Curled hair, made-up faces and glitzy dresses - the image of the annual Miss England finals is fixed in everyone’s mind.
But in reality, it’s about hard-work, ambition and intelligence, as South Yorkshire’s Miss England finalist Rachael Foster tells Star reporter Rachael Clegg.
RACHAEL Foster never set out to be a beauty queen, yet in less than two weeks the 22-year-old will be competing against 49 other women for the much-coveted Miss England title.
But Rachael, the reigning Miss Dronfield, is not the vacuous glamour puss one would expect of a Miss Englander. Her teenage years and early adult life was spent swotting up, first for her A-levels, then her degree and now for a masters degree in nutrition.
But Rachael, from Dronfield Woodhouse, says the Miss England competition has never been, contrary to common perceptions, just about looks.
“They assess everything about you,” she says. “You have to make a speech in front of judges about a subject you are passionate, and then relate this subject to a charity. They are looking for intelligence and communications skills as much as anything else.”
“They are looking for a woman who can be a role model to young girls, who can be articulate and represent this country at charity events across the world.”
So far, the regional and semi final heats for the crown have been fiercely competitive.
“It’s been such hard work and it’s going to get harder,” she says.
And next weekend is the final round and among many of the tasks required of the 50 young finalists is a military fitness session.
“The last women standing will get through,” says Rachael.
“My boyfriend’s a former personal trainer so he’s been coaching me - it’s been incredibly tough but I’m getting into shape for the big test.”
Rachael beat off competition from thousands of girls to appear in the finals.
She says: “As many as 20,000 girls applied for the Miss England title and I got down to the last 50. I feel really excited because I have never done anything like this before.”
As for her success so far, Rachael puts it down to her knowledge about nutrition.
“I had to talk to the judges about nutrition and diet-based medical intervention with young children. My degree was in food and nutrition at Sheffield Hallam University so it’s a subject I know a lot about. But I was also asked questions about subjects I didn’t know about. It was tough.”
Rachael had no idea how much taking part in the Miss England heats would mean to her.
She says: “It’s really important to me as it will provide a platform for promoting good causes that I am passionate about such as medical nutritional intervention. It’s important that healthy eating is not just about weight loss but about feeling healthy and getting the nutrients you need.”
And in addition to all this there is still the pressure to look good.
“There are two competitions in the final heat to do with presentation,” says Rachael. “One’s called Modelesque and another is Photogenic.
“The Modelesque heat is about having a face that’s fit for glamour/catalogue modelling and the Photogenic heat is about having a catwalk, high fashion look. They select women from these categories and then they go through to the final.”
All Miss England’s competitors are aged between 17 and 24 andl will find later this month who is the lucky one. The winner will be decided on by judges and by a public vote by text.
And Rachael will be competing against fellow South Yorkshirewoman, the reigning Miss South Yorkshire, 17-year-old Caroline Welch from Doncaster.
And while we imagine a Miss England contest to be far from a convivial atmosphere, Rachael says all the girls muck in together.
“You get to meet people from all walks of life and all the girls are really nice - you’d think it would be a really catty atmosphere but it’s not,” she says.
And clearly, Rachael’s journey to the finals hasn’t been an easy one.
She says: “It’s been rigorous but fun at the same time. And my mum and dad are really proud so that’s nice.”
n To vote for Rachael text ‘Miss England 50’ to 63333 or to vote for Caroline Welch text ‘Miss England 51’ to 6333.