Miss Universe Ireland on being a beauty queen and a NASA analyst
"The beauty in being a woman lies in her power to create and manifest the life she envisions for herself."
Miss Universe Ireland Fionnghuala O’Reilly is passionate about breaking stereotypes. The beauty pageant winner has a day job as regional director of NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge, which she manages working remotely from her home in Swords, Co Dublin. It's hard to imagine an occupation less aligned with a Miss Universe competition, but for Fionnghuala there's no conflict between the two.
"Feminism is all about equality. And I absolutely believe in equity and equality for everyone. I have five sisters and have grown up around strong women who have taught me that the beauty of being a woman lies in her power to create and manifest the life that she envisions for herself.
"I feel the same way about this competition. A woman should be able to pursue her goals and dreams and should be supported in doing so."
Fionnghuala who is 25, has been a fan of the competition since she was 10, saying she felt "in awe" of the women taking part. As a woman working in the male-dominated field of tech, Fionnghuala says she saw an opportunity to use the Miss Universe platform to highlight issues she cares about.
"I have been passionate about the non-profit work that I have been doing, to encourage girls and women to learn how to code, the last few years. As a woman of colour working in tech, I have experienced the difficulties associated with working in a male-dominated field.
"One of my goals in entering was to utilise the Miss Universe Ireland platform to spotlight these issues, and to encourage women and girls to reach for their highest goals."
Fionnghuala has supported a number of local and international non-profit organisations which support women and girls in tech. She was involved with Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, the Equals Global Partnership, Women in Technology and Sciences Ireland, Girls in Tech and the Women in Tech Campaign.
She was also the founder of the #empowermentthroughcoding initiative, which is officially recognised by the NASA Datanauts programme.
She is relishing the opportunity to reach a bigger audience via Miss Universe Ireland to raise issues she is passionate about.
"My goal is to do as much work as possible to shine a spotlight on the causes that are important to me and to create impactful change here at home as well as represent Ireland abroad."
However gender equality and tech aren't Fionnghuala's only interests. After speaking to Her, Fionnghuala was due to fly to New York to be named as a Global Ambassador for the No Suffer Society organisation to raise international awareness in support of animal rescues. Following that she is headed to Washington D.C. to host NASA’s annual International Space Apps Challenge – one of the largest international hackathons.
It's tough to juggle an already demanding workload with her new role as Miss Universe Ireland, but she is relishing the challenge.
"I am in full planning mode for the Space Apps Challenge happening this October 18-20."
Regardless of the outcome of the Miss Universe international competition, which will be held later this year, Fionnghuala has already marked herself out as someone headed for the stars.