Wardrobe by Khoon Hooi. PHOTO CREDITS: Miss Universe Malaysia 2020.
On a mission to empower women, Miss Universe Malaysia 2020 Francisca Luhong James recently gave an insight on her latest responsibility under the pageant brand name and how joining pageantries has changed her as an individual.

Giving back to the community

Francisca Luhong James recently became the pride of Sarawak as she was crowned Miss Universe Malaysia 2020. Being the first Sarawak native in history to reign supreme in the competition, she managed to beat 17 other contestants at the e-gala held in Kuala Lumpur on September 5.

The New Sarawak Tribune recently got in touch with the beauty queen after she was crowned — with the tiara featuring a 10-carat diamond set in white gold — and asked the 25-year-old lass about the ‘weight’ of wearing it.

“The crown is an honour and actually a huge responsibility. Holding the title made me realised that I am not just representing myself, but Malaysia and the people as a whole,” Francisca emphasised.

Dabbling in pageantry since 2015, the Kayan-Kenyah-Iban lass shared that she had never actually thought of joining the industry. “However, I was scouted by a make-up artist in Kuching. There, I joined my first local pageant.”

According to Francisca, the experience garnered from her initial participation changed her perspective towards pageantry.

“After joining, I saw how pageants can actually make a difference in society. Furthermore, it helped build my self-confidence as a person and it pushes me to be the best version of myself.”

Since embarking into the charismatic world of the beauty, the former public relations and marketing executive have always set her eyes on Miss Universe Malaysia (MUM). It was her dream to join the prestigious competition.

Wardrobe by Valiram, and Michael Kors. PHOTO CREDITS: Miss Universe Malaysia 2020.

“I thought 2018 will be the last time I would enter pageants, but there’s something in me that pushes me to join MUM. I trusted the journey and I can very well say, I did my best.”

Joining MUM, Francisca only informed her mother about it. “I honestly didn’t expect anything, I just told her that if it’s meant for me, it will be. Nonetheless, I will give it my best. It is also my dream to represent Malaysia one day.”

The eldest among three siblings, Francisca shared that beauty pageants turned her life around. They transformed her into a more confident woman, “And from there, I have accepted my strengths and weaknesses as the attributes in building my character as a whole.”

Despite knowing that MUM was not an easy journey due to the heavy responsibilities, the competition provided her with numerous lessons. “I learned a lot throughout my journey with the girls, MUM’s national director and the team. To me, It was very empowering.”

Francisca added that joining pageants has taught her patience and perseverance. “My motto in the Kayan dialect is ‘Peji, Pejoh, Maju’. Which translates to ‘move forward and never back down’. I work as hard as I can and giving up was never an option for me,” she said.

Wanting to make a difference within the community, Francisca hopes to make a change, one person at a time.

Her advocacy touches on women empowerment — she wants women be the best versions of themselves. “I want to see women, especially the youths, to achieve their goals, be successful and be a leader that will give back to the community.”

Through an initiative that she started in 2018 called ‘Women Rise’, Francisca aims to create awareness on the importance of women empowerment in today’s society. “The issue is still relevant and we need to empower each other to create a positive impact,” she added.

Through its Instagram page (@womenrise.my), Fransisca wants to celebrate women from various backgrounds, provide a place for female entrepreneurs to expand their businesses, and a place for local women to access female-related information and knowledge.”

“I always believe that everyone has their own purpose and their ways to give back to the community. You just need to trust the process.

“We will also use social media platforms to bring people together and work on something in the near future,” Francisca said.