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  • Writer's picturecharlotte lister

Interview with Elle – YEMI 2019 Finalist

Firstly thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about pageant journey and volunteer work for my pageant lockdown blog it’s lovely getting to know fellow pageant queens and how they make a difference in the community.

What made you enter pageants ?

Honestly my pageant origin story is an odd one to say the least. There was a fake Facebook profile posing as a pageant girl who asked me to do a lingerie shoot and I remember thinking that it was creepy; I then contacted this pageant girl and told her about the fake profile and we talked and I somehow ended up entering her pageant. I didn’t even realise what pageants were then, I turned up unprepared with no appearance book, I did no appearances – I was extremely unprepared. But this gave me the pageant bug and since then I’ve loved everything Pageant Land has to offer, from charity work to sisterhoods.

Can you tell us about your pageant experience so far ?

I do not have much experience at all. Other than the Pageant mentioned above, I was competing in YEMI last year which is honestly such an amazing system! However at the time I had a verbally and mentally abusive boss, I was mentally drained to the point where it got to the night of the finals and I had a major anxiety breakdown which triggered my neurological disorder and I couldn’t breathe. I left in rehearsal, didn’t compete and ended up YEMI Cinderella, leaving only my appearance book behind. My pageant experience (if you could call it that) hasn’t been the conventional kind but it’s still made me grow in new ways which I’m thankful for.

You volunteer for Eves Merton Charity can you tell us more about the charity to start with ?

Established in 2011 by two of the best men and family I know, Clynton and Lawrence, in memory of Lawrence’s late mother Eve; we are a non-profit charity foundation which makes the dreams of people who have been touched by cancer come true, by helping fight the negativity of cancer with the positivity of a dream. Eve did so much for our community and this charity was the best way to honour her memory by continuing her legacy of kindness. We also spearheaded a community clean up scheme in partnership with Eco Efficiency in order to rid our Town of litter which in turn sparked my FeedTheBees campaign last year. As well as making dreams come true, we also offer support groups and I have recently been given the go ahead to expand with regards to the support groups by introducing a new community Art Therapy initiative. This will allow us to expand our support towards helping individuals who struggle with mental health as well as people with a cancer diagnosis.

What made you become a volunteer ?

I honestly cannot remember a time when I wasn’t an official volunteer to be honest. We’re a charity ran by a handful of friends and family so we’ve laughed together, cried together, supported each other, grown up together. This isn’t just a charity, it’s family and I think thats how we’ve managed to gain the success we have as a charity. This foundation and everyone involved are honestly one of the loves of my life, I couldn’t imagine my life without it or them.

From a charity point of view do you think that the fundraising that pageant contestants do make a difference ?

Wholeheartedly! Donations make a big difference to small charities especially, without kind donations they wouldn’t be able to function and give aid. The Pageant community raised thousands for charities and their money does help causes that need funds. Everyone donating money or fundraising should be proud of themselves, no matter the amount raised or donated, every little helps. On behalf of all charities I would like to thank every single one of you for doing what you do and for being as kind and as thoughtful as you are. You all really do help make a very big difference and all the charities that are lucky to be supported by the Pageant community are extremely thankful.

Do you think that because of this fundraising that opinions of pageants will eventually change for the better ?

I think there will always be closed minded people who make comments for the sake of making comments. You cannot please everyone and there will always be someone with a big mouth trying to paint Pageantry as something it isn’t or in a negative light. I say who cares what those people think, Pageant girls don’t need validation from strangers to do what they do, they do it because they have a philanthropic passion to change the world for the better, and to help those who need help.

Is Eve Merton part of your pageant platform?

Eve Merton Dreams Trust is my Pageant Platform, I guess you could also say I have a passion for human and animal rights but I speak up and promote because it’s something that still needs to be fought for; but Eves Trust is my main Platform yes.

Why do you believe a pageant platform is so important ?

I believe platforms are important because Pageantry gives you a stage and an outlet to promote topics of discussions that need to be had, or causes that need to be brought to wider attention – and if you are lucky enough to attain a crown, that crown becomes a megaphone for a system or a cause that a Queen speaks through. Having a Pageant platform is to have a voice that speaks for many, it’s extremely important.

My pageant platform is cancer awareness and end of life care can you tell us how cancer affected you ?

Working within Eves Trust we are around cancer every day, and because its gotten to be a normal part of my every day life I was kind of desensitised to it and when you’re supporting people with a diagnosis your head needs to remain professional and you cannot allow yourself to get emotional in order to be a support system. However its completely different when someone you love is given a diagnosis, your heart rises to the back of your throat to the point where you want to gasp yet somehow can’t and It’s harder to keep a level and cool head. When my uncle was diagnosed as terminal I found it extremely hard but due to my work with the charity I managed to hold myself together in order to be a support system for my family if they needed me, he has been in the clouds a year now and to this day losing him makes me emotional, he was one of the best men. One of my best friends also told me she had cancer last week which was devastating.

How have you turned your experience with cancer it into a positive ?

Through my work with the Trust and using my best friend as an example, once she told me about her diagnosis I literally sprang into supportive action. Having experience with the Trust has enabled and prepared me to help the people I love and the individuals who contact us more than if I was unknowledgeable about the illness. My positive from this illness is the knowledge I have gained to help and support others dealing with cancer.

Do you have any advice for other people who are going through a similar experience as you did when a family member had terminal cancer ?

If you have a diagnosis you are struggling with or need someone to speak to about a loved one with a diagnosis, I’m a message away. If you need any information from wigs to treatment I can talk you through it or point you in the right direction. You never have to be sad alone, I will always be here for anyone who needs support.

Do you have any advice for fellow pageant queens ?

Be the best you you can be, do not try to change yourself or your voice because you fear others won’t react well to it. Always have courage and be kind.

What’s you favourite pageant round ?

My favourite pageant round has to be evening wear, I feel many will agree that there is nothing like putting on a beautiful gown and feeling like royalty as you glide across a stage. If I could go shopping in a gown I would!

What do you think makes a good pageant role model ?

I don’t like the term role model, I automatically associate that phrase with idolising someone or striving to be like them – but what makes someone special is that they’re individual. Why would you want to be like someone else when you can be the best you? Because you are amazing. What I think would make fantastic exemplary behaviour however, is fighting for what you believe in and for the rights of others, speaking up for the lives that have no voice or no representation – and to expand on this I couldn’t be more proud of our Pageant community at this present time, speaking up with regards to the Black Lives Matter campaign. We’re all fighting for equality and justice and its beautiful.

Do you have a pageant role model ?

I don’t have a role model as such but I do have a few people I admire so much that they inspire me every day. Domanique, Hannah, Stephanie, Natasha, Hollie, Erin, Efa, Kayleigh, Cat, Natalie, Lauren, Christina. All beautiful Queens with beautiful hearts and inspire me in different ways.

Do you have plans to compete in pageants again ?

I do, but I’m keeping it close to my chest for now as to not overwhelm myself.

What are your future pageant goals ?

I’m going to take the days as they come and enjoy the time I have. Who knows where I’ll be in a year or two from now, I’m kind of having so much stress free fun not planning or organising, I’m finding life so much more exciting that way.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about your pageant journey and volunteer work. I can’t wait to see where your next pageant journey takes you. Much love Charlotte, Ms Diamond South Yorkshire 2020.

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