“It’s a ridiculous misconception that modelling is a glamorous job – it’s really not! It’s a lot of early starts. It’s a lot of shooting swimwear in winter conditions. I was very fortunate on this Women’s Fitness shoot that the sun was out. It was beautiful with a heated pool. But normally you don’t have that luxury – you’re jumping into a freezing cold ocean at eight degrees or whatever it is in the morning.
“Having a positive outlook helps 100 per cent. But you have to work on that; everyone does. You have a choice every single day to look at your life in a positive way or a negative way. I choose to, as much as I possibly can, look at it in a positive way. It just makes me feel better and I feel like it makes people around me feel better. It’s actually much easier to be happy than to be negative.”
PUSH THE BODY “I really love exercise – not just to keep me healthy physically, but also to help me stay positive and healthy mentally.
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“I’d never thought about doing the Sydney Tower Stair Challenge before [Monika came first in the celebrity heat of the 1504 stair climb this year], but when I heard it was to raise money to develop more educational strategies and funding for children with autism I thought it was such a worthwhile cause and jumped at the chance. “After agreeing to it, I realised, ‘Oh gosh, I’m going to run hundreds of stairs vertically!’ But you know what, I thought, ‘I’m just gonna do it’. I didn’t actually train for it with vertical steps, but I wish I had because it was so challenging! After the second flight of stairs, the lactic acid kicked in and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, how am I going to do this?!’ But I just kept pushing through.”
“I’m really appreciative of disappointment because it helps you evaluate what you could improve on the next time. For me, a big disappointment – well, now I really don’t think it was, but it felt like a huge disappointment at the time – was competing in Miss Universe Australia last year and coming third runner-up. I was quite hard on myself when I didn’t win. “I really did feel defeated and wasn’t going to go back; I almost felt too embarrassed – what was everybody going to think? What if I failed again? But I thought no, I should actually be proud of myself for giving it another go because it shows that I don’t give up. If you give up, you’ll never know how close you were to succeeding. “Last year I felt really intimidated by the whole situation and I don’t think I let my true personality shine through. So this year I came back and thought, ‘Stuff this, I’m going to be Monika’. That’s all I can be. If the judges love me and see Miss Universe Australia in me that’s fantastic, but if they don’t I’ll be fine because I’ll know that I gave it my all. That was a really big turning point.”
A DAILY DOSE OF PERSPECTIVE “I have to separate myself from the modelling industry in my spare time and not focus on that. I just do normal things. I love playing with my kitten Paris, and spending time with family and friends and focusing on what is really important in life. And just not comparing myself to others. Gosh, that’s something so many of us struggle with, especially with social media now. But what we have to realise is that it’s not real. What people portray on their Instagram page is just the best second of their day. That’s not their life – just their most positive moments. “Being a mentor for the up-andcoming generation has been such an amazing perk. I’ve been able to speak at high schools about my life, what I’ve experienced and the lessons I’ve learnt since I was in their shoes. I’m telling you, when I was their age, I would never have believed that I would have been number one: a model, and number two: Miss Universe Australia. “But regardless of what I do during the day – I could be doing amazing photoshoots or taking pics with people at Miss Universe Australia appearances, which is wonderful and flattering – I come home to my kitten and she does not care. She just meows and watches my food, and that’s what brings me back down to earth. I’m just Monika at the end of the day.”