There are very few people that can say they have been crowned Miss Universe Australia and experienced all that comes along with that, but Francesca Hung the 2018 titleholder, has undoubtedly exemplified the role and left an enduring legacy for those who come next.
Before embarking on her Miss Universe journey, Francesca was a model and student studying to complete her Masters of Publishing at University, so you could say she was used to juggling multiple responsibilities, but Miss Universe Australia has undoubtedly taken that skillset to new heights.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Francesca and talk about the highs and lows of the past year and how she managed to fit it all in without seeming like she broke a sweat.
“This past year has been such a learning curve for me. I have learnt so much about my own resilience, strength, confidence and voice as Miss Universe Australia.”
“I have gained so much confidence within myself. I always think back to before winning and being absolutely crippled by my fear of public speaking or worrying what others thought of me. This year has taught me so much about pushing through one’s fears and using that to propel oneself.”
Throughout the year, Francesca has undertaken many roles in her capacity as Miss Universe Australia, not only being an integral part of this year’s program but mentoring, conducting charity work and attending numerous speaking engagements.
“I would have to say that quite honestly no week is the same, and that’s the fun of it all. I love the spontaneity of my job and the fact that I could be competing in Thailand one week and the next week speaking to young school kids about the importance of self-acceptance.”“Since I was crowned, however, I have moved away from Modelling, which means my days no longer consist of e-commerce work, castings or campaigns. I have definitely shifted to more social ambassador type roles.”
But not only did Francesca have to juggle the demands of her MUA title, but she also did it all while tackling her study, completing her masters in publishing at the University of Sydney
“It [study] has definitely been a struggle! I had to drop down to part-time study at Uni and even with that found I was missing a lot of class due to travel. However, I still got through it; in fact, I am about to hand in one of my final assessments for this semester.”
It’s hard to believe that all this was achieved in a year by one person, so we asked, how she kept her composure and poise through such a busy schedule.
“Having Nick (my partner), my friends and family keeping me grounded! When I get some down-time, I love to hop on a plane or in a car and get some good quality family time and travel done. I got to travel to Japan at the beginning of the year and spend some time on the south coast with my grandparents around Easter.”
And in terms of keeping on top of her health, Francesca says it’s all about finding time to prioritise herself.
“Health, for me, is made up of so many factors. I always make sure I am exercising regularly and eating well for both my physical and more importantly, mental health.”
Ms Hung has been admiringly candid about her mental health struggles in the past and has been very open about how she got through them. But for Francesca, the past year has only highlighted the importance of bringing a voice to mental health issues.
“If I have learnt anything, it is that by sharing and speaking about mental health, you are encouraging others to come forward and ask for help themselves. The more we make mental health a topic of conversation that shouldn’t be frowned upon, the more people will get the help they need and not feel so alone.”
But despite all the fantastic things she got to do in the past year, the demands of the role, the public spotlight and the scrutiny that always comes with it proved tough. By opening herself up to the public sphere, Ms Hung opened herself up to other hurdles she may not have seen coming stepping into the Miss Australia role.
“For me, the most difficult part was the pressure I put on myself. I never quite knew if there was more that I could be doing or whether I was being the best I could be. There is a lot to live up to with the Miss Universe Australia title, and I wanted to do everyone proud.”
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Clearly couldn’t be happier with our new Miss Universe Australia. Priya you are such an amazing woman, who I know is going to make a big impact on this world. I am so excited to see this year unfold for you, and I feel so lucky to have been able to crown you last night. My heart is bursting right now ✨ @priyaserrao @missuniverseaustralia.official
At the end of the day, however, she wouldn’t have changed a minute and will always treasure her year as Miss Universe Australia and the fantastic projects she got to be involved in.
But with all the opportunities of a lifetime not often awarded to the average 25-year-old, she recognises the work she did with some of Australia’s greatest charities to be one of the standouts from the year.
“The greatest highlight from the past year would have to be getting to work closely with Toybox International, Ronald McDonald Houses and The Starlight Foundation. The opportunity to give back is the most rewarding.”
Throughout the year as Miss Universe Australia, your competition ends, and the focus switches to mentorship, a lot of the build-up is in anticipation of next years competition and the incoming group of contestants vying for the next crown. The 2019 cohort was announced earlier in the year, with this year’s crown going to the ever deserving Priya Serraro of Victoria in July.
In the lead up to the finals, one of the most anticipated events is the trip to Bali, where all the contestants go in preparation for nationals and are mentored by the current Miss Universe Australia and a team of coaches, and partners. It provides the opportunity for the girls to bond and the last chance for tips and advice from Francesca and the rest of the Miss Universe Australia family before wrapping up the competition.
“I loved meeting this year’s group of girls and loved that I got to take on more of a mentor role. Bali was a lot of fun, as it was a chance for me to hang out with all of the amazing crew and staff that are the backbone of the Miss Universe Organisation.”
To the girls, Francesca always tried to make sure that she was someone they could go to for support and advice about the upcoming competition, drawing on her own experiences of the process.
“Try not to let the competition aspect dominate the week. Enjoy your time with the girls and mentors, as this will be the last hoorah with everyone in the same place. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, so you don’t want to waste it.”
And to the lucky crowned winner, Ms Hung only had a positive message to give:“Make the most of the year as it goes by so quickly. Use every experience to learn and grow. Be confident in your role as Miss Universe Australia as you were chosen for a reason.”
And as Priya Serraro takes over as Miss Universe Australia for the next year, Francesca reflects on her time as Miss Australia, how she has grown and what she has learnt about herself throughout the experience.
She highlights, in particular, how important it is to her to have a supportive team behind you.“I have learnt that I have one of the most fantastic support crews going around.”
“The Miss Universe Team and girls have become a family to me and to have that is the most beautiful feeling in the world.”
But it’s not all over for Francesca Hung, not by a long shot. With her Miss Universe Australia year wrapped up, her studies completed and her years of experience modelling the doors are flying open for Ms Hung.
So what can we look forward to seeing Francesca do next?
“At the moment, I am taking absolutely every opportunity, which is being thrown my way. I am loving being able to represent brands I believe in on social media and in public, speaking at schools and events and I am about to take some presenting and acting classes to make sure I am continuously learning new skills, which push my boundaries!”
“We are so excited to see what’s on the cards for Cheska, and what’s next for the contestants of Miss Universe Australia 2020. “Owen george – editor and chief
This article originally appeared in the 51st Issue of gcmag on the cover
Photography by: Jarrad Seng