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Dream come true History-making Miss Ireland hopes to inspire others growing up in Direct Provision

"I want all the other children who look up to me and look at my life and see where I have come from to know that they can get there too"

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Pamela Uba, who was crowned Miss Ireland 2021, works as a medical scientist at Galway University Hospital. Photo: PIP

Pamela Uba, who was crowned Miss Ireland 2021, works as a medical scientist at Galway University Hospital. Photo: PIP

Pamela Uba, who was crowned Miss Ireland 2021, works as a medical scientist at Galway University Hospital. Photo: PIP

The first black woman to win the Miss Ireland title has described how growing up in Direct Provision she was embarrassed to bring her friends over to where she lived. 

Pamela Uba spent ten years living in Direct Provision after she first came to Ireland from South Africa in 2004.

The 26-year-old medical scientist became the first black Miss Ireland in the contest's 74-year history last month and is now preparing for the Miss World competition in Puerto Rico in December.

Speaking of her achievement, she said she hopes she has "opened a door and paved the way" for young asylum seekers to achieve their dreams.

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Pamela as a young girl.

Pamela as a young girl.

Pamela as a young girl.

“I want all the other children who look up to me and look at my life and see where I have come from to know that they can get there too,” she said.

Since winning the Miss Ireland title she has become an ambassador for Dídean, the Irish word for "shelter," a social enterprise which provides alternative housing for residents in Direct Provision.

She said: "One of the issues I would have had growing up in Direct Provision is feeling embarrassed to bring my friends over to where I lived. I believe if I had something like what they are offering here, that would have been a non-issue.

"I think it’s an amazing thing they are doing, especially for children, because we forget about their experiences and their mental health growing up in the system we currently have."

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Pamela Uba represents the City of the Tribes at Miss Ireland 2021

Pamela Uba represents the City of the Tribes at Miss Ireland 2021

Pamela Uba represents the City of the Tribes at Miss Ireland 2021

At a dressing in Dublin for the Miss World contest later this year, Pamela said it was “unbelievable”.

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“I wouldn't have thought that the seven-year-old girl who came to Ireland would be sitting here on this chair with the Miss Ireland crown on my head picking up my dresses to be off to Miss World,” she said.

“It's such a dream come true. I never thought that I'd be in this position and I'm so honoured and so blessed to be able to have this opportunity. "

Pamela also worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic at University Hospital Galway.

She said: "Trying to balance my job with Miss Ireland and can be quite challenging. Sometimes I would have to do both the night and day shift which means I would be working for 24 hours. But I know how important my job is, so I’ll continue to do my best as long as I possibly can."

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Pamela Uba at work in the lab

Pamela Uba at work in the lab

Pamela Uba at work in the lab

October is Black History Month, the annual celebration of the achievements of the black community, and Pamela hopes to use her Miss World title to become a role model in a more diverse island

“Being the first black Miss Ireland and being able to represent Ireland at Miss World is such a milestone," she added.

"I'm so proud and honoured to be able to say that as a black woman I've kind of opened the door and paved the way for others who will come after me.

“Any person, whether they are black or white or from whatever ethnicity or race, can now feel that they can do it too.”

The history-making Miss Ireland will head to Puerto Rico for the Miss World contest in December.

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