Shikye Alyce Smith speaks to Grant J Everett
Panorama magazine had the distinct pleasure of receiving a visit from Shikye Alyce Smith, the first ever Australian beauty queen to win the Miss Galaxy International pageant. As Shikye is going to use her position to raise awareness about mental health issues by serving as an ambassador for the Flourish Learning Network (you’ll hear a lot more about that in the future), we understandably had a lot to talk about!
SHIKYE: “My own experiences of mental illness began after I was robbed at knifepoint in Paris. As I wasn’t physically injured, I assumed that everything was fine. But then I’d be walking down the street and I’d be short of breath, and I’d go into cold sweats, and I’d be shaking and my muscles would go limp, and I had absolutely no idea what was happening. It was terrifying. And then I started becoming fixated on certain things, like flicking power points on and off for no reason. Many other little habits started to appear, too. At my worst, I couldn’t sleep until the sun came up, because I had this theory that people were making a tunnel into my apartment and they were going to come out of my closet and kidnap me in my sleep.
“I never said anything about this to anyone. I just kept on dealing with it on my own, day by day. But then I came home to Australia, and my mum immediately noticed a significant change in my behaviour. She said, “You need to go and talk to someone, otherwise you’re not going to be able to cope.” And I said “No, no it’s fine.” Once I finally took the plunge to get help, though, I figured out that the weird things happening in my body were panic attacks, which are a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It suddenly made sense, and I realised that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with not being okay. It’s okay not to be okay!
“I think we should all be taught the basics of what to look out for when it comes to mental health issues. One of the factors that made my experiences with PTSD difficult was that I had no knowledge of what this even was, let alone the details of what to watch for. Once you learn how to identify the nature of your issues, though, and you gain some techniques on how to combat them, your life can change for the better. I’ve managed to overcome my illness and gone on to great things, and I want other people to do the same.
“One of the biggest reasons I didn’t get help earlier is because I thought it meant you were weak, that you were crazy, that something was wrong with you. I believed the stigma, and it didn’t help me at all. Once I realised I had a mental health issue, though, it made me want to speak out, to tell other people that it doesn’t define you, that it doesn’t make you any less of a person. As Miss Galaxy International, I’m in a good position to spread this message!”
Know you’re not alone
“I’ve posted things about mental health on my social media accounts. My family members have seen them, and while they thought it was great that I was brave enough to share this part of my life, they wanted me to “keep a little bit of me for me.” I get that. But at the same time I’m happy to share my story if it’s going to help others. After all, if somebody had explained exactly what was going on inside of me and reassured me that I’d be okay when I was going through the hard times, it would have been a huge help. And because I didn’t have that, I want others to have it even more. They need to know they’re not alone.”
Interstellar Beauty Queen
Miss Galaxy isn’t purely about pretty girls swanning about in ball gowns!
“Contestants are expected to fundraise for charity. Miss Galaxy Australia, for instance, is connected to the Make A Wish Foundation and Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors. So I got into the community and worked for a greater cause, which is super rewarding. I think a lot of people don’t know how easy it is to give back. It doesn’t take much to volunteer and help out where you can, and it’s a lot of fun. You meet people from all different walks of life, and I’m all about that, I love seeing new faces. Miss Galaxy contestants are meant to be role models, to inspire the people around them.”
Being true to herself
“When I was going for the Miss Galaxy International title, my tactic was just being myself. I thought that if I pretended to be somebody else and I won, then I’d have to keep being that other person for the next year, and that would send me up the wall. But if I was myself and I won, I just had to keep being me. So I took it all as it came, tried to stay calm, and did what I could to enjoy every, moment because I knew how fast it would go and I just wanted to soak it all up while I could. When they announced I was the winner, though, I just crumbled.”
“I just want to show that I’m a normal girl from Fairfield. My mum was a single parent and she did whatever she could. I was provided with all that I needed so I could be the best that I could be. I think a lot of people look at others and feel that they haven’t had the same chances, the same opportunities. But normal, everyday people can achieve great things. Just being told that you can do great things can make all the difference. On the other hand, you don’t know what demons people are living with, and it can often be the people who appear the happiest who are privately fighting hardest behind closed doors. So before you think “I wish I was her, she has everything,” remember that this might just be the surface.”
Body image/Public eye
“I’m in the public eye a lot, but I keep it as real as I can both in person and on social media. I like to show me being me. But there is a limit to how laid back you can present yourself. At the end of the day being Miss Galaxy is a job, so you have to look professional and act the part. But I try and do that while still being me, so it’s not a façade.”
“Body image problems are a major deal for young women, though I don’t think many of them will actually admit to it. But we’re only human: there will always be something we want to change. For me, most of the pressure to look good comes from within myself. Obviously I want to portray myself in the best way that I can and do it in a healthy and positive way.”
“I want to go around to different schools, as I think something as simple as sharing my story and the struggles I’ve faced would be helpful.“
Shikye is a triple threat in the entertainment world, as she can dance, act and sing. Following in the footsteps of her Nan, a Tivoli dancer who toured Australia, Shikye has been dancing since age 3, and the highlight of her career was performing at the world famous Moulin Rouge in Paris for two solid years. It took Shikye a month to learn the show: an exhausting combination of splits, turns and leaps, as well as the famous can-can. Performing twice a night, six days a week, can understandably take a toll.Thankfully, she loves it.
Music Art and Dance
“Music and art: there’s just something special about them. And you often find that people with a mental health issue can be very creative. Of course, no matter who you are, any form of art or performance requires practise. The only difference between an amateur and a master is time and effort.”
“When it comes to dancing, a lot of kids see it as their safe haven. When they’re dancing and moving, they feel free. They can do what they want to do and not get judged. They can just let their creative juices run wild.”
Shikye hates conventional forms of exercise, so she works out in ways that don’t feel like exercise. She recommends something fun like Zumba where you jump around and listen to great high-energy music.
“Before you know it, you’re knackered and you’ve burnt a tonne of calories without even noticing it. Compared to jumping on a treadmill or going for a run, it’s easy. Fun is the key. And exercise like dancing releases all those feelgood chemicals.”
Shikye has put decades of work into getting to where she is. She may be beautiful, intelligent and well spoken, but that doesn’t mean that Shikye just hovered after winning the genetic lottery. Who she is today is the result of effort and time. Practise, practise, practise! One of the biggest reasons she’s gone so far is that rather than saying “I can’t,” Shikye simply identified what she needed to do to be able to say “I can.”
Want to know more about the Flourish Learning Network?
Call Kim Jones on: (02) 9393 9023
Or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Image credit for both photos of Shikye: Georgina Vaughan Photography