JUST over a year ago, Hervey Bay girl Jesse Heldens struggled to walk after undergoing major knee surgery.
The operation was to fix an issue that had put the 17-year-old on crutches for many of her younger years.
After having to learn to walk and wear heels again, the red-haired beauty has now become a national finalist in the Miss Galaxy 2017 competition.
"I've seen other girls involved and I have always wanted to do it," she said.
The Australia-wide competition judges entrants on a range of skills including intelligence, presentation and community involvement.
A vital component of the competition is raising money for charity, and Jesse has been actively fundraising for the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
"I chose it because I knew someone who has been granted a wish by them," she said.
Involvement in the Miss Galaxy pageant was a natural progression for Jesse, after success at other events.
"I did a Miss Country Girl competition in Kingaroy when I was 10, and came fourth in that," she said.
Last year she was crowned Miss Rockin Maryborough.
Despite the early start, there were many obstacles Jesse had to overcome to continue her passion.
"I was on crutches for three years," she said.
"In Year 10, I dropped out of high school because of bullying. Even when on crutches, I knew that modelling was my passion."
The now beauty therapist said the tough times had made her stronger.
"It does make you want to prove people wrong," she said. "I have also had a lot of support, especially from my mum."
Maryborough RSL has jumped behind Jesse for the Miss Galaxy pageant to be her sponsor, making Jesse the new face of the Maryborough RSL.
Whatever the final outcome of the Miss Galaxy final is, Jesse is certain to include modelling in her future.
To contribute to Jesse's fundraising for Make-a-Wish Foundation, go here.
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