An Australian beauty queen has revealed how her good looks have seen her place in university and lucrative job opportunities questioned by complete strangers.
Maria Thattil is an influencer and fashion blogger from Melbourne who was last month crowned this year's Miss Universe Australia.
But as well as having 64,000 followers on Instagram, Maria has a bachelor degree in psychology and a masters in human resources and now works in talent acquisition for the government.
Speaking to news.com.au, Maria said she had "gut-wrenching" experiences of being judged for her good looks both while studying and in her professional life.
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A recent message on Instagram from a classmate recalled Maria being singled out by other girls for having "beauty and brains" and questioning how she had gotten into a psychology course. She said it "brought back a number of feelings" that she had struggled with as a young adult.
"I remember starting my career in recruitment while I was finishing my masters in HR and very often I was told things based on how I looked," Maria said.
"I was told even in my internship, very early just starting my career, you need to be extra nice to people because you're pretty, therefore they're going to assume you're stuck up.
"It was from a female senior actually and it was very disheartening."
The 27-year-old also remembers a male manager "commented on the amount of makeup I wore" and that "I was very caring about my outfits", as well as being told by a recruiter she had probably only gotten a job because her male employers liked the way she looked - even though she had been interviewed for the role by two women over the phone.
Maria said that while it was human nature to "make judgments of people" based on physical characteristics she wanted people to know: "Who you are isn't dictated by someone else's perception."
Maria, who was born in Australia to Indian migrants, said that while her appearance fits in with current beauty standards, she has experienced discrimination because of her ethnicity.
"I think it's really important to acknowledge that society has very changing standards of beauty and right now a lot of the things that come natural to me - whether it's my skin tone or the fact that my lips are bigger - that at the moment is being glorified as a trend and now the media and society has determined that is attractive," she said.
Maria said she plans to use her platform as Miss Universe Australia and her Instagram TV series Mind With Me to keep talking about the issue.
"I think it's really important for me to speak from a place of acknowledging yes, at the moment I do have certain privileges because I am meeting certain ideals," she said.
"And having that means I need to use that responsibility to speak on the things that matter, but I've also experienced prejudice, and I've also been othered and I've also been someone who is excluded because I didn't always meet the threshold for what it is to be successful, beautiful, worth or valuable."
Originally published as Beauty queen's backlash for being too pretty