online cowards Miss Cork winner tells RTE's First Dates how she was racially abused by 'keyboard warriors'
'I was probably more Irish than some people are messaging me,' Zoe Hendrick says.
Miss Cork Zoe Hendrick shocks her date when she describes how she has been a victim of racism on tonight's RTE's First Dates.
Zoe recently finished third in the Miss Ireland pageant, which was won by another woman of colour, Pamela Uba - the first non-white person to win the contest.
"When I won Miss Cork a lot of people [were saying]: 'You’re playing the black card’, ‘you’re not even Irish’, ‘we don’t know even know you won it’.
"I was born here. I was probably more Irish than some people are messaging me," she says.
Zoe was born in Limerick before moving to Cork at the age of three with her mother Fiona and younger sister Sarah
Her biological father is of Jamaican descent and lives in America, but she has little contact with him and for the past 15 years has looked up to her stepfather Jason.
Down through the years, Zoe has been asked while serving people in shops if she could speak English and surprised them by replying in a Cork accent.
She was also asked by some pupils when they were in school if they would they turn black if they touched her.
Even lately on nights out and she bumps into someone by mistake she’d be called a “black” such and such.
“My mom is 100 per cent Irish, five foot blonde, pale. Don’t look anything like her, but have her attitude,” Zoe (25) points out.
“When we were growing up and she’d be pushing me in the buggy, people would come up to her and say ‘where did you get her?’ - like almost I was bought somewhere’.
"She would have to say: ‘I had her, she is mine’.”
She tells the Sunday World that she shoots down online trolls.
"It was the main topic of discussion when I was doing Miss Ireland, because I was the first person of colour to win Miss Cork.
"I knew when I was going into it if I did win there probably would be a backlash,” she explains.
“But I had such an amazing support circle. Then when I did Miss Ireland the girls were all so supportive.
"When Pamela won Miss Ireland she got a lot of trolls coming for her and the girls were all there for each other.”
The Miss Cork heats are starting again in April and she want to give girls who enter and are of colour advice on how to deal with negativity.
“I will tell them to just delete and block them.
"If someone came up to you on the street saying they don’t look like your skin colour you’d slap them away.
"But just because it’s written down on someone’s computer, you just don’t feed into it and don’t entertain it.
"I think it’s something that’s so important for young girls, and young guys, to realise that anyone that’s posting something negative about you will never have the courage to say it to your face,” she points out.
The Black Lives Matter movement was one she supported.
“I do think it was right because I do think it was a discussion that needed to be had.
"I just think it was an important thing that would need to be discussed at the time. “
Zoe has a thing for ginger-haired lads.
“My ex was ginger as well. I remember when we were going out Harry and Meghan were a thing and everyone was comparing us and we were like ‘we’re not royals, so it won’t be as interesting’,” she laughs.
Zoe grew up in Blackrock on the south side of Cork city and works as a marketing executive for a car company.
She is paired on First Dates with Limerickman David Brennan (27), who is ginger and has been said he looks like comedian Bernard O’Shea.
“Absolutely useless when it comes to dating I’d say,” he says.
“I probably get so flustered and I could probably apologise a hundred times because I might have said something that was awkward.
“I always had this idea of a perfect first date, if you could for a little walk on the beach or something like that and then sit under the stars and start chatting. We don’t get the weather in Ireland for it though.
“I think I kind of fall too fast for someone. Maybe it’s just me. Like I wear my heart on my sleeve and just kind of waiting for the right girl.”
Zoe, who is 5’9” reveals she does not like dating apps and prefers to meet someone in the flesh first to see what they’re like.
“I’m very like picky with who I do start dating. I only kind of date people I do see potential with. We are busy people. I don’t have time to keep asking someone what’s their favourite colour,” she reflects.
“I love wearing heels, going to work, going out. So, I’d love if they were taller than me.”
She enjoyed her date with David.
“He was the type of guy I’d always be really friendly with. He was such a gentleman and he was just so kind. We got on like a house on fire and he was so easy to chat to,” she notes.
- First Dates RTÉ 2 Thursday 9.30pm
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