Yityish Aynaw
Yityish Aynaw has been crowned Miss Israel 2013. She is the first Ethiopian-born contestant to win the title.

A 21-year-old former army officer has made history after becoming the first Ethiopian-born contestant to be crowned Miss Israel.

Yityish Titi Aynaw from Netanya, who immigrated to Israel with her family when she was 12, was entered into the annual pageant by a friend, and had no previous modelling experience.

She took home the crown after a panel of judges awarded her title at the International Convention Center Haifa earlier this week.

During the competition, Aynaw said she hoped "to represent all Israelis" and also named American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. as one of her role models.

"He fought for justice and equality, and that's one of the reasons I'm here: I want to show that my community has many beautiful qualities that aren't always represented in the media," she said.

Recalling her journey to Israel as a child, she insisted that being "thrown into the deep water" helped her get used to her new life.

"My aliyah [which translates to "a look to the future," in Amharic ] was pretty tough," said Aynaw.

"A new language, a modern society. I'm lucky to have had a friend, Noa, who befriended me from the start and helped me out. I didn't study in a ulpan. I was thrown into the deep water and learned the best that way."

The beauty queen, who has been working as a saleswoman at a clothing store since her army discharge now plans to venture into modelling "to change attitudes to dark-skinned models. I'd love to become the first Israeli (TV) host, the Tyra Banks of Israel."