Congratulations to Monique Riley of New South Wales, who was crowned Miss Universe Australia 2022 at Movieworld on the Gold Coast, with a great crowd in attendance for the first live final in two years, and we caught up with her for a quick chat in the lead-up to last nights events.
So Monique, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up living what I like to call the ‘Hannah Montana’ lifestyle having the best of both coastal and country life. My Dad runs cattle properties in the Queensland outback, while my Mum lives in Noosa close to the ocean, fine dining restaurants and bougie cafes.
I moved out of home at age 17 to study for my Bachelor of Creative Industries in Brisbane before auditioning for the National Institute of Dramatic Arts in Sydney. After being accepted, I loaded my entire life into a tiny turquoise Suzuki Swift to follow my dream of becoming Australia’s next Margot Robbie. I now work part-time as a model, actress, Executive Assistant and help run my partner’s construction company.
Between you and me, I still harbour secret dreams of becoming a professional boxer. Although I wouldn’t like my chances in the evening wear competition if I was sporting a black eye!
We all have motivations, mine usually around good coffee, but what was your key motivation for entering Miss Universe Australia?
I’m a closet coffee addict too! But look, my key motivations for entering were the opportunities that winning Miss Universe Australia can lead to. I mean, it’s the most prestigious competition of its kind anywhere in the world. I’m a big believer in the notion that everything happens for a reason, and when the opportunity presented itself, I just had to take it. It’s also so much fun and such a great way to network and get to know other like-minded girls and creatives.
And imagine the coffees I could have with Miss Jamaica or Miss Kenya!
As part of the program, you recently spent time in our hometown of the Gold Coast with the Village Roadshow team; what was the experience like?
Being a Queenslander, it felt so incredible to be home and around so many happy, positive and aspirational people. The Village Roadshow team were a dream to work with and always very helpful and accommodating. We were so lucky to have beautiful sunny weather the entire week; it really had me missing home. I still remember the Hollywood on the Gold Coast ads so clearly from my childhood.
What would you say was the highlight of your trip?
Easy. Being a country girl at heart, I’ve got a massive soft spot for the Australian Outback Spectacular. At times it felt like I was watching my family on a reality TV show. Swimming with the sharks at SeaWorld and my official swimwear shoot down on the beach would be a close second and third.
With everyone bringing their own unique and individual flair to the program, what is something that sets you apart from the other contestants?
There are so many amazing girls and I’ve made some amazing friends. I’d have to say, though, that I’m probably the biggest tomboy in the group. There were so many times I’d look around and see these stunning girls dressed like they were straight off the set of a Hollywood movie or catwalk, and there I was in cargo pants, a shirt and air force sneakers! But you’ve got to be true to who you are, right? I hope that doesn’t hurt my chance of becoming Miss Australia…
Your next question comes from our 2021 Miss Universe Australia, Daria Varlamova; in your opinion, what are the most essential qualities that a Miss Universe Australia embodies?
Queen Daria needs no introduction to me! Look, I think for me, the most important qualities that Miss Universe Australia should embody involve being a high-quality person first and a pageant contestant second. As the daughter of a cattle farmer and a hard-working single mother, I was raised with a strong work ethic. But I was also raised as an egalitarian, believing that people are equal and deserve the same rights and opportunities as each other. But to me, that means we have a responsibility to be the voices of people who, for whatever reason, might not have the same opportunities that you and I might. It means caring deeply about the world we live in and the people around us. But also turning words into actions, actually being the change you want to see in the world.
Apart from that, I think it’s important that Miss Universe Australia is down-to-earth, relatable, natural, confident and comfortable in her own skin. Aussies are known to be laid back and easygoing, but I think it’s important we have something else within us that inspires us and drives us to higher ideals.
Now travel is back on the cards; where is your favourite place to travel to?
You know what, I haven’t seen nearly as much of the world as I wish I had. Partly because of the lockdowns but also partly because so much of my life has been taken up with work. Is that boring? I’m worried I sound boring! I am dying to travel the world, though and meet new people and experience different cultures. I think my first destination would be somewhere as far removed from what I’m familiar with as possible: maybe Africa or Japan, perhaps. In saying that, I would be willing to go just about anywhere for the experience.
What is something people may find interesting about you?
Maybe that I drive a Toyota Rugged X Hilux Ute? Or that I grew up riding motorbikes and horses? I’m not going to lie. I had to phone a friend for this question.
Tell us something you’re passionate about and why?
I am extremely passionate about health and looking after your body. I think it’s everyone’s most priceless possession and the only place we have to live, so we need to take care of it. I love learning about how the body works and what a huge role nutrition has on us mentally and physically.
I’m also super passionate about acting as it’s my goal career path. I find it to be such an interesting craft, and it’s crazy to think that it allows you to become anyone or anything for a given moment in time.