Miss NI boss says they are abandoning the bikini round to ‘move with the times’
“I don’t think it will take away from the show,” competition boss Victoria Withers has claimed.
Miss Northern Ireland is back for 2023 and it’s covering up.
Competition boss Victoria Withers has announced it’s time to abandon the bikini round to bring the contest up to date.
The 24 hopefuls will no longer be asked to walk the runway in swimwear at the final or during judging.
Victoria, who runs the ACA modelling agency, says it’s time for a change as the search for the new Miss Northern Ireland begins.
Heats will start later this month to find the successor to last year’s winner, Daria Gapska.
“I felt that particularly the day after Miss Northern Ireland won, if she did any media everything was overshadowed by ‘you wore a bikini, is that feminist?’ so I’m just going to remove the problem,” says Victoria.
“I feel like it opens up space to talk about the finalists and what they want to do. I’m hoping it’s a first step to showing people the competition is moving with the times because it’s a comment we get all the time and I’m really defensive of the contest and what it means to the girls.
“I don’t think it will take away from the show. It’s not needed, and we’ll fill that space with something that will help us get to know the contestants a bit more.”
Despite the popularity of shows like Love Island where contestants regularly appear in bikinis, she says public opinion suggested the same outfits in beauty pageants were regarded as outdated.
Victoria says the finalists can wear swimwear for their spa visit, but reveals the decision has already faced some opposition from former contestants who wanted to show their physique.
“The reaction has been mixed. You never had to wear a bikini, but people loved to challenge themselves and it was a big part of their journey. One of the previous finalists has told me it was one of the proudest moments of her life.
“But I feel happy and I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction of the public this year. I feel like it’s the right thing to do,” says the competition organiser.
At the 2023 launch this week at the Observatory Bar in the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast, Miss Northern Ireland Daria Gapska revealed her concerns for her friend Darcey Corria, who won Miss Wales.
The pair became close and Daria was devastated to hear Darcey had been in a car crash on January 19.
The 21-year-old sustained devastating injuries in the smash.
“She’s at home now with a broken jaw, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, in a neck brace,” says nurse Daria. “She is supposed to make a full recovery by Miss World, not that that’s the biggest concern.”
Also at the launch were a line-up of former winners including Miss World Europe Anna Leitch, Meagan Green, Lauren Leckey and Katharine Walker.
They were joined by a host of hopefuls who will share their plans and passions during the heats across Northern Ireland before the final in the Europa Hotel in May.
Orla O’Halloran, a business management student at Queen’s, says she’s been watching the competition since Anna Henry’s 2016 win.
“When I was younger I wasn’t fully sure of what I wanted to do and I wasn’t confident enough to think I was going to get the grades, and now I have that confidence to say, ‘I know I can do this’,” says Orla.
Nevin Kerr (24), a psychology graduate with a beauty business and a design sideline, says she’s taking the opportunity to build her confidence.
“I need to put myself out there more and be more chatty and confident and I thought I should just do it,” she says.
Ana Bartolovic, a 19-year-old care worker from Ballycastle, says it’s a chance to push herself before applying for a nursing degree.
“I’ve always wanted to do something like this but I’m so nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before so I’m definitely out of my comfort zone,” says Ana.
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