By TAMARA ZIEVE
ISRAELI model Bareket Drori is one of 50 women from around the world set to compete in the Miss Global 2015 contest on October 22.
But her motivations to participate in the beauty pageant in the Philippines are selfless.
"I see this competition as a great chance to drive positive publicity to Israel and its nation, showing its beauty and culture - a different side to the negative media bias against Israel," Bareket said.
"I would like a chance to show the world what Israeli culture is all about: From the beautiful beaches of Tel Aviv to the soaring heights of Masada, to delicious falafel and the warmth of its people.
"I would love nothing more than to present the best that Israel has to offer."
Bareket has been living in New York for the past seven years, where she works in fashion merchandise planning, but she was born and raised in Rehovot.
"My mum was born in the former Soviet Union and moved to Israel with her family at the age of 18, not speaking a word of Hebrew," Bareket said. "She met my dad shortly after.
"My dad was born in Iraq and moved to Israel with his family as a baby. His dad was a rabbi, who died when he was young.
"His mother raised him and his 13 brothers and sisters in Rehovot on her own, not even knowing how to read and write."
Bareket served in the navy before a friend suggested a post-army trip to New York, during which she fell in love with the Big Apple and decided to move there.
She says she was enamoured with the energy of the city and drawn by the large pool of professional opportunities, which contrasts with Israel's slimmer pickings.
Though the 30-year-old model has been in New York for the majority of her adult life, she considers herself an Israeli in every respect and is excited to represent her homeland in the beauty pageant in the Philippines.
Bareket expressed a sense of frustration at the negative image of Israel she comes across abroad.
She said that people are often surprised to discover she is Israeli and Jewish.
"How am I supposed to look? Am I supposed to have horns?" she asked.
"I want to be able to make any small difference in the minds of people about what Israeli culture and people are like, and if I can make a positive impact, that would definitely be my reward."
She does, however, note that participation in the contest is a significant financial burden since she is paying expenses out of her own pocket.
So she is on the lookout for sponsors who share her vision of attracting positive attention to the Israeli nation.
Bareket said one of the most exciting aspects of the contest was the opportunity to create her outfits together with designers, and particularly, the "national outfit," which requires contestants to model a fashion-forward outfit that showcases the country they are representing.
Though she is still on the lookout for a designer to collaborate with, she says she is seeking a professional who will be as passionate about her outfit as she is.
She hopes to "embody Israeli culture and beauty" with their creation.
Bareket is not a regular pageant-goer, having only participated previously in one in Herzliya at the age of 18.
She noted that it was important to thoroughly research the Miss Global pageant before signing up, and she was drawn by the organisation's heavy involvement with charities.
With applicants from "enemy states" of Israel, such as Iran, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon and Iraq, Bareket admits that she is apprehensive about meeting participants who may have negative attitudes towards her due to her nationality.
If she is faced with any hostility, however, she says she will be non-confrontational while staying true to her beliefs.
"If something is said wrongly in my eyes, I will be educational and informational.
"But I think this contest overall, and how we've been instructed to be, is to help each other, empower each other and be gracious with one another," she said.