It's not all glitz and glam at Miss Universe. In fact, lots happens behind the scenes that not everyone is aware of — just ask Victorian hopeful Danielle Collis.
Ms Collis is among 28 female finalists from Australia vying for a spot to represent their country in the 68th Miss Universe pageant, taking place in South Korea — with the Australian national final held in Melbourne on June 27, reports news.com.au.
"I don't think people really understand what goes into it and just how much you have to prepare not only physically but mentally too for a competition like this," the 25-year-old model told news.com.au
"But it's an amazing platform to celebrate women in all shapes, sizes, and forms — and to help create opportunities."
Every day for the past six months leading into the Australian final, Ms Collis, together with her six fellow Victorian contestants, have been doing a strenuous, "amped-up pilates-style workout" called Lagree, which originated from LA.
The workouts go for 45 minutes and combine strength, endurance, cardio, balance, core and flexibility training.
"It works on your core and helps build lean muscle," Ms Collis said. "When I first joined I noticed a huge difference with my body — even from the first class I could feel my muscles were working and twitching."
On top of that, Ms Collis also does yoga, light weights and boxing five times a week.
"I make sure there's balance. If I need to rest, I really listen to my body, but I try to get myself out doing something regardless if it's a short work or something active at home."
Before becoming a Miss Universe hopeful, the model would train four times a week, mainly doing pilates.
"I'd go to class but I wasn't feeling challenged. I wasn't waking up the next day feeling like my muscles had been working hard enough and that's why I considered switching to Lagree," Ms Collis said.
She said she'd always been active and grew up playing sport but had her downfalls and challenges with body image along the way.
"I went through my own personal struggle of what I thought I was meant to look like. As a model you put yourself in an industry where you are constantly being judged," she told news.com.au.
"I know it's changing a lot, but it still can be a brutal, cutthroat industry.
"However, I am at a point in my life where I understand my body so well and the importance of health and mental health."
Ms Collis, who recently finished a Bachelor of Business in Public Relations, first entered the competition when she was just 17 but said she was too young to fully understand what it took to be an eligible candidate.
"I didn't know who I was and hadn't experienced life — but since being approached to enter again, I have a better understanding of who I am, and I'm quite confident with who I am."
"Since I last entered I have been spending a lot of time self-reflecting and trying to understand who I am as a person."
Two years ago Ms Collis did the El Camino de Santiago — an 800km walk through Spain that took 35 days to complete. It was to help raise funds for her friend who has Lyme disease.
"I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to achieve and walked away feeling so empowered and strong, not only physically but mentally, which is a huge," Ms Collis said.
She said to enter a competition like Miss Universe you really need to have the mental strength.
"As you could imagine, it can be a daunting experience which can also come from the physical and mental aspect of training and working out," she said.
Ms Collis said she wasn't too shocked of what was required of her but still found her amped-up training regimen challenging.
She explained, for her, it wasn't about losing weight but getting lean.
"I am comfortable with where my body is at — it's just about having more muscle definition," she said.
"It's my opportunity to show the judges what I have worked really hard on, and I think the female body is something we should appreciate and empower — we are all built so different, and it's worth celebrating."
Ms Collis said she had never been into calorie counting and, instead, had cut out sugar completely from her diet in the lead-up to the finals.
"Usually, if I want to indulge and have a chocolate I'll do it — but being on a strict routine at the moment, I have cut back on treats and lowering my carbs."
Over the last six months, Ms Collis has been in bed by 8pm so she can be fresh for her daily Lagree class at K-Kore's Port Melbourne by 7am
"I don't eat before I train — that's a personal thing and everyone is different," she said.
After training, she will have her coffee and incorporate her breakfast and lunch into one, big meal that tends to be eggs, avocado, mushroom and a chicken or fish salad with vegies.
"I am not a big snacker. I have lived a certain way where I have learned to eliminate snacking — I would just ask myself if I was hungry or just bored and it was always because I was bored."
Ms Collis would then eat again six hours later, around 6pm.
"I am having good size meals so I don't get hungry," she said.
Her dinner can be any protein from fish to chicken again with vegetables and also soup.
"At dinner, I can still have carbs like a piece of toast, but the most important thing is I don't eat after 7.30pm and get ready for bed."
"Over the last year I've learned a lot about my body and what I like and don't like.
"It just comes down to what suits your body, so long as you maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle and fuel your body right."
OTHER FORM OF PREP
Ms Collis has been accepted to do her Masters in journalism at the University of Melbourne, however she has put it on hold to focus on the pageant due to what is required.
"Prep has been huge over the last few months, especially in the lead-up to the national finals," she said.
The 25-year-old said she was doing something everyday from hosting charitable events, conducting mental health seminars, ensuring she is up-to-date on local and global issues and vlogging her journey, which will be looked at by the judges.
"I am also doing catwalk prep, as you have to have a different walk for every category. Our social media accounts also need to be relevant and up-to-date," Ms Collis said.
"If I win Miss Universe it will provide a phenomenal platform for me where I can speak and share my opinion on things I am passionate about — one of my strengths is presenting and public speaking, and I am quite passionate about self-awareness and empowerment.
"I want to bring hope and inspire, motivate and challenge other people."