Reach for that tiara... The search is on for the next Miss South Yorkshire.
Her crown took current title-holder Jaime Lee Faulkner to new peaks - quite literally; she ended up climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
The 24-year-old , a former Handsworth Christian School pupil, is a new breed of beauty queen who has raised over £20,000 for charity.
Jaime, who runs a beauty room in her parents’ Brinsworth hair salon, today learns whether she has the Miss Scuba UK title to add to her collection. She’s in Egypt, competing for the crown and learning to scuba-dive in a pageant launched to promote marine conservation.
Q. Beauty contests - does the prettiest girl always win?
A. Beauty is very subjective and as all pageant girls know, it is more than just a pretty face that is judged. Points are scored for interview, talent, charity work and much more, therefore the winner should have the whole package.
Q. How old were you when you entered your first contest and how did you feel as you stepped onto that stage?
A. I was 18 and extremely nervous, but I was carried along by the excitement in the room, I totally loved it and from that moment I was hooked.
Q. What made you want to enter?
A. I was approached at Clothes Show Live to enter Miss Teen UK. My initial reaction was no way could I do this, but when I got home I decided to look into it. That’s when I found I was actually too old, but the website directed me to the Miss England entry form, I read through all the info and decided to give it a go, I didn’t tell any of my family or friends as I didn’t really expect to hear anything, I was shocked when I got an interview and then was selected as one of the final ten.
Q. That first contest took to the Miss England contest. Did that surprise you and how did you do?
A. I knew that whoever won Miss Sheffield would be going to the Miss England final, but I never expected it to be me. I was truly shocked when I was announced the winner. I went on to finish in the top 15 at Miss England and was placed top ten in several categories.
Q. Did it change your life?
A. No. It was a fantastic experience and great opportunities followed, but I was back at work in the beauty salon the following week.
Q,. What did you want to be when you were little? Did being a beauty queen figure?
A. I wanted to be a vet, but I also loved dressing up in princess outfits and dancing around the house, I thought I may like to go into fashion and beauty, but that evolved into health and beauty, which I studied at college.
Q. How many titles have you won since, and how did you prepare for them? Do you need to diet and exercise, have lots of beauty treatments and have tons of clothes for competitions?
A. I haves even regional and national titles, the most recent being the current Miss Galaxy England. I don’t do anything specifically for competitions, but I regularly exercise and have a healthy diet. Over the years I have been lucky enough to have sponsors provide dresses for me. I do have a small collection now which is great, as I can pick which ones I want to wear again. Some I have passed on to Charity Chicks, the pre-loved fashion shop run by Safe @Last, a local charity for teen runaways.
Q. Do you think we are too much in the thrall of physical beauty?
A. On the whole I think TV and the media do make it difficult for young girls. Often physical beauty is portrayed as something all girls should aspire to, but through these competitions I have realised that beauty is so much more than skin-deep.
Q. What do you think is the definition of beauty?
A. Caring, being sympathetic and having empathy for others.
Q. Some think beauty contests are sexist and have no place in modern society, which strives to ensure women are valued for their skills, intelligence and personality, not the way they look. What do you think to that ?
A. They have a right to their opinion but from my experience, all the girls I have ever met through doing pageants are intelligent, hardworking, strong individuals. They are not manipulated or treated ‘like pieces of meat’, to coin a very used phrase. I actually think that women who object to these competitions have very little knowledge about what is involved.
Q. Do you think the beauty contest has a future?
A. Yes, the whole competition is a team building event. Girls build confidence, make new friendships and support one another. They also learn that they can together to achieve great things. Millions of pounds have been raised over the years in this country and around the world by hard-working pageant girls.
Q. Has your competition success ever caused jealousy with a friend or a partner?
A. No, I am very lucky to have very supportive friends and family, I have been with my boyfriend Aaron for seven years and he has been to all my competitions to cheer me on. Without him, my family and friends I could not have done many of the things I have.
Q. Do people expect you to be obsessed with your looks?
A. I think some people are often surprised that I am not always dressed up and wearing high heels.
Q. Are they surprised when they discover that being a beauty queen has enabled you to raise over £20,000 for charity - and climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
A. Yes, because people’s perception of a beauty queen is often only about being “beautiful”. They are always surprised that I am happy to challenge myself and get my hands dirty to raise money for great causes.
Q. What was life like on the climb?
A. Climbing Kilimanjaro was the toughest, worst and most fantastic experience of my life to that point. After climbing for eight days with no showers, no proper wash, no make-up and just a sleeping bag, lots of porridge and green tea for comfort, I embraced the life. I loved living with nature so much that I am already planning my next mission. The whole experience was very liberating. I met some amazing people who ilve a very different life to most of us and they have inspired me so much.
Q. What has been the absolute highlight of your life so far?
A. Climbing Kilimanjaro is up there, but it has to be the arrival of my little nephew 11 months ago. He is my brother Callum’s son and the happiest, most gorgeous little boy you could ever meet - oh, and the surprise marriage proposal I got recently from my boyfriend Aaron, or course.
Q. What is your ambition?
A. For my family, friends and myself to be in good health, and to be happy and successful in all that I do.
Q. How can girls follow in your footsteps?
A. My journey began with a beauty pageant. Any girls wishing to do the same should go to the Miss South Yorkshire website (www.misssouthyorkshire.co.uk) and apply. The search is now on for a 2014 title-holder. The winner will get a cash prize, a place in Miss Galaxy England (where I will be handing my crown over), a place in the 2014 Miss Great Britain final and the trek of a life-time to the Sahara with myself and a team in aid of Safe@Last.
Anyone can join us on the trek, which takes place next November. Go to email@example.com for more information.