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Dear Pageant Girl,

There are moments in time when you come across a special someone and they become a permanent fixture in your life.

Fifteen years ago (yes, when I was a fetus) I found myself on a pageant message board in the early days of the Internet.  There I shared commentaries and discussed matters of a sash with a gentleman named Robert from Melbourne who I soon found not only shared my passion but had a knowledge-bank of beauty trivia just about equal to mine.

Robert and I have shared every beauty pageant milestone in the past 15 years and I can’t think of anyone better (apart from my other DPG babies of course) that I would share those with.  It is rare to find someone so passionate, so knowledgeable and so gracious and generous with his time and energy to celebrate this cultural phenomenon.  How many people do YOU know that has been to four – yes, that’s FOUR live Miss Universe broadcasts?

Introducing Robert Collier – one of the original Sisters of the Sash and my representative for the Queen City of the South – Melbourne.  You will find us agreeing on almost everything -although I must say we still argue about certain style choices made in the 90s.

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ROBERT WITH CLAUDIA HENKEL, MISS UNIVERSE SOUTH AFRICA 2005

Tell me about yourself

I hail from Melbourne, home of fashion, good coffee and foul weather.  I would describe myself as flamboyant yet reserved.  What an oxymoron!  I have worked as a travel consultant for many years, most recently with Qantas Airways for 18 years in their ticket office.  Other than pageantry, my interests are travel (obviously), I also enjoy yoga and its associated spirituality.  I’m actually more deep than I present!

 

How did you get into the world of pageants?

I have to cast my memory back to the 70’s, YES, the 70’s.  I first recall watching Miss Universe televised from San Salvador in 1975.  I thought it very glamorous and exotic.  Perth then hosted the pageant in 1979 and there was much hype surrounding it.  I think this is when I first recall becoming an official pageant fan.  Of course the beauty bubble burst in Australia in the 80’s and pageants lost their lustre here.  Coverage became difficult to follow and the cycle ended until I accidentally discovered Miss Universe being aired in 1992.  I have watched every year since.

 

What is it that you love about the whole beauty pageant industry?

From a travel perspective I love the geographical nature of the competition.  Watching girls compete from many nations in sometimes very exotic locales excites me. I now know where Suriname is!!! Then there is the competitive aspect.  It’s serious business and adrenalin inducing. I also quite like the fact that there still remains a “campness” to it and despite enjoying the pageants modern reincarnation under Donald Trump, I do sometimes long for the days of crazy sets and the Little Sisters.

 

What makes you a qualified DPG staffer?

I have now viewed the Miss Universe pageant from 1977 onwards, more than once.  In 1996 I became fixated on attending Miss Universe and travelled to Las Vegas for the event.  I then travelled to Miami in 97, Honolulu in 98 and last attended in Bangkok in 2005 to watch Jennifer Hawkins hand over her crown. I have also attended Miss USA in Los Angeles in 2004. I have watched Miss Universe evolve from the chintzy pageant of the 70’s through to the modern slick interpretation of today. I understand the then and the now which I think is important.  So I believe I bring a certain “something” to DPG.

 

Tell me about your role models.

I do not have specific role models.  I simply am a product of life’s experiences and the friends and family I have around me.

 

Who is your favorite beauty queen?

I have several of course, but my number one is Michelle McLean, obviously because she is beautiful and intelligent but also because she is tall and broad shouldered like me.

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ROBERT WITH HIS SISTER FROM ANOTHER MOTHER, MISS UNIVERSE 1992 MICHELLE MCLEAN OF NAMIBIA

Do you think beauty pageants have relevance in today’s society?

I believe so.  In Australia they have in recent years become more relevant as they are now seen as platform to further one’s career.  This of course has occurred since Jennifer Hawkins winning the title.  The girls who have gone onto compete since have mostly managed to carve successful media and modeling careers.

 

What is your philosophy in life?

Treat others as you wish to be treated.

 

What is the best piece of advice you can give a budding beauty queen?

My advice is simply “preparation” and by this I mean from top to toe.  I expect budding beauty queens to have the complete package, beauty, a toned body and a good communicator.  But a word of warning.  Do not be artificial.  A natural and prepared beauty will shine above a “Pageant Patty”.

 

What special skills do you bring to Dear Pageant Girl?

My knowledge of the competition.  I understand the ways of the past and the industry of today.  I believe I have good taste and therefore understand what works and what won’t.  Although I must admit to my tastes, especially in gowns can be somewhat eclectic and I often debate with Peter on this topic. (e.g. Milka Chulina 1993).

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