Francesca Hung: ‘Feeling invisible can chip away at you’

After holding herself back in her self-conscious teens, Australian model, actress and presenter Francesca Hung has become comfortable in her own skin.

Growing up, Swisse Beauty ambassador Francesca Hung was always encouraged to dream big, but it wasn’t until she embraced her identity in its entirety that she really hit her stride.

The 29-year-old model, actress and presenter, who is in the midst of planning her wedding to long-term partner Nick Lowry, has had an action-packed few years after making history in 2018 as the first Chinese-Australian to be crowned Miss Universe Australia.

“I always wanted to do (Miss Universe Australia) growing up, but it felt like a pipe dream because I never thought I’d see myself represented on a stage like that,” Francesca says.

As she got older, Francesca felt the culture start to shift and decided now was the time to push the envelope.

“I remember feeling a bit lost in life, sitting at my desk in a job I didn’t feel passionate about.

“So I decided to hit submit and never anticipated what came next,” she says.

“I don’t think I even realised the significance of it until I won.

“I hadn’t even spoken on stage before. I was the kid at school that would cry and fake sick to avoid doing speeches in front of class.”

While Francesca’s parents were proud, it was the messages of support and encouragement from people she had never met before, telling her how important it was that their children felt seen, that have had the most lasting impact.

“Some people don’t realise the gravity of being a minority because it’s not everyone’s lived experience, but when you feel invisible, it can chip away at you.

“So for me, the greatest and most memorable accomplishment to have come out of winning Miss Universe Australia is feeling like I’ve helped change representation in our media landscape.”

Francesca Hung’s experience with changing culture

Raised on Sydney’s North Shore by her Chinese father and Australian-Irish mother, Francesca was one of only two Asian students in her primary school.

“That was the norm back then; feeling like an outsider looking in when all you want at that age is to fit in.

“I remember being conscious of stereotypes that Asians were really smart, so I would actively hold myself back in class in an effort to fit in, which is crazy,” she says.

“Growing up is hard enough and then you throw in these other aspects.

“Once I was heading to the beach with my brother and my dad, and we had our suitcases because we were travelling.

“Someone called out from a car to go back home and yelled racial slurs, and that’s always stayed with me.”

Francesca’s dad emigrated during the White Australia Policy, and although she’s had a less volatile experience compared to him, she hopes the next generation has increasingly less confronting anecdotes.

“It takes effort from everyone to pave the way for progress, and representation is needed in order to facilitate that,” she says.

Francesca Hung

Francesca’s road to success

Now that Francesca is older, stereotypes no longer dictate her life, and she’s gone on to earn a master’s degree in publishing in addition to excelling in ballet, piano and Italian.

She is currently learning Chinese to better connect with that side of her identity, in addition to juggling her fashion label, Frankie Lane, which she co-founded with her mother.

“When I think about my younger self, I remember being so self-conscious and scared, but life gets so much better when you stop caring about other people’s opinions of you,” Francesca says.

“Nowadays it’s cool to be smart and part of it comes down to wider diversity, so if I’m contributing in some small way, then my job is done.”

In addition to her fashion line, Francesca has gone on to model, be a TV host on E! Australia, further her skills in acting and writing, and is now the ambassador of Swisse Beauty.

“It’s such a privilege and joy to partner with Swisse Beauty, and I feel honoured to represent an iconic Australian brand while highlighting the changing face of Australia,” she says.

How Francesca learned to embrace the skin she’s in

It’s another full-circle moment for Francesca, as her skin was a major insecurity growing up.

“I have freckles, which was kind of frowned upon on my Chinese side, and I also had really bad acne, which became something I was super self-conscious about,” she says.

According to Francesca, what’s shifted is her maturity, getting healthy and working with Swisse Beauty.

“Focusing more on nourishing and nurturing your inside and healing from within can really impact what’s going on externally,” she says.

Francesca has taken a similar holistic approach to her fitness, keeping healthy by walking her Hungarian vizsla with her fiance, doing Pilates and barre classes, and playing the odd game of golf or tennis on the weekend.

As for her relationship with beauty, Francesca credits much of what she’s learnt about make-up to insider tricks she’s absorbed working in the modelling industry.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with many make-up artists over the years, but I actually love doing my own make-up — so much so that I’m planning to do my own wedding day glam,” she says.

‘Go for everything’: Francesca’s pursuit of her dreams

Reflecting on her career to date, the thing that Francesca loves most is being in a field where she can juggle multiple pursuits at once.

“Originally I got into modelling, then I wanted to become a book publisher, then I pursued writing, then I was a TV host, now I’m a business owner and I’m pursuing acting, so I think the takeaway is I don’t like being limited to one thing,” she says.

“I’m someone that needs constant change to remain challenged, and that’s how I thrive.”

With two local acting projects under way, Francesca’s message to others is that it is never too late to achieve the things you want in life.

“My motto is to go for everything – what’s the worst that could happen?

“I feel alive when I’m challenging myself, and I think that relates to holding myself back in my teens to now reaching a point in my life where I’m up for just about anything,” she says.

“People talk about being scared of getting older, but for me it has been the most freeing experience.

“Now that I’m in my late 20s, I am more self-assured and the fear of people judging me has faded away.

“I can’t wait for my 30s, because if I already feel like this now, it’s only going to get better.”

Francesca Hung features on the cover of The House of Wellness Spring 2023 magazine. Read the digital edition.

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Written by Charlotte Brundrett.