Michelle Walker – Katz is a beauty queen who hails from Sydney, Australia. She originally grew up in Bondi and spent most of her youth at Australia’s most famous Bondi Beach. Her parents are from the entertainment capital of Ukraine called Odessa, but they speak Russian at home. She grew up watching Russian concerts and all sorts of Russian programs due to her mother’s love for them. When her parents migrated to Australia, they moved to Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, where a Russian community had formed. Similar to New Yorks’ Little Odessa in Brooklyn. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Public Communications from the University of Western Sydney as well as a Masters In Media from Sydney University. Nowadays, she’s based in Sydney’s Hills District (North West of Sydney) with her family, two beautiful daughters, and husband and they’re working on hopefully completing the family soon. She’s also an entrepreneur – three years ago she started her boutique recruitment agency called Katz Recruitment. She’s a career recruiter who has worked in the industry for the past 17 years and she felt that it was finally time to make her dreams come true and become a full-time entrepreneur. At the Curves & Curls International Pageant, she was lucky enough to be awarded two titles; Brand Ambassador 2021 and Best Interview 2021.
Michelle’s favourite activities consist of going to a disco, watching a movie, and game nights with her family. Although Covid lockdown has dampened a little of her social butterfly efforts, she still meets with business friends and acquaintances regularly online to stay connected. GEQ Magazine recently caught up with Michelle to discuss her journey in the pageant world and here’s what went down:
How did you get into the pageant industry?
Earlier this year, I noticed a friend of mine posted about The Curves & Curls International Pageant. I have come to a stage in my life where I’m very comfortable with my curves and felt it was time to share them with the world. My friend had introduced me to the wonderful founder Maxine Simmons, and the rest is history. Maxine is the founder of Curves and Curls International Pageant and she has been very inspiring and supportive of my journey and I really appreciate that.
Photographed by: Sarah Keen/Truthfully
How were you actually ‘discovered’?
My discovery was destiny, I believe. When I came across the post about The Curves & Curls International 2021 pageant, I was just drawn to reach out and get introduced to the person who made all the magic happen. I had reached out late at night on Facebook, and at 5 am in the morning, I had a loud ping on my phone. Maxine, the founder, messaged me to let me know that I was in and had three weeks to get ready for I was a late entrant. I believe that sometimes the universe makes things happen. For me, this was the opportunity I had been waiting for.
What do you like most about being a beauty queen?
I love being a beauty queen because it allows me to express my gratitude for myself and how far I have come with loving myself and my body image. Being a curvy beauty queen provides me with a platform to inspire and encourage other curvy girls to love and embrace themselves. Growing up as a curvy redhead, I always felt invisible, but who would have thought that these days as a grown woman, makes me different and stand out from the crowd. I never imagined that I would be in the beauty industry, but why not. We’re all different and must make the most of what we have. In some ways, I feel like I’m part of a beauty revolution, something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, where plus-size women were encouraged to join a beauty pageant. When I had won a few titles, I seriously had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I’m hoping that my gorgeous daughters, who are 6 and 7, won’t experience feeling less of a person because of their physical attributes. I want to do my part in keeping the changes coming so that my daughters and other women can go out into the world, aim high and do what their hearts desire.
Downside to being a beauty queen?
I don’t believe that there are any downsides to being a beauty queen. I honestly believe that we should have beauty schools that all can attend. Being a beauty queen teaches one to be confident in how you walk, talk and present. It also teaches you discipline, organisation, and how to smile on stage. These are skills and attributes that are important in all areas of life. In my business life, I run a recruitment agency. These elements are so important throughout one’s career life and even within one’s personal life. My dad always said to me that when people first meet someone, they judge them by their appearance and then take the time to get to know the person’s brain. This doesn’t mean that one needs to dress in the most expensive brands (it would be nice, of course). It’s more about being neat, tidy, and making the best of what you’ve got.
What has been the most memorable experience of being in the pageant industry so far?
Earlier this year, at my first pageant, my 6-year-old daughter Valentina had surprised me and had run out on stage to me while I was strutting my formal wear. She was being very cheeky and wouldn’t go back down to join the rest of the family. I told her that if she doesn’t go back down, she’ll have to walk with me and listen to my instructions. Valentina was fantastic. She listened to everything I told her to do and did a fabulous job. The crowd and judges were impressed by her natural ability. I’m sure she helped me score a few extra points because I kept the catwalk rolling and embraced the beautiful hiccup. I’m sure we’ll have some more pageant queens in our family in the future – both my daughters Rochelle and Valentina are excited to get involved in pageants in the future.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
To be honest, the women in the pageant industry that I have met so far have all been extremely inspiring and empowering. Always so patient with newbies to the industry, sharing their skills and knowledge with us – it has been a beautifully heart-warming experience.
What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while in the pageant industry. This can be about the industry or yourself.
One of the most important lessons pageants teaches us, just like the entertainment industry in general; is that no matter how nervous you are or whatever is going on in your life or your head – You need to collect yourself, smile, and keep moving forward. This applies to all areas of life. Sometimes you need to take that first step and keep going. Small steps become leaps and bounds. The pageant industry has also reminded me to be proud of my femininity and not be afraid to share it with the world.
Photographed by: El Earl Photography
Working in an industry whose only emphasis is on the outside characteristics of a person, how have you stayed grounded?
I’m very new to working in the beauty industry. Growing up with curves and red hair, I know that focusing on just beauty can be very superficial. I must admit I love getting dressed up and getting my hair and makeup done too. Whenever I walk down the runway, I feel like a million bucks. In my real life, I run my own business. Most recently, due to lockdown in Sydney, I wear activewear every day (at least from the waist down) with my children fighting over my mobile phone under my desk. I’m lucky to be able to have my beautiful children, my own business, and my beauty queen opportunities – the juggle is real, and it’s not always easy. But just like when it’s your turn to work down the catwalk, I smile and keep moving forward.
Is your family supportive of you being in the pageant industry?
My family is extremely supportive of everything I do, especially my handsome husband; my absolute rock, as well as my mother, sister, and niece. My mother is a beauty queen in her own right. Now in her early 70’s, she still presents immaculately and always made an effort to look her best, especially during her social butterfly days on my fathers’ arm. Unfortunately, in 2006 my beautiful father, Roman Katz had passed away from cancer. My father had originally founded and opened Ruski’s Deli in Bondi and would have customers come from far and wide. I’m sure I have my entrepreneurial flair from him. I’m also sure he’s with me every day, supporting me on my journey and proud of all my achievements.
What are your future plans? Inside pageantry or out of it.
I want to continue my journey in the pageant industry and with my boutique recruitment agency based here in Sydney. I feel that both worlds complement each other, and I enjoy and love both. It would be nice to see my daughters join the pageant industry so that I can share these special memories with them too.
The ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:
1. Last good movie I’ve seen: We recently watched ‘Isn’t It Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth with our daughters. We all enjoyed it – it was fun and light-hearted.
2. What do you consider beautiful and why? I consider our children beautiful. It’s so magical that my husband and I were able to create something so perfect. Our beautiful family.
3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? Something I wish I could do is travel more. I would love to see more of Europe. Unfortunately, due to Covid and the lockdown, it’s impossible. Still, I’m happy to wait until my children grow up some more so that we can experience it together. Hopefully, the world will be in a better place then.
4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” walk down the catwalk in a bikini (laughs). As much as I love my body, I don’t feel ready for that yet.
5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? To be honest, I’m filled with flaws, but I wouldn’t change any of them. They all add up to make me, and I’m proud of the woman I have become.