Yass Valley now boasts two World International Royalty Pageant Finalists to represent Australia on the international stage in Ireland this year, as Julie Armstrong has been selected as the Wild Card Mrs WIRA Finalist. Joining Chantal Fleming, the two ladies are the big sister and little sister duo with the smiles, crowns, glittering gowns, and fantastic fundraising efforts for causes dear to their hearts.

Chantal has raised over $7000 for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. She hopes to win Charity Queen at this year’s World International Pageant. As their mother suffers from breast cancer, Julie is supporting her sister’s fundraiser, with the pair holding another garage sale on Sunday. Julie is also nominating Soldier On Australia as her pageant charity, having raised just shy of $400 in March by walking 96km, the length of the Kokoda trail. 

Julie’s sister & WIRA Classic Queen, Chantal Fleming

To care for her mother, Julie lives on Chantal’s property in a caravan, so the sisters have the opportunity to practice together, choose gowns, and fundraise together. So to now be on her way to Ireland with Chantal is a dream come true for Julie. 

“My heart is skipping; I call her my little sister, there’s 7 years between us. It will be an experience that will stay with her and I forever, but it’s something that Mum can follow from Yass while we’re over there, and think that her two daughters are up on the international stage representing Australia and raising awareness for the National Breast Cancer Foundation,” said Julie. 

Julie explains that World International Royalty pageant directors Australian Kylie Drew and Irish Effy Murphy are creating pageantry that is inclusive, as opposed to stereotypical beauty pageants like Miss USA or Miss Universe, where exclusively tall, long-haired girls in bikinis take home the crowns. Instead, pageantry available for everyone means it doesn’t matter whether contestants are tall or short, slim or well built, young or old, or male or female. 

“They’re wanting to give people the opportunity that if you, in your bucket list, want to be in a pageant and build your confidence, you can walk out there confidently, smile, and say ‘this is who I am.”

According to Julie, the pageant focuses on poise, which is different to stereotypical beauty. Contestants need to be well groomed, but their main objective is to make the audience smile as they walk the runway. 

“You could be one of the prettiest people in the world, but if you’ve got a scowl on your face, people aren’t going to smile. As long as we smile, we’re content in our body, we’re confident,” she said. 

Contestants will participate in a range of sections within the pageant, including a duo section where two contestants walk down the runway together. The sisters are considering entering this section sporting National Breast Cancer Foundation shirts.  

“We thought it would be important and a lifetime opportunity for the two of us, being sisters, representing Yass Valley, and being on an international stage in Ireland,” Julie explained.

Julie Armstrong was crowned Princess Twinkle Toes at a Sydney pageant. 

There will of course be formal wear, where contestants wear the beautiful gowns typical of pageantry. A national costume section will have contestants walking the runway in a costume representing their country, and the fun fashion section allows contestants to walk with a spring in their step and have fun with flowing sleeves and flouncing trains as opposed to the poised and dignified formal gown walk. Contestants will win other crowns such as best congeniality and best spokesperson. They will partake in an interview designed to judge them on their spontaneous answers, articulation, and diction.

Australian pageant director Kylie Drew wants to have a strong Australian team as this is her first time taking a team to the International pageant. So when the finalist crowned Mrs WIRA in February had to pull out of the competition, Kylie called in Julie as her Wild Card entrant. Kylie saw Julie compete at a Sydney pageant where she was crowned Princess Twinkle Toes and knew her through sister Chantal. As Julie and her family were already travelling to Ireland to support Chantal, she was the perfect Wild Card.

Southerly Jones