Congratulations to Daria Varlamova, who last night was crowned Miss Universe Australia 2021 while in lockdown in Victoria; thousands tuned in to watch the live stream, and we caught up with her for a quick chat in the leadup to last nights events.

So Daria , why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?

I like to describe myself as Russian-born, Western Australia-bred and Melbourne-based.
I work at a university as a student advisor and am currently working towards my Master of Counselling to become a psychotherapist and work in the mental health space.
In my spare time, I facilitate workshops for young girls, discussing topics such as mental wellness, friendships and gratitude. I’ve definitely got the travel bug- I’ve been to 23 countries! When I’m not tending to my houseplants, you can usually find me with the latest self-development bestseller in my hand.

We all have motivations, mine usually revolving around good coffee, but what was your key motivation for entering the Miss Universe Australia competition?

When I was 19, I tried out for the MUA program but unfortunately didn’t make it through to the state finalist round. I remember being devastated and compartmentalised the whole experience, having decided it was just not for me. I knew if I didn’t give it another go, I would forever regret it! I wanted to see what I could accomplish if I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and gave it my all. The MUA program offers women an incredible platform to speak out about issues that they are passionate about. I’m doing this for me, but also for mental health awareness.

As part of your title Miss Universe Australia, you will receive the prestigious Minespec Parts Education and Business grant worth $20,000; what are you planning to do with the grant and why?

I’m so honoured to receive the Minespec grant! What a fantastic opportunity to bring your best entrepreneurial ideas to fruition. I have been working on a business startup idea for a couple of years now- a product aimed at equipping Australians with the tools they need to keep on top of their mental health!

With everyone bringing their own unique and individual flair to the competition, what is something that sets you apart from the other contestants?

Something that sets me apart is that I am a proud Russian immigrant. Having moved to Australia at the age of 8, I think this cultural heritage has undoubtedly shaped a crucial part of who I am as a person. I am also someone who lives and breathes my advocacy- I am so passionate about mental health awareness that I am doing further study to give myself more credibility within this space.

The last eighteen months certainly have been challenging for all of us; what would you say has been something you’ve gained or learned from the whole experience?

The resilience of humankind is something that continues to pleasantly surprise me. The past couple of years have arguably been the toughest for us as a society, yet we continue to look towards the future with a brave heart and an open spirit. Of course, not every day may feel this optimistic, but overall we continue to uplift and support one another as best as we can.

What is the first thing you hope to do as soon as restrictions are lifted?

I would love to travel to Western Australia to see my family. I miss WA beaches so much! And the very next thing I’ll do is go to a really nice restaurant with all of my best girlfriends. I’m a massive foodie, and I’ve really missed the vibrant food scene here in Melbourne.

Final Five Questions

Favourite Place to Travel To?
My favourite place that I’ve travelled to has got to be Japan because I love the culture and the food. However, my favourite bucket list destination has got to be Mexico!

The highlight of the last year?
A highlight within MUA has been the amazing sponsors that I got to work with as part of the program. A personal highlight was being named one of Yahoo Finance’s Top 21 Health and Wellness Influencers for 2021. So exciting to be recognised, but also for mental health to be recognised as part of the health and wellness space!

What is something people may find interesting about yourself?
I  can speak fluent Russian- it’s my mother tongue, and I had spent the first eight years of my life there. When I moved to Australia, I couldn’t speak a word of English, and I actually learned by reading A LOT! Books were definitely my first love.

Tell us something you’re passionate about and why?
I’m incredibly passionate about destigmatising mental health issues. I think they are just as valid as physical ailments, and therefore should be treated with the same level of courtesy and care. I hope to continue to use my social media platforms to raise awareness around mental health.

One piece of advice you have for us all?
Whatever you do in life, always give it 100% of your efforts. Whether you say you can or you can’t do something- either way, you’ll be right. So just give it your all, and you might just surprise yourself!

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