across the stage in a teeny metallic bikini and sky-high stilettos as hundreds of onlookers stare and a panel of judges critiques your every move.

But Emily Tokic loves it.

Canberra's Emily Tokic is Miss International Australia 2018.

Canberra's Emily Tokic is Miss International Australia 2018.Credit:Jamila Toderas

For the University of Canberra commerce/law student, it's a moment of pure confidence; the chance to show off a healthy lifestyle, hard work and determination. Not to mention a figure borne of thousands of hours in a ballet studio under the direction of Kim Harvey.

Tokic, 20, was last week crowned Miss International Australia, the lesser-known pageant of the three global beauty contests (Miss Universe and Miss World are the others).

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She's representing Australia at the Miss International Beauty Pageant in Tokyo in November, once again taping a bikini in place to compete against women from 70 countries. The other categories she'll dress up for include evening wear and national costume. (Her outfit for the national costume section is a closely guarded secret: "My pageant coach will kill me if I tell you".)

The daughter of builders Marija and Zdravko Tokic, of Domain Design Projects, denies beauty pageants are about being judged solely on looks. And she's tired of hearing that pageants demean women.

"If I felt pageants were only about outer beauty, I wouldn’t be involved in this industry," she says.

"I want to make a difference in the world and I feel that pageantry is my path to bring about positive change.

"I believe inner beauty is just as important, especially with the Miss International pageant, it's very much about the platform – international understanding, culture, friendship and peace."

Ovarian cancer charity Teal Wings of Hope is Tokic's charity of choice.

Ovarian cancer charity Teal Wings of Hope is Tokic's charity of choice.Credit:Jamila Toderas

Ahead of the October event, Tokic, a long-time Fashfest model, is fully expecting judges and other contestants to stalk her Instagram and Facebook accounts as part of their research.

But mostly she's hoping young Australian men and women will scroll through her feed and subscribe to her YouTube channel, to feel inspired and empowered by her messages of self acceptance and empowerment.

Tokic says beauty pageants have never been more relevant.

"Pageants bring people together both online and face to face," she says.

"These days, with the rise of the internet and social media specifically, our reach to speak on issues we're passionate about is greater than ever before.

"Which ultimately brings us back to our values and what's truly important in society."

The next few weeks will be a balance of work, study and pageant practice for Tokic, who rehearses her very specific "beauty walk" at home in the hallway and to get to the photocopier at workplace Jones Lange Lasalle. Knowing how to pose correctly for photos and attending a string of charity events in her brand new crown before November are also crucial.

She'll stay across national and world issues - "I do anyway" - and head to the Philippines before the global pageant for dress fittings with evening gown designer Jay-r Gamboa Flores.

The Sophia Loren lookalike dreams of one day working as a human rights lawyer in her home town.

"I love Canberra and just love representing our city. The reigning Miss International Australia lives right here in O'Malley - it's awesome."

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