Meet the 18-year-old Leeds hairdresser hoping to be crowned Miss Teen British Isles 2021/21
Leeds hairdresser Ella Walker is in the running for the Miss Teen British Isles 2020/21 crown. She tells Abbey Maclure how she hopes the modelling competition will change her life.
Ella Walker has her eyes on the sparkly Miss Teen British Isles crown.
But for the 18-year-old hairdresser, entering the national modelling competition was about much more than winning the title. It has boosted her confidence, opened up contacts in the modelling industry and paved the way for a career in fashion.
Ella has been selected to represent Leeds in the national Miss Teen British Isles 2020/21 final, taking place at Chester Racecourse tomorrow.
She's one of 50 finalists from across the UK, each representing their city, who are hoping to be crowned the winner and scoop more than £10,000 worth of prizes.
“My mum got me into modelling when I was 12 and I absolutely loved it," Ella, of Farnley, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"But she saw how cut-throat it was and she was worried about me being told I wasn’t good enough, or that it would cause body-confidence issues.
“She pulled me out of it and I didn’t make a fuss. But I’ve always wanted to go back into it; I love fashion and I’m a hairdresser. I’m always doing everyone’s hair on a night out and I love trying on outfits.
“So when a close family friend entered Miss British Isles, she told me I needed to get into it - she knew it was very ‘me’.”
Despite her mum's concerns about the industry, Ella's experiences of the Miss Teen British Isles competition have been nothing but positive.
After being announced as Miss Teen Leeds City 2020/21, Ella has taken part in a professional photoshoot and will walk a catwalk show in tomorrow's final, which will be judged before the winner is announced.
She added: “When I did more research on the competition, it wasn’t about telling people they weren’t good enough - it’s all about you as a person.
"It’s something so different from everyday life of getting up, putting your jeans on and going to work. You feel like a princess in big gowns and glittery dresses.
“I want to be able to inspire other girls, a lot of young girls don't feel confident with the pressures of social media. When you’re prancing up on the stage, there are misconceptions that you think you’re better than everyone else - but it’s not like that at all.
“It’s about boosting your confidence and meeting other people who you’d never usually meet, hearing their stories and their reasons for competing."
Previous winners of Miss British Isles events have gone on to be signed by top modelling agencies, taken part in popular TV shows and even appeared in a Bollywood film.
If Ella comes away with the crown, she will win career-making prizes including a modelling and influencer contract, photoshoots in Marbella and Gibraltar and the chance to create a modelling portfolio with the help of Miss British Isles experts.
As Love Island star and fashion influencer Molly Mae is announced as the creative director of online retailer Pretty Little Thing, Ella has big dreams for her own career.
“I already feel like I’m in a dream, so if I won it would feel indescribable," she said.
“It’s not just about a sparkly crown, even though I definitely want that crown! It opens a million doors, even if I didn’t win.
"I’d love to guide myself into pageants where you do interviews and charity work, there are so many charities I want to support. But I love the fashion side; we’ve just seen Molly Mae announced as creative director of Pretty Little Thing and that’s an inspiration.
"There’s so many ways you can build up a career and I know I can always ring the organisers when doors open to ask about the opportunities, whether they’re okay. It’s like a backbone."
Ella will be cheered on by her family and proud colleagues at Holly'z Hair Studio, who encouraged her to enter the competition.
She added: "My mum is so proud and so are my family and friends, my boss and my co-workers.
"Everybody around me is rooting for me, which helps because you don’t feel like you’re up there on your own. They’ve given me the confidence to do it.
“I feel really proud to wear the sash and represent Leeds."
Saying yes to new opportunities
After months on furlough when salons were closed, Ella says lockdown gave her the push she needed to enter the competition.
She urged other young people looking to start a career in fashion to apply for every opportunity they can find.
Ella added: "This year has been really hard on everybody’s mental health - and that’s something that’s important for me to speak about.
“I went from being at work speaking to up to 50 people a day, to being stuck in the same four walls and speaking to the same four people.
“But the time has pushed me to look into what route I want to go down in my career. Life is getting back to normal and I think it’s made us grab opportunities now - saying yes to everything.”
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