Beauty pageants have become somewhat alien to us Brits in recent years, and still come with a lot of stereotypes.
However, one Harrogate woman, who is now in the running to become Miss England, is determined to use her beauty queen status as a means of empowering those who have faced similar struggles to her.
Chloe McEwen — the recently-crowned Miss Yorkshire — was just 16 when she had a mental breakdown.
Although it was never proven, she believes her drink was spiked while on a night-out for her birthday, and attributes the events that followed to that night.
She did not sleep for three days and doctors ended up sectioning her after she began hallucinating and threatening to jump from a window.
“I went through hell and was diagnosed with a severe bipolar condition.
“I was shifted from one psychiatric hospital to another while doctors tried to get to the bottom of my condition.”
Ms McEwen added her weight “shot up” after living off pizza, chips and sugary treats during her eight-month stint in hospital.
“I peaked at 12 and a half stone and hated my body image.
“I look at the pictures of me from those days and cannot believe it is the same person.”
It was then that she realised she could use her time in hospital to improve both her physical and mental health.
“I realised that I could get myself better by getting fit and modifying my diet.
“I started reading up on the science of fitness and convinced doctors that I was well enough to go home.”
Ms McEwen has spent the last five years rebuilding her life. Now 21 and four stone lighter, she is a qualified personal trainer, model and, of course, beauty queen.
She now leads both group and private fitness classes, and is currently writing her own cookery book to help improve people’s relationship with food.
In addition, she has also become a Sports Traider ambassador – a charity that uses fitness to help young people thrive.
After entering the Miss Yorkshire competition to celebrate her new-found body confidence, Ms McEwen discovered it was “not just all about beauty” as contestants were required to show the impact they had on other people’s lives.
“Beauty pageants have had to modernise like everything else and contestants show they have a purpose.
“For me, that is talking positively about my road to recovery and working with the charity Mind to help other people going through the awful mental health trauma that I suffered.”
Her story remains at the forefront of her Miss England campaign, during which she will continue her advocacy for mental wellbeing in partnership with Mind.
She has also teamed up with The Prom Den – a dress shop in Brighouse – and will wear one of its gowns during the national competition. She added:
“I would have loved to have attended my old school prom after GCSEs, but unfortunately that was when I was still in hospital.
“Girls love dressing up to the nines for a big night of celebration after working so hard on their exams.
“Prom dances are huge at schools in Yorkshire, and it is great to be modelling for such a fantastic brand.”
If triumphant, Chloe will qualify for the international competition, Miss World.
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