Recently, Miss Universe Malaysia crowned its 2020 winner, Sarawakian beauty Francisca Luhong James
The internet was abuzz over her win as many felt that we finally have a strong contender equipped with rich cultural background to represent Malaysia at the world stage.
What made the win sweeter was the fact that she’s also the first Dayak woman to ever win the pageant, making her fellow Borneo natives proud.
We spoke to everyone’s latest girl crush to find out more about her story and journey in becoming Miss Universe Malaysia 2020.
I Lost So Many Times, I Felt Like Giving Up
We’re sure everyone has experienced failure and at times, you just feel like giving up. Francisca is no different as she, too, almost did not become the next Miss Universe Malaysia.
“In 2015, I joined my first ever traditional costume pageant in Sarawak and I got second runner up. After that, I joined other pageants such as Miss World Malaysia and got as far as top five,” the PR executive told Rojak Daily
“At one point, I feel like giving up beauty pageants for good. I didn’t think I was ready to join back then. I even thought if I was actually wasting my time. But then something sparked in my heart, saying let’s try Miss Universe Malaysia as it has been my dream to join the pageant.”
“I’m happy I decided to pursue it because this time I was more focused, stable, I worked very hard and did the best that I can for Sarawak, for myself and my family. Atlast, I did it, it’s a dream come true”.
If You Want The Best, You Need To Invest
How much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals? For the University Technology MARA graduate, she’s willing to invest in order to get the best results – and it shows.
During the pageant, Francisca was not only crowned the winner, she was also crowned Best in Evening Gown and Miss Auto Bavaria Elegance.
Her evening gown, a fuschia pink dress designed by local designers Rizman Ruzaini, stole the spotlight and interestingly, the Kuching-born lass decided to pay for the gown herself instead of asking for sponsorship, unlike other beauty pageant contestants.
Ironically, the beauty queen, who’s also known as Fran, says that she also wore pink during her audition, perhaps making it her lucky colour for the competition although she isn't a big fan of the colour.
On why she decided to become a paying customer instead of someone who was sponsored: “I want the results to be how I wanted it to be. In pageants, if you want the best, you need to invest. I’m not going to lie, I invested a lot in this competition. I paid for the gown so that I can have my say in the final product.”
Being the awesome girl boss that she is, she had a clear and concise plan of what she wanted in the competition and made sure it happen as she was determined to bring her A game at the pageant.
“If you want something, you need to be sincere doing it so that you won’t regret it. At the end of the day, the results matter. Win or lose, atleast you know you’ve worked hard for it.”
A Voice For A Cause
“When I decided to join the pageant this year, I was determined. I’m in it to win it. I’m not going to lie, I really wanted to win. This is also the time I could use my voice to advocate women’s rights.”
The 25-year-old co-founded Women Rise MY
, a movement to educate and empower women in Malaysia.
Women Rise has helped raised funds for those affected during the Movement Control Order and also help promote female authors, artists, and local brands fronted by Malaysian women.
Winning the pageant has changed her life within just hours of clinching title. Just like Spider-Man's motto, with great power comes great responsibility, Fran too feels like she holds a great responsibility with her crown.
"I'm still trying to let it sink in, I can't believe that I'm actually Miss Universe Malaysia".
From Sarawak To The World Stage
“I’ll be representing Malaysia at the Miss Universe stage, and this is my time to shine, to showcase my country, my culture and not just Sabah and Sarawak.”
“We have a lot of other cultures from Kelantan, Terengganu, Perlis Kedah, and I’d love to highlight their cultures as well.”
“For example, I can wear baju kebaya or baju kurung, and pair it with earrings from Sarawak, a selimpang
(shawl) from Terengganu or Kelantan. A lot of people will be interested to know during pageant week at the international stage.”
\\"I want to tell stories about Malaysia, how we gained independence, about the awesome women of Malaysia, and all the intersting things people never knew about our country."
“I’m happy that my family and friends are very supportive throughout the journey. I’m nervous to go to the international stage, but now’s the time for me to make plans, preparations and advocate my cause.”
All the best, Francisca! Malaysia will be rooting for you all the way, and we can’t wait to see your national costume soon.