Hartlepool's Miss Teesside International hopes to inspire others with UK title win
A law student who was bullied and fought off an eating disorder is hoping to inspire girls to believe in themselves when she challenges for the Miss International UK title.
Jessica Ingham, 22, of Owton Manor, Hartlepool, will face around 50 other contestants from around the country when the grand final takes place in July in Lancashire.
This is the first big pageant she has ever participated in and she hopes that her appearance will inspire those who come from the similar background as her to overcome their doubts.
Jessica, who qualified for the final after she was chosen as Miss Teesside International, has told how she has had to face to face bullying, eating disorder and mental health issues early in her life.
The Northumbria University student said: “I’m from a very low-income family, so I’ve worked really, really hard to get to where I am.
“I’ve had so many barriers and I’ve had to put up with bullying and confidence issues.
"I feel like I’ve overcome such big life changes and barriers that I wanted to showcase that.”
Jessica will be raising money for mental health and sexual assault charities and says she is looking forward to meeting the other girls taking part in the competition.
She added: "I’m really excited and grateful for the opportunity to compete.”
The personal trainer, who struggled with her weight since she was 13, has recently reached an important milestone in her eating disorder fight.
Jessica, who was underweight, has said she now has a healthy relationship with food, adding: "I’ve only just reached my goal weight. It’s been nearly a 10-year fight for me.”
She wants to become a barrister and is in her first year of studying law.
Jessica says she wants a career in the legal field so she can help victims of crime as well as those who might have been wrongly accused.
She said: “I know life isn’t just black and white.
"Not everyone is guilty of the things they’re accused of, so it’s obviously about helping those who are wrongly accused as well.”
The winner of Miss International UK will go on to compete in the Miss International final in Japan in November this year.
Jessica has explained that winning the UK title would help her raise awareness for charities close to her heart.
But she also hopes to inspire people who might not be considered “stereotypically successful” and who may lack the money, support and confidence.
She said: "For me, to be able to overcome these fears and get into competitions and getting to showcase my talents, it’s about being able to help girls and anyone who doubts themselves.
"Show them that it doesn’t matter where you come from, because growing up that’s something that was drummed in to me, that I have to settle because there’s better people out there.
"That’s not the case. If you work hard, you will get the benefits.“
Holly Pirrie, of Miss International UK, said: “We are thrilled to have Jessica in the grand final.
"We received over 500 applications for the competition, so she’s done fantastically.”