Sheffield burns victim to launch her own beauty pageant

It was a truly courageous moment as Sheffield burns victim Rochelle Barrett took to the stage in a beauty pageant - wearing a bikini for the first time in her life.

Thursday, 3rd May 2018, 10:37 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd May 2018, 10:41 am
Rochelle Barrett pictured at the Miss Caribbean competition in 2016.

As the crowd of around 1,000 people applauded her lack of self-belief and confidence, caused by a terrifying childhood accident at just eight months old, disappeared.

Rochelle went on to be crowned Miss Personality at the Miss Caribbean UK competition back in January 2016 and said she felt empowered by the life-changing moment.

Rochelle Barrett with her children Romarv Wilson and La'Raiya Nelson.

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The big moment came in the final round of the competition, which had a carnival theme.

She said: "I had never wore a bikini in my life before that moment and I did it for the first time in front of 1,000 people. It was the best thing I have ever done, I have never felt so empowered."

Now, at the age of 29, the mum-of-two wants to share those emotions with others and is launching her own beauty pageant for people with disfigurements.

Rochelle said: "I had such a positive experience when I competed in Miss Caribbean UK. I really was so scared. I would always wear long-sleeve tops and polo necks to cover my scars up.

Rochelle Barrett, pictured in her bikini at the Miss Caribbean UK 2016 competition.

"But when I did it, it just empowered me and I just thought wouldn't it be amazing to share that experience and feeling with others."

Rochelle, of Wincobank, suffered third degree burns to 70 per cent of her body when a childminder tripped over her with a boiling kettle when she was eight months old.

The whole of her left arm was burnt, her chest and her right thigh was also left covered in scars and her family were told to expect the worse by doctors at the hospital.

She added: "I was burnt from the top of my hairline down. The doctors at the hospital told my mum I wasn't going to survive the night because of the trauma and if I did to be prepared for me being disfigured from the hairline.

Rochelle Barrett.

"After spending six months in hospital and by some kind of miracle, my face is scar free but the rest of my body is covered in scars."

Rochelle said now that her daughter, La'Raiya Nelson, was 10, she wanted her to feel positive about her body and hopes to run the Miss Unique Beauty Pageant next year.

"Having my children - especially my daughter - made me think about everything and challenge myself," she added.

"I want her to embrace her for herself and I can't expect her to do that if I'm not doing it myself."

After having found confidence and peace through dance herself, Rochelle also set up the DNA Dance Centre at Shirgreen Community Centre, which provides opportunities for children aged three to 14 in July 2016.

She said she hoped to launch the Miss Unique Beauty Pageant in spring 2019 but asked for support from businesses and sponsors.

She added: "It'll the first time I have set up such a thing. I set up DNA so I know it's tough to keep a business going that really serves the community - it can be very hard."

Anyone who can help with sponsorship for the beauty contest can contact Rochelle on [email protected]