Last Saturday (September 5th), Francisca Luhong James of Sarawakian descent was crowned Miss Universe Malaysia 2020!
The gala was live streamed online (e-gala), and the Kayan-Kenyah-Iban beauty who beat 17 other contestants, was crowned by none other than previous Miss Universe Malaysia, Shweta Sekhon.
Upon winning, the 25-year-old public relations executive cum model, won a 10-carat-diamond-set-in-white gold-worth-RM2.38 million crown, cash, sponsored prizes valued at RM180,000, and a full education scholarship from HELP University.
The eldest of two siblings and an advocate of women empowerment, she also won two other subsidiary titles: Best in Evening Gown and Miss Auto Bavaria Elegance.
Coming in at second place was Charissa Chong from Selangor, third-Serene Chai Yong Bin from Johor and fourth-Neha Varma from Kuala Lumpur.
The e-gala's panel of judges comprised of Datuk Hans Isaac, Datin Selwinder Kaur, Dr Nicholas Lim, former Miss Universe Malaysia 2011 Deborah Henry, Carven Ong, Janet Chieng and Shawn Loong.
As an added benefit to audiences, this year’s competition presented the opportunity for viewers to vote for their favourites during the live show, in three categories: Miss Body Beautiful, Best in Evening Gown, and winner of Miss Universe Malaysia 2020.
On top of that, twenty percent of the ticket sales from the e-gala was also donated to the Lighthouse Children Welfare Home Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
Not expecting to win, this is what Francisca had to say:
"It feels surreal. I didn't expect this, but I worked really hard throughout the journey and I am grateful, blessed for this opportunity and I would like to say thank you for all the love and support that I have received from my parents, friends and followers.
"My advocacy is on women's empowerment and I believe that this begins with yourself. I realised that when I fell and got back up, a lot of people lost their trust in me during my journey.
"What I learned is that believing in yourself is the most important thing in order to achieve your goals. I've been on this pageant journey for a long time and I actually wanted to give up on pageants, but something told me that I should join Miss Universe Malaysia, therefore I just followed my heart,".
The Miss Universe 2020 competition has been expected to take place in the first quarter of 2021, but a location on where it will be held, has yet to be announced.