Today we are catching up with Sené Maluwapi of New South Wales, one of the 24 talented and inspiring women from all walks of life who are hoping to be crowned Miss Universe Australia 2023 at The Sofitel Melbourne on Collins this Friday.
So, Sené why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Sené Maluwapi, I’m 19 years old and I’m a proud Torres Strait Islander and Pasifka woman from the Samu and Gaidai Clans. I moved out of home when I was 15 and I’m now based in Eora, Sydney. I have been modelling since the age of 14 and have used my modelling career for the past 5 years to extend the acknowledgement of First Nations and POC in creative spaces. This year I decided to take a different approach to raise the voice of my community and I’m so proud to be representing my culture on an iconic platform like Miss Universe Australia. As the world slowly starts to embrace inclusion, I believe I am right on time. My voice and presence is an important and underrepresented story that I am proud to carry and share – for little me, for the little girls that see themselves in me and for anyone else who hasn’t seen themselves reflected or mirrored in society. Representation matters, we need to see ourselves to know ourselves, to feel home wherever we are.
We all have motivations, mine usually around good coffee, but what was your key motivation for entering Miss Universe Australia?
If I’m being completely honest, participating in a competition like Miss Universe Australia was never a part of my life plan or goals. Initially, I was contacted via Instagram by the MUA team and at first glance, I thought it wasn’t for me. My key motivation of entering MUA was that my Indigenous community – Torres Strait Islands, is at the front lines of climate change.
I realised I needed to rise up for my community and after some reflection and research, I learnt there had also never been a First Nations Miss Universe Australia. This realisation struck a chord with me, and I felt a calling to use this platform to further push my goal of advocating for my community and the struggles that we’re facing in our communities. I realise I have to lead by example so future generations can believe in themselves regardless of uncontrolled circumstances they have to deal with in life.
As part of the program, you recently went on the National Finalist Trip to Vietnam at Furama Resort Da Nang, what was the experience like?
Vietnam will forever hold a place in my heart. The experience was probably the highlight of my year! Vietnam was so amazing. It was my first time overseas, so it was absolutely incredible to experience another country and culture other than my own. It was so special being able to meet the other National Finalists and grow closer with the girls during the trip. I loved that we travelled with the Miss Universe Singapore girls, it made me so happy to see MUA and MUSG finalists all connecting.
Furama Resort Da Nang was next level beautiful. I felt so lucky to be able to stay at such a beautiful resort with the sweetest staff. The Vietnamese people are such genuine, kind and hard working people. It was such a privilege to be treated so special on their home country.
What would you say was the highlight of your trip?
The biggest highlight for me was being fortunate enough to visit the Da Nang Association of Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA Da Nang) and although there was a language barrier, I’m grateful I was able to connect to the children with the universal language of dance.
VAVA Da Nang was created to support Vietnamese children who were affected by Agent Orange. During the Vietnam War, Agent Orange was the US military spraying Dioxin over Vietnam. It was estimated three million Vietnamese civilians have and still continue to be affected by dioxin, including at least 150,000 children born after the war with serious birth defects.
The visit to VAVA was quite emotional and eye opening, but it became a highlight of the trip for me because it gave me so much respect for the Vietnamese people and the strength they hold. I am so grateful to have met and connected with these incredibly strong children.
With everyone bringing their own unique and individual flair to the program, what is something that sets you apart from the other finalists?
I believe that my unique perspective and experiences make me stand out in this competition. Coming from a diverse background, I have witnessed the struggles and triumphs of my ancestors. Their sacrifices to keep our culture alive have shaped who I am today, and I carry their legacy with pride.
If you could ask our current Miss Universe Australia, Monique Riley, one question, what would it be and why?
I would ask her ‘How do you ground yourself before walking out onstage?’ because I believe that understanding how others ground themselves before stepping onto the stage can provide valuable insights and inspiration for my own routine.
Tell us something you’re passionate about and why?
I am passionate about the future of children of colour in Australia. As a model and advocate for my island home and representation for my community, my mission is to amplify awareness about these two issues.
Through my work as a model, I have been fortunate enough to have a platform that allows me to shed light on these injustices. I use every opportunity, whether it be on the runway or in front of the camera, to challenge stereotypes and promote inclusivity. Representation matters, and I strive to be a role model for young children who may not often see themselves reflected in spaces. Why? Because my goal is crystal clear: I want to drive change, create a better life for my family and I, and inspire a future where every child of colour can flourish without barriers. It pains me to see the obstacles we face simply because of the colour of our skin. Discrimination should never dictate one’s opportunities or limit their potential.
To finish up the interview we have a few quick questions
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would choose to live in the Torres Strait Islands.
What’s your ideal way to spend a day off?
My ideal day off is a balance of a few. I love going for long walks, being in nature or the ocean (depending on NSW weather) and relaxing, but also maintaining my self-care!
What makes you laugh out loud?
My big sister. She’s 3 years older than me, but my best friend till this day. No one makes me laugh the way I do when she’s around.