ALEISHA Nair wants to be more than just a pretty face.
The Miss World Australia finalist from Quakers Hill is a law and communications student who hopes to use her Sri Lankan heritage to change beauty pageant stereotypes.
Ms Nair, 19, is one of 40 national finalists who will vie for the Miss World Australia title in the Hunter Valley this week.
"I was born in Australia but am not the blonde-haired blue-eyed stereotype," she said.
"I thought this would be something fun to do but I never imagined I would get this far."
Her inspiration is Nina Davuluri, the first Indian-American to be crowned Miss America earlier this year.
"She embraced her culture, which is also important to me," Ms Nair said.
"To be crowned Miss World Australia would prove to myself that I've broken free of the typical stereotype and show women with an ethnic appearance can represent Australia in the pageant. Australia's ready to show the world that it's no longer in the 19th century."
Ms Nair hopes to show she also the brains to win. "I'm a law student so I'm used to thinking on my feet," she said. "I want to send a good message to women across Australia that education is the key to gaining knowledge."
Fund-raising for children's charity Variety is a pageant requirement.
Ms Nair has sold chocolates and held a barbecue at Marayong Woolworths on Sunday.
"I had no idea about the fantastic work Variety does until now," she said. "I'm also taking part in the City2Surf to raise money."
Ms Nair dismissed the idea of the cattiness associated with beauty pageants.
"That hasn't been my experience," she said. "The stereotypes I have been told about Miss World have been so wrong. A lot of hard work goes into the pageant. It's not just about being a pretty face."