Working as a bartender while pursuing her modelling career in her early twenties, Shannon McGuire distinctly remembers serving a group of men who were placing bets on her ethnicity, guessing whether she was South American, Maori or Bangladeshi. When she told them she was Indigenous – a proud Whadjuk Ballardong woman – the group looked disappointed. “You’re pretty for an Aboriginal,” one of them said.
“These are the micro-aggressions Aboriginal people face and what I’m fighting against,” says McGuire, now 35, who founded Miss NAIDOC Perth ten years ago to empower Indigenous women. “I want the world to see the beauty in our culture and people.”
Having competed in the 2009 Miss Universe contest, McGuire wanted Miss NAIDOC to be more than a beauty pageant, and set up a leadership program with Aunty Glenda Kickett covering the important topics of intergenerational trauma, Indigenous constitutional recognition and closing the gap.
Over six weeks, the women – who come from different backgrounds in the arts, medicine, law and community work – are empowered to become leaders in the communities and workplaces. “It’s a real sisterhood where everyone encourages each other,” explains McGuire, who is teaching her young daughter Tayla (pictured above) to be proud of her culture and heritage. “I hope in the next 10 years, my daughter’s unique beauty is recognised and celebrated. I also hope Miss NAIDOC becomes a national program across the country.”
NAIDOC Week is November 8-15.
This article originally appeared in the November issue of marie claire.