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We can't figure out why we can't model our swimsuits!

By Una Brankin

Published 25/08/2015

Beach babes: from left, Rebecca Maguire, Sacha Livingstone and Nicole Killen
Beach babes: from left, Rebecca Maguire, Sacha Livingstone and Nicole Killen
Body beautiful: former Miss Ireland Rebecca Maguire (centre) with beauty contestants, (from left), Nicole Killen and Sacha Livingstone
Bathing belles: from left, Nicole Killen, Rebecca Maguire and Sacha Livingstone pose in their swimwear

It's the first time Miss Ireland and Miss World won't have a swimwear section in the grand final. But - apart from that bow to the PC and feminist brigades - little has changed in the Irish beauty contest's quaint rule book.

Entrants "shall be of good character and possessing of charm, poise, personality and have beauty of face and figure".

They must never have given birth or have been married - and no short pins are allowed.

Although some of the guidelines could have been drawn up by Jane Austen, others have the hard nose of a corporate contract. The entrant "shall be a person who is not likely to bring into disrepute the Miss Ireland contest and the Miss World contest", and "shall not be less than a minimum height of five foot seven inches in stockinged feet". (Because a lady never goes barefoot?)

Furthermore, and most importantly, if she's a model, Miss From-Wherever "must produce a sworn affidavit that she is not under contract to her modelling agency and, should she win the Miss Ireland title, she will come under the exclusive management of the Miss Ireland pageant".

Beauty competitions are big business and Miss Ireland is a lucrative brand; the winners can make the organisers a fortune. And look what it did for vegan nutritionist Rosanna Davison, a looker in a Nineties Miss Texas sort of way, who went on to win Miss World, pose nude for Playboy and pop up regularly in Hello! magazine.

Ravishing Rosanna was one of model Rebecca Maguire's idols when she was growing up in west Belfast, and both girls are fine examples of intelligent beauty queens.

Since winning Miss Ireland in 2012, sultry Rebecca (23) has graduated with a degree in pharmacy and has worked for the Miss Ireland franchise, while Rosanna has written a cookbook, Eat Yourself Beautiful and built a business empire. For this year's contest, model Rebecca has been mentoring Miss Belfast and Miss Chinawhite - another two beauties with brains - but she will have to remain impartial when she joins the judging panel at the final in the Crowne Plaza Hotel near Dublin airport on Friday night.

We find out what all three have to say about beauty contests and swimwear.

Rebecca Maguire - Miss Ireland 2012

Age: 23

From: Andersonstown, Belfast

Lives: at the family home

Occupation: model/trainee pharmacist

Dating: Dublin photographer Evan Doherty

Hobbies: gym work-outs

Dress size: 8

Height: 5ft 11in

Eyes: Brown

Beauty icon: Angelina Jolie

She says:

Personally, I have never felt the competition is sexist or shallow. It has actually helped build my confidence and provided me with some amazing opportunities.

I think some people take things too seriously and are offended at any little thing these days. Don't knock it 'til you have tried it, I say.

Personally, I love the swimwear section and I will be sad to see it go. People work hard and dedicate a lot of time to look good - so why not show it off?

I hope that my best feature is my personality. I think when people see me in the Press, or see me modelling, they can judge very quickly what sort of person I am.

Often when I meet people, they say, 'Oh, you're great craic; I thought you would be this or that'. One person even said to me, 'Gosh, you don't look smart, but you are'.

You need to have your head screwed on to succeed in this industry, and the Miss Ireland judges look for intelligence, and that something extra special. It's not all about looks.

Since winning Miss Ireland in 2012, I have been involved with the organisation. After handing over my title, I was asked to work with Miss Ireland and I have an amazing relationship with the organisers, who I would class as close friends. I have been asked to run heats in Northern Ireland since I'm a native, and I hope the example of my win will encourage more girls to enter and participate in the competition.

I absolutely love being involved as a Miss Ireland ambassador and I've been asked to judge again this year, which is very exciting. We were very lucky to hold the Miss Belfast competition in Chinawhite, the nightclub which sponsors the competitors.

My win led to a life-changing experience, travelling to Mongolia and China for Miss World. Whoever wins this year is set for an amazing journey, too. Before the winner is called out, every year I get the same nervous feeling I did when I stood on the stage.

My essential accessory for my judging stint on Friday will be my Goldfever hair extensions. I can't do without them. I travel 200 miles to Dublin and back to get my hair done by Ceira Lambert each time - it's so worth it, though.

I go to the gym and eat well, Monday to Friday, although I do let my hair down at the weekend - it's all about balance. In the run-up to Miss Ireland, though, I'll maybe squeeze in an extra gym work-out the day before. As a model, you need to be swimwear-ready all year round, as you can get a call the day before. My mum will accompany me on Friday - it's her favourite time of the year.

