For Melissa McKinnon, the newly crowned Miss Wagga Wagga 2016, the most challenging aspect of the year-long quest was also the most rewarding.
For the 24-year-old speech pathologist, her crowning was an unexpected reward for the many fears she had to overcome during her time as a Miss Wagga Wagga entrant.
"For me, the scariest part of the quest was putting myself out there and making myself vulnerable,” she said.
“I overcame this hurdle by taking on all the challenges the quest gave me and I feel like I've grown into the best possible version of myself.”
Held in the beautiful surrounds of the city’s art gallery, Melissa McKinnon was announced Miss Wagga Wagga 2016, while good friend Megan Short was crowned Community Princess.
Before handing over her crown to Ms McKinnon, Miss Wagga Wagga 2015 Adriana Lions delivered a resonating speech, emphasising the quest as so much more than a “beauty pageant”.
“My time as Miss Wagga Wagga has been a quest for self discovery, self-empowerment and self-improvement,” she said.
“This quest has been both testing and triumphal … It has made me cry with overwhelming fear and exhaustion and it has made me cry with intense joy and gratitude."
For the newly crowned Community Princess Megan Short, the quest was also not without its difficulties.
As a "born and bred" Wagga girl, who could usually be found in thongs and a t-shirt, Ms Short said one of the biggest challenges she faced during her time as an entrant was overcoming the pressures of being a “beauty queen".
"It’s been a tough year for me and I've had a lot of challenges and criticisms that I’ve had to deal with, but my main goal is to always stay true to who I am," she said.
“I feel as though if i’m just me then I can better represent the community as a whole."
Both Ms Short and Ms McKinnon are thrilled to be given the chance to visit one of Wagga’s sister cities Nordlingen in Germany, and both are looking forward to engaging with community organisations upon their return.
"Going into the crowning I just wasn't ready for the whole experience to be over, so to be given a crown and just to have this opportunity to do more within the community has made me so thrilled,” Ms McKinnon said.
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