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Interview: Justine Clarke

Justine in a beautiful golden dress
Justine in a beautiful golden dress
Justine in a beautiful golden dress

Beauty with a message

Justine Clarke is excited. The vivacious and confident 26-year-old, from Adelaide’s southern suburbs, is riding a wave of media attention following her involvement in the South Australian heat of the Miss World Australia competition, and she’s blown away by the attention.

“The experience has been so surreal so far,” she tells Link. “I can’t believe the support I have received nationally and internationally. It’s difficult to comprehend that people are looking at me as a role model or for inspiration, and taking an interest in me and my cause. I am so humbled and grateful for the privilege.”

The first contestant in a wheelchair to enter Miss World Australia, Justine is also enjoying the primping and preening that comes with being involved in the world’s most famous beauty pageant, and has been struck by the modelling bug. “I would love to be the first person in a wheelchair in Australia to model on a billboard for a big brand,” she says. 

However Justine’s involvement in Miss World is about much more than fulfilling her modelling dreams. She’s determined to use her profile to challenge stereotypes of disability, and to push for fairness and inclusion in the beauty and fashion industries.

“The experience has been so surreal so far,” she tells Link. “I can’t believe the support I have received nationally and internationally. It’s difficult to comprehend that people are looking at me as a role model or for inspiration, and taking an interest in me and my cause. I am so humbled and grateful for the privilege.”

The first contestant in a wheelchair to enter Miss World Australia, Justine is also enjoying the primping and preening that comes with being involved in the world’s most famous beauty pageant, and has been struck by the modelling bug. “I would love to be the first person in a wheelchair in Australia to model on a billboard for a big brand,” she says. 

However Justine’s involvement in Miss World is about much more than fulfilling her modelling dreams. She’s determined to use her profile to challenge stereotypes of disability, and to push for fairness and inclusion in the beauty and fashion industries.

“Beauty is what is on the inside,” she says. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it’s different to everyone.

“I grew up watching beauty pageants and thought Miss World would be the perfect platform for me to advocate for fairness on the catwalk. I loved the Miss World concept of beauty with a purpose, as well as raising money for children with disabilities through Variety: the Children’s Charity. I know the struggles that being differently abled can bring so if I can help one person facing that hurdle, I will be happy.”

Though Justine - who has a lower leg deformity - prefers not to discuss her disability and the circumstances surrounding it, she’s happy to share her views on how people with disability are often portrayed in the media. 

“I hate the word ‘disabled’ - it makes me feel like I’m a different species,” she says. “Change is coming, but it’s slow. I think there needs to be more of an emphasis in schools that people with disabilities are capable and intelligent people. People with disabilities are always strong and I think that is a great attribute to have. I will do my best to change the portrayal of people with disabilities within the media.”

She also encourages young people with disabilities to “not worry about stereotypes and to just be wholeheartedly you”. “Surround yourself with people who support you and things that make you happy. Tell your kids you love them for who they are and that they can do anything their heart desires. Push them out of their comfort zones, challenge them, and show them they are no different to anyone else. And most importantly, be there for them always. Listen and take notice.”

Though Justine didn’t win the South Australian heat of Miss World, she’s continuing her good work fundraising for Variety and will be propelled to the national final if she’s Australia’s top fundraiser. Justine is optimistic she can
achieve this goal, but acknowledges that “winning isn’t everything”.
“The positivity that has come from everyone has been great and no matter how much attention I get,
I’m still going to be me.”

Justine’s upbeat attitude no doubt stems from her grandmother, whom she obviously adores. “My beautiful nan is the most inspirational and selfless person I know,” she says. “She has had some struggles throughout her life but she is such a positive and uplifting presence in my life. Without her I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. There are honestly no words for how lucky I am that she is my nan.”

Away from Miss World, Justine is an active person who loves strength training and swimming. “I hope to start team and competitive sports soon and really challenge myself and increase my fitness,” she says. “I am passionate about health and want to pursue studies in sports and exercise science and health science in the future.” Designing her own activewear and swimwear range is also on the agenda, and she’s keen to continue her fundraising and brand ambassador work for Variety. “I want to do it all,” she laughs.
We have a feeling she will.
 

Let’s get Justine to the final! 

Help get Justine Clarke to the final of Miss World Australia by supporting her fundraising efforts for Variety: the Children’s Charity. The highest fundraiser will propel straight through to the national final and will receive an all-expenses paid luxury holiday thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Head to missworldaustralia2017.everydayhero.com/au/justine-clarke to make a donation.