Since I'm judging, I don't want to give too much away about what I'm wearing, but I'm a big advocate for promoting Northern Irish and Irish designers. I'll be wearing an outfit by Belfast's Una Rodden this year. We have such amazing talent here, it would be a shame not to wear our designer brands."

Nicole Killen - Miss Chinawhite 2015

Age: 22

From: Lisburn

Lives: Belfast apartment

Occupation: physiotherapist/MSc sports and exercise medicine student, Ulster University

Hobbies: gaelic football, camogie, travelling

Dress size: 6

Height: 5ft 6in

Eyes: dark blue/grey

Dating: school teacher Michael Pollock

Beauty icon: Audrey Hepburn

She says:

I'm in two minds about the no swimwear rule change in the final - in a way, it's a bit of a relief, as I've had little experience to date walking on a catwalk, let alone in swimwear, and I can appreciate the feminist critique.

However, the competition is also about beauty - both face and figure - and I believe that we should be instilling confidence into young women, rather than hiding away from it.

I really look after my body, for myself. That's how I feel comfortable and that is how I am able to compete to the level that I do in my sports. I don't think that's shallow at all, I think, in a way, that is quite an achievement.

As a sportsperson and physiotherapist, I feel that I am seen as a role model for younger women, and my aim is to present a healthy image. I respect anyone who looks after their body, as it requires a lot of dedication and hard work.

At the end of the day, my body is not perfection but, then again, what really is?

I think having a healthy glow and good skin are vital. I achieve this by drinking two to three litres of water a day and have a good skincare routine. Palmer's gradual tanning moisturiser is fantastic, as it builds a really natural glow.

I think it is equally important to look after your teeth. When I was younger I wanted braces and, when I got them, I couldn't wait to get them off - but I don't regret getting them in the slightest.

I would never have dreamed of entering a beauty competition - I wouldn't have had the confidence, before I was scouted for Miss Belfast.

I was walking through Victoria Square to my part-time job when I was approached and asked to enter. I'm almost sure my exact response was: "I play football … I can't do that."

Even though I was aware of the opportunities it could offer, it still took a lot of convincing from my family and friends before I actually went to the casting day. I'm already very competitive and if I do something, I like to do it wholeheartedly.

In the end, I plucked up the courage and just went for it. Despite my nerves, I managed to answer the questions confidently.

Since then, I have had so many different opportunities. One day, I was asked to star in a women's car insurance advertisement on RTE (its4women.ie).

It was pretty cool playing football and getting filmed, and then seeing my face on TV and in cinemas.

If I won, it would be absolutely incredible. With the extra recognition, I would be sure to promote and fund raise for charities that are close to my heart, starting with my latest fundraising initiative, the #GoodbyeKissSelfie - for Action Cancer.

My aim is to get as many people as possible to take a selfie, blowing a goodbye kiss to cancer, post it on Facebook, tag their friends and donate via my justgiving page (www.just-giving.com/nicole-killen)."

Sacha Rachael Livingstone - Miss Belfast 2015

Age: 20

From: Hillsborough

Lives: family home

Occupation: artist/student

Dating: single

Dress size: 8

Height: 5ft 9in

Eyes: Blue/green

Hobbies: horse-riding and sketching

Beauty icon: Emma Watson

She says:

Everyone is entitled to their opinion when it comes to criticism of the competition. However, as a feminist and student specialising in feminism, gender identity and equality, I believe it is not degrading for women to be seen in swimwear.

The removal of the swimwear section does allow for more focus to be on beauty with a purpose. Each beauty queen's aim is to raise as much money and awareness for their chosen charities as possible, consequently making a difference in their country and further afield.

I first heard of the competition through social media and my experience so far has been phenomenal.

Taking part in this competition has given me the profile to help raise funds and awareness for charities, which is particularly satisfying.

Meanwhile, on a personal level, my social skills and confidence have grown. The support I have received from my family and friends means the world to me.

I think my best feature would be my eyes - they're mixed colours. Actress Emma Watson is my beauty icon as, not only is she stunning, fashionable and classy, but she strives for gender equality and stands up as a feminist. She's an incredible role model and Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women.

As well as using good products, beauty sleep is essential. I try to get at least eight hours rest a night and more, if I don't have to be up too early the next day. A healthy diet is also important and I eat lots of salads, vegetables and fish. And with a forest park at my back door, I go running there - it's also very therapeutic.

My mum Pauline Livingstone and my cousin Jill Rankin will be in the audience on Friday - they are my two biggest supporters. My family believe this is an outstanding opportunity and they're so proud of me.

Of course, I want to win. I want to make a positive impact. I aim to represent the numerous aspects of the Miss Ireland contest - beauty, intelligence, empathy and caring."

Belfast Telegraph

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