Scientist shatters stereotypes to inspire mental health advocacy

By Indira Laisram
Minal Menezes wins Mrs Australia International // Pic supplied

Mangalore-born Minal Menezes is a scientist. But she is also a good example of someone who has broken the stereotypes—winning the Mrs Australia International title.

Growing up in Bangalore, Menezes says she remembers being enamoured watching two outstanding Indian women—Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai—bring glory to India by winning the Miss Universe and Miss World title respectively the same year in 1994.

“Hiding in my room I would enact receiving a crown, gracefully walking and waving to an imaginary crowd,” says Menezez.

However, she couldn’t help but notice a small hiccup in her dreams—she believed she was on the “larger side.”

She kept that dream on hold and undeterred by her insecurities, Menezes pursued her academic journey, earning an MSc in microbiology. Then she got married and moved to Dubai but after five years qualified for permanent residency in Australia which at the time needed scientists and researchers in New South Wales.

In 2009, Menezes began her Australian journey when she moved in with a job as research assistant at the Children’s hospital in Westmead, NSW, with her husband George and her older son Liam. Her other son Evan was born here.

Minal Menezes wins Mrs Australia International // Pic supplied

She also immediately got a PhD scholarship from Sydney Medical School, specialising in mitochondrial disorders and genetic disorders.

“This wonderful nation gave me the opportunity to purse my passion, when I received a scholarship to pursue a PhD in Genetics from Sydney University and a rewarding career as a scientist for 10 years,” she says.

Seeking a change in career after 10 years, Menezes went on to work for Australian company Cochlear which transforms peoples’ lives by giving them the gift of hearing.

Minal Menezes wins Mrs Australia International // Pic supplied

“Somewhere in there I developed a passion for fitness and seeing how it helped me deal with anxiety I wanted to help and educate other parents and went ahead and got certified as a personal trainer and started my own business. This allowed me to provide parents specially mother like me tools and resources to live their best lives,” says Menezes.

Back in India, Menezes recalls doing the extreme diet and punishing herself.

Then came along the Mrs Australia International led by the Beauty and Brains Australia which gives women a journey of transformation and self-growth. It was yet another opportunity for Menezes to pursue her childhood dreams.

“The platform helped us women from different walks of life embrace our beauty, value, ethnicity, stand tall and confident and represent this amazing nation.

Minal Menezes wins Mrs Australia International // Pic supplied

“Sometimes, we push our dreams aside and get so used to saying, ‘I’ll get to sometime later’, but the time is now. I knew it was time to chase mine.”

Menezes won the Mrs Australia International beating 11 contestants and heads to Tennessee in July 2023 for the Mrs International 2023 event.

But for Menezes, entering the contest was with the sole reason to promote her advocacy for mental health. “I lost my dad to mental health and this is work is close to my heart.”

Minal Menezes wins Mrs Australia International // Pic supplied

With the Mrs Australia International title, Menezes says there is more visibility because people see the sash and the crown and listen. She thinks it a great platform to share her advocacy ‘Empower Parents Enhance Lives’, an initiative to support the mental health of parents raising children with special needs and rare diseases.

With her upcoming participation in the Mrs International 2023 event in July, Menezes is preparing to face contestants from around the world.

Also as a physical trainer apart from her day job as a scientist, Menezes says she is today a better version of herself.

Minal Menezes wins Mrs Australia International // Pic supplied

“I am a geek yes,” she says, with a laugh. “The beauty part was to talk about my advocacy about mental health which I am very passionate about. Though the Mrs Australia International was about promoting entrepreneurship, self-development and empowering women, it also gives me a a larger stage to talk about mental health,” she emphasises.


Through her journey, from being teased as a child to building confidence and starting her own fitness company, Aspire Always, Menezes hopes to become a role model for women  and showcase the transformative power of investing in oneself.

Winning the competition has also opened doors for Menezes to become an ambassador for Actively, another fitness organisation. This newfound recognition and influence allow her to amplify her message and empower more individuals to embrace fitness and gain confidence.

Menezes’s story is a reminder that our personal experiences shape us and can be a catalyst for making a difference in the lives of others. And she has her eyes set on the Tennessee Mrs International crown this July!

Connect with Indira Laisram on Twitter

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