In the world of fashion and pageantry, we’re delighted to introduce Marija, the reigning Miss Croatia 2023. Her journey to this prestigious title is a story of determination and hard work, overcoming obstacles, and staying true to oneself. Beyond the glamour and spotlight, Marija is a genuine inspiration for those who dare to dream. In this exclusive interview, we’ll delve into Marija’s life, her aspirations, and her mission to make a meaningful impact in the realms of modeling and pageantry.
Marija, congratulations on being crowned Miss Croatia 2023 and representing your country at the Miss Tourism World in China. Can you tell us about your journey to this prestigious title and your expectations for the upcoming pageant?
Thank you. Of course. My journey to become Miss Croatia started in early 2019. I competed in five national beauty contests before becoming Miss Croatia. To be honest, my journey was not easy, and it took me almost five years to finally succeed. I always believed modeling should be with a purpose, and models should have their personalities showing up. What I really like about pageants is the platform they give to women to talk about world problems and to show the reality of being a woman. Women are not only beautiful but also strong and hardworking. They are our mothers, sisters, business owners, and so much more. And being all of that means people expect a lot from you and judge everything you do. When my journey started, people used to say to me that I was not good enough to succeed. During that period, I even questioned myself and had a low confidence level. I also suffered from skin problems and anxiety at that time. But I never stopped working on myself and competing until my dream came true. And now, when all of that is behind me, I am here to show all the women that it is okay. Your dreams are valid, and you can do everything you ever wanted, even if you are the only person who believes. My expectations for the finals are to give my best and stay real. I want to enjoy every minute while I’m in China. And the results? I will give my best to make a placement, but I go without expectations. That allows me to be who I really am, and I think that is what really matters.
Being a role model and ambassador for your country is a significant responsibility. How do you plan to use your platform as Miss Croatia to make a positive impact, both locally and globally?
I want to inspire women to go for their dreams and show them the real me. No one is perfect and we should not compare ourselves to others. Every journey is unique and we should make the best of it.
I also want to fight for women who are not allowed to have education and their own career because there are still countries where women don’t have their rights.
As someone who is studying economics, education is really important for me. I want every woman to have a chance to decide for their future career.
As Miss Tourism and someone who lives in a tourist destination, I want to promote tourism of Croatia all around the world. Although we are a small country we have so much to offer. Beautiful beaches, national parks like Plitvice, and of course not to forget Slavonija where we can see unique natural beauty. Food is delicious and there are a lot of different meals to try from Mediterranean food that includes a lot of sea foods to traditional foods.
Could you share some insights into your career in the modeling industry? What inspired you to pursue a career in modeling, and what have been some of your most memorable experiences so far?
When I was little, I used to play with my mother’s clothes and heels, enjoying trying different styles, poses, and walks. As a hobby, it started becoming a reality. At the age of 16, I was noticed by one agency in my country. My parents didn’t want me to sign a contract because I was so young, but that made me think about becoming a model. I started searching about modeling, learning about designers, and taking some photos for my Instagram like a model. I remember my Polaroid shoots, no makeup shoots every week at that time, hoping to get noticed again. I didn’t get noticed by an agency again, but I got noticed by a beauty pageant director. At first, I was like, “What are beauty pageants exactly?” But I managed to get approval from my parents and compete. I didn’t win anything, but it made me pursue my modeling career on both levels – pageants and commercial/runway. I felt like it was a sign from God that this is my path. I enjoyed doing it, and I lived fashion every day from that day.
I have to admit there are so many memorable moments that happened from that time until today, but one that makes me laugh when I remember it is walking in my first fashion show in Zadar and not knowing how to even walk. But it looked cute somehow, and I still have good photos from that day. Another memorable moment was shooting for a food brand where they made me eat so many cookies while shooting.
Many aspiring models look up to you as a source of inspiration. What advice would you offer to those hoping to make a mark in the competitive world of fashion and modeling?
Be yourself and fight for your dreams. No one is going to do that for you. Even if you have support from others, you should be the one that believes harder and pushes harder.
This is a really competitive industry and it takes a lot more than just a pretty face and fit body.
I think what sets you apart from other models is your mindset and personality. Work on that too.
Some models need more time to make an impact, take your time and enjoy your journey.
