Countdown for Miss Universe contenders

Miss Universe Australia contestant Josie Murray, 18, of Launceston.

Miss Universe Australia contestant Josie Murray, 18, of Launceston.

 THE next Miss Universe Australia could be from Launceston or Burnie.

Launceston 18-year-old Josie Murray and Burnie 19-year-old LaShai Howard  will fly to Melbourne on Tuesday and spend three days preparing to vie for the Miss Australia crown on Friday night.

The crown has previously been won by Jennifer Hawkins, Rachael Finch and Scherri-Lee Biggs, and both Miss Murray and Miss Howard are hoping to follow in their footsteps.

Click here to see more photos of Miss Murray and Miss Howard.

Miss Murray said she had cut back on her favourite food, KFC, and started Crossfit and going to the gym  to keep in shape for the contest, since making it through the Tasmanian heat in February.

She said she was excited but nervous about the competition.

``I don't know what to expect because I've never done it before, but LaShai has been really good and is helping me get through,'' Miss Murray said.

Miss Howard, who is studying for a diploma of beauty therapy in Hobart and is a talented basketballer, made it to the national finals last year and is aiming to get in the top 10 this week.

``I'm a little bit more confident this year,'' she said.

``I definitely do it for the experience and I enjoy representing the state at something that we're not normally represented in.''

This year was the first time the Miss Universe Australia heats had been held in Tasmania, with Miss Howard previously travelling to Melbourne.

The 31 contestants will spend three days rehearsing and doing interviews before Friday night's ceremony at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins Hotel.

They will model swimwear, evening wear and gowns, with the top five contestants going on to a question-and-answer round.

Contestants could be asked about anything from politics  to religion to sport, so they have had to keep up with worldwide issues.

``I've been looking at the budget and everything like that every day just in case,'' Miss Murray said.

She and Miss Howard said they both dreamed of being international models, but also had other hopes.

Miss Howard wants to continue in beauty and Miss Murray wants to work in a museum as a curator.

``It's a good experience no matter what happens,'' Miss Murray said.

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