Rachel Ayris. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

Her big sister represented Australia on the international beauty stage last year but now *Rachel Ayris *is preparing to step out of Miss Universe Australia titleholder *Renae Ayris *' shadow as she gears up for the *WA * pageant.

Fresh from cheering on Renae at the finals in Las Vegas last month, 20-year-old Rachel will now follow in her older sibling's footsteps in the hope of becoming the third consecutive *Perth *girl to claim the Miss Universe Australia crown.

When _AAA Weekend _spoke to Rachel last year after her decision to register for the WA pageant, the shy university student was less than confident about her chances of making the top 60.

But after following Renae's pageant journey over the past year, a new-look Rachel - who appears to have taken on board many of Miss Universe WA's hair and make-up tips as well as its boxing fitness program - said she is ready is give the WA competition her all.

"The (pageant) program does help with the grooming and building up a little more confidence," she said. "There's a lot of fitness involved as well so I'm really getting into that.

"It's been a really fun journey, you meet great people and I've already started to learn some things about myself as a person, so it's been a great experience and I'm looking forward to what's to come."

Though she has undergone an impressive physical transformation since becoming a top 60 contender, Rachel admitted she was yet to get her nerves under control.

"I still get really nervous about it all," she said.

"Hopefully I can get a bit more confidence, I don't think I'm quite ready to step up on stage but I'm in the last parade and heat so I've got plenty of time to prepare and it's a gradual process, so hopefully I'll get there."

However, having the support of her big sister has proved beneficial. "She's been good, it's great having her to talk to," she said.

The first of the Miss Universe WA top 60 heats kicks off next Saturday at The Breakwater in Hillarys Marina.

Vanessa Williams

The West Australian

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