Preparing for a pageant of this caliber must involve a lot of dedication and hard work. Could you give us a glimpse into your preparation routine and what goes into getting ready for a major international competition like Miss Tourism World?
I practice my walking every day because I want to have a significant walk that sets me apart from other candidates.
Miss Tourism also has a talent show competition so I am working on dance choreography too.
I want to show my talent in dancing so I’m going with a song that I feel like relates to me. I can’t tell the name of the song yet, but It is an emotional song that sings about feeling alone and doubting yourself.
It is a part of me that I overcame and I’m ready to talk about it to inspire others.
I also work a lot on my posing and workout routine. I work out 1, sometimes 2 times a day and eat mostly healthy food to stay in shape.
Practicing English is also really important and since English is not my mother language I try to learn new verbs while practicing grammar quizzes and reading books in English.
Croatia is known for its rich culture, history, and natural beauty. How do you plan to showcase the beauty and uniqueness of Croatia on the international stage during the pageant?
Croatia is a really beautiful country with so many beautiful islands, clear rivers and national parks. It also has one of the clearest seas in the world.
The largest islands are Krk and Cres and they are full of beaches and culture.
I am coming from Zadar, city in Dalmatia that is famous for sea organ. That is the place where I go when I need to take time for myself and just relax while listening to the sea sound. Historically named Zara, it is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia. Zadar was a Liburnian settlement, laid out in the 9th century. Famous church is St. Donat, named like the Biskup who built it. It survived a lot of wars and still keeps standing since the 9th century.
Dalmatia is also famous for olive oil and a lot of fish food that is really good for a healthy diet. I personally use olive oil for pretty much everything I eat and even for my skin care routine. It has a lot of vitamin E and benefits for our body and skin. For people who like nature, Nationals parks like Plitvice and Krka are places you need to see. My favorite one is Plitvice and it is really hard to explain with words how beautiful it is. It is a place you need to visit to understand. It also offers many activities like riding a horse or winter tourism activities.
Croatia also has a lot of grains, especially in Slavonija. We have high quality wheat.
In Zagorje you can find many traditional food like “Zagorski štrukli”
Croatian people are also really proud of our National Football Team.
To sum in, Croatia has a really special place in my heart and I am really proud and grateful to represent it.
How have your experiences and adventures in the world of modeling shaped your personality, and how does it influence your approach to the Miss Tourism World competition?
It taught me to be hardworking and to be patient.
I also learned how to accept different cultures and approach people. I used to be really shy and anxious so I would never start the conversation first.. now I make worldwide friends and collaborations easily
It helps me to show 100% of myself in everything, not only in the pageant industry.
Fashion is a dynamic industry, always evolving. What trends or styles in the fashion world do you find particularly exciting or inspiring at the moment?
I agree. I don’t quite go for all of the trends but there are some trends that I really like. For example I like the satin trends like ultimate relaxed dresses we could see on Paco Rabanne and Loewe.
Cut out dresses are a great fit for me too because I like unusual things.
I feel bored when I don’t have a particular detail in my outfit that stands out.
My style also includes a lot of Sofia Richie – Quiet luxury trend that I wore even before it became a trend.
It is an everyday look, and I like to include gold jewelry to make it stand out.
Balancing a career in modeling and pageantry can be demanding. How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance and take care of yourself amidst your busy schedule?
It takes a lot of organization and dedication, yes, but I think when you love something you enjoy every moment of working time. Of course I take at least one day of the week to recharge. If the week is busy, next week I will take two days off. I think it really helps you to keep up with the things and getting your nails/facials done are amazing things to look and feel the best for upcoming obligations and week.
My diet is full of Mediterranean food, the only thing that I really can’t live without is Chocolate. But even so, I found some amazing recipes for healthy chocolate sweets.
As a Taurus in horoscope, you can clearly say I like to enjoy every aspect of my life.
Finally, what are your future aspirations in the world of fashion and pageantry? Are there any upcoming projects or goals you’d like to share with your fans and supporters?
Right now I’m only focusing on upgoing pageant, so I don’t have any other plans for now.
I would love to pursue my career in China or Korea after that, but I am open to other markets as well.
In 5 years I see myself as an owner of a modeling agency, a successful Croatian model and an economist. There are many plans, but I think life has its own plans and paths so maybe in a few years I will also have some other interests too.