Mount Richon actress Hayley Parker is excitedly sewing her evening wear number after recently securing her place in the finals of Mrs Galaxy Australia 2024.
The 39-year-old mum-of-two is not your cookie-cutter pageant starlet – she’s part of the new generation of queens breaking the mould.
Last week, Nepal’s Jane Dipika Garrett broke down barriers by becoming the first plus-sized model to compete in the Miss Universe pageant.
“I really want to show my daughters that you can be anything, and do anything at any age and at any size – I don’t want them to miss out on any opportunities in life,” Hayley said.
She accepts that not everyone is receptive to the idea of female empowerment through competitions which centre a woman’s physical appearance.
“It’s not for everyone and I know that,” she said.
“A lot of people think it’s archaic and outdated, and sets women back a thousand years. But I actually think it does the exact opposite.
“I’m a mother of two children and I certainly don’t look the way I used to. Pageantry is the one place where I’ve been completely embraced as I am.”
Her first foray into pageantry was in the midst of the pandemic in 2021.
It was a natural progression for Hayley, who has enjoyed the limelight as a career actress, performer and dancer.
“Performing on stage has evolved for me as I’ve aged. And I was looking for something to give me a little bit of me back again,” she said.
After submitting her application and walk videos online for the Ms Regal World 2021, she tuned in to the live-streamed winners’ announcement while sitting in her car waiting to pick up her daughter from school.
She was absolutely floored when it was her name called out.
“It was the most incredible moment – I was completely blown away,” she said.
Two months later she proved it wasn’t a fluke, by winning (in person) the Ms Premier Elite 2022 title.
She even brought the pageantry world to the latest season of The Voice.
“I was lucky enough to have my big moment on The Voice this year. I got to the blind auditions, but sadly the chairs didn’t turn,” she said.
“But I wore my sash and crown and taught the judges how to pageant walk on stage.”
Hayley said while being a role model to her daughters and other women is a strong motivator for her, she’s also compelled by the pageantry world’s ethos of ‘giving back’.
“I really want to be a small part of the butterfly effect,” she said.
This year’s Australia Galaxy contestants are raising funds for batyr, an Australian organisation which works to empower young people by reducing stigma related to mental illness, and engages in peer-to-peer education.
Hayley has been hard at work raising funds through raffles and online lucky numbers competitions, and through ‘warrior worms’ – a crochet project she’s hatched with her eldest daughter where people donate the $2 cost of a warrior worm, which the pair then hide around the city for others to discover.
She’s quietly confident of her chances come May, when she jets off with Team WA to Sydney for the Australia Galaxy finals.
“This is my year,” she said.
“I turn 40 next year, and there’s no sign of me slowing down yet. If this is my mid-life crisis, I’m ok with that. Other people buy convertibles, and I win pageants and travel the world.”