When Leila Sweeney competed in Mrs Australia, she was pregnant.
With absolutely no dress to cover her growing bump, she resorted to dying her wedding dress.
“I dumped it in the bath with blue dye. I thought if it doesn’t work, oh well, I’m never going to wear it again. It dyed well. I literally chucked it in the bath with warm water and blue dye from Spotlight. And that was my ball gown.”
And it’s this very moment that sums up Leila Sweeney perfectly. She’s determined, capable and resourceful.
Listen: Leila explains exactly what goes into this pageant on the I Don’t Know How She Does It podcast.
Leila grew up in Walcha in regional New South Wales. She met her husband at the local pub after failing to find everlasting love on the show ‘Farmer Wants a Wife’. Leila thought she knew everyone in Walcha but a friend took her to the pub in the hope of cheering her up and her love sat right before her.
“We walked into a bar at the local… and [my friend] pointed at this guy and said to me, “we don’t know him, let’s go talk to him” and it was my husband. We’ve been together ever since.”
Living on 3,000 acres in regional Victoria with her 20-month-old and seven-week-old baby, her husband, Sean, certainly doesn’t let pageantry go to her head.
“[Our farm] has sheep, cattle and cropping… now that I’m on maternity leave [from my job as a teacher], I help with feeding and driving tractors around where they need to be and I’m the sort of the “Canya”.
Canya? Huh? Indeed. There’s a simple explanation for the nickname given to her by Sean.
You see, the word “canya” seems to go at the beginning of everything he says to her.
“Canya go and get the tractor? Or Canya go and feed the sheep?”
She wears it as a badge of honour because that’s what she preaches at the pageant. Farm life.
“I just flog farming at these pageants”, and one issue in particular. Mental health.
“My dad is bipolar so growing up with mental illness is something that I knew a lot about and then seeing my husband struggle with mental illness and then my father in law.
“I think it’s something that all farmers face at some point. There’s a real stigma about it. Farmers are quite old-fashioned. They don’t speak about it at all. [I’m trying] to promote that it’s okay to talk about it."