Why Miss Northern Ireland Meagan Green is feeling on top of the world
The final of Miss World is not until Saturday but already Lisburn girl Meagan Green is living her dream just by being part of the contest, as she tells Stephanie Bell from Bali
In just two days' time, Miss Northern Ireland Meagan Green will live her dream when she steps out on to the stage in Bali as a contestant in the Miss World final.
Even after four weeks of lavish VIP treatment by her Indonesian hosts the Lisburn girl says she still quite can't believe her childhood fantasy has come true.
And with the final now so close, you can almost feel her excitement building as she talks down the line from her luxury hotel room on the other side of the world.
"I can't believe that the final is just a couple of days away. I'm really excited," she says. "I've watched the contest every year since I was a child and it's always been a dream to be part of it and now I am and it still feels a bit surreal. I can't wait, Saturday night will be a dream come true.
"Everyone hopes and dreams they will be the next Miss World but at the end of the day there are 130 girls and I'm just so pleased to have the opportunity to be here and represent Northern Ireland, whatever happens."
Since arriving in Indonesia at the start of September, the 23-year-old business management student has emerged as a real contender for the coveted crown among 130 of the world's most beautiful women.
She has competed in a number of rounds including swimsuit, talent, national dress, top model and fitness, where she made the final.
Whatever happens on Saturday night, the past four weeks have been an experience which the student says she will never forget and will always be grateful she had.
As well as rehearsals, the world's top beauty queens have been enjoying many of Bali's beautiful sights including the Bali Safari Park, the famous Besakih Temple and the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park.
They got to release baby turtles into the sea and also doves and white balloons at an event celebrating World Peace Day.
But of all the glamour and celebrity surrounding the trip, it is the simple things – making friends and experiencing new cuisine – that have most impressed the local farmer's daughter.
"I've had the most incredible time. I haven't travelled much so it is an experience in itself just to be here," says Meagan.
"It is just paradise and the people are amazing, they can't do enough for you.
"My Christmas card list has quadrupled.
"Even though the girls are from different countries and backgrounds, we are all more or less the same in that we are at the same stage in our lives and pretty much aiming for the same things.
"You are forced to live together for four weeks and spend all your time together and I've met girls and made friends from parts of the world where I never believed I would ever meet anyone.
"I have made friends for life, especially with Miss Wales Gabrielle Shaw and Miss USA Olivia Jordan. We've just really bonded and have already planned holidays together next year.
"It feels like you've got sisters. I was never overly close to a lot of girls even though I went to an all-girl school so it has been one of the best parts of the experience for me."
As the girls have gotten to know each other over the weeks, there has been a lot of friendly banter at meal times over Miss Northern Ireland's healthy appetite.
A country girl who likes to keep fit and eat healthy, Meagan has been thrilled to find the Indonesian cuisine to her liking.
She says: "I am a bit of a foodie and I've got my dad's appetite, although thankfully not his figure.
"There is so much fresh fruit and vegetables here that it definitely hasn't been a challenge filling my plate at meal times.
"The other girls are keeping me going about how much I eat and I've had a fair bit of stick about my tea-drinking as well. I always have to have my cup of tea at night and they are winding me up about it, but I explained that it is an Irish thing."
The girls have been working hard in rehearsals for the final and earlier this week one of the final rounds, top model, proved another highlight for Meagan. "They had the most amazing stage and production I have ever seen, so much work went into it and we had to wear Indonesian costumes for part of it which was brilliant. That is definitely something that I will never forget. It was just incredible and I can't wait to see the photographs," she says.
"We've been doing a lot of rehearsing in the last two weeks. It is a live final so there is no room for error and it has meant long days which have been jam-packed, but every bit of it has been wonderful."
The contest was slightly overshadowed when protests by Islamic groups forced organisers to move the event to Bali from Jakarta, Indonesia's capital city on Java.
While the vast majority of Muslims in Indonesia are moderate, the hard-liners also succeeded in forcing organisers to scrap the bikini round and replace it with a swimsuit round with contestants wearing a traditional sarong to cover up, in keeping with local sensibilities.
Meagan believes the decision to move the contest was welcomed by all of the girls and their families."We are all fully aware of the protests that have been going on and everyone was very thankful and pleased they decided to move us to Bali," she says.
"Our security and safety has been the number one priority and we have been kept nice and safe since we arrived."
Thoughts now are on the final and home. Meagan leaves on Sunday and arrives back in Dublin airport on Monday and she says she can't wait to see her family and friends.
"This week was a bit strange because some of the other girls' families have been arriving.
"Seeing them being reunited with their family and friends has made me want to see mine all the more.
"I have been speaking to my family virtually every other day and they have been following the competition.
"They are planning a Miss World party on Saturday at my parents' house when all our family and friends will gather to watch the final."
This year for the first time the public can vote for their favourite contestant through a new Miss World app.
The contestant who gets the most votes will win the People's Choice Award.
Meagan says: "That's the one that everyone wants to win because it is the public who will decide, so please, please everyone in Northern Ireland and anywhere in the world, download the app and vote for me."
Meagan says she will be aiming to do Northern Ireland proud when she steps onto the stage on Saturday night.
"It has been an incredible year and I'm very proud to stand on the Miss World stage as an ambassador for Northern Ireland and promote our beautiful country," she adds.
How to make Meagan a winner
Everyone in Northern Ireland can do their bit to help Meagan put the province on the global map on Saturday by voting for her to win the new People's Choice Award.
It is the first time ever the public has been given the chance to vote for their favourite contestant and Miss Northern Ireland is hoping the province will get behind her.
All you have to do is download the new Miss World app. It costs just 69p and entitles you to two votes.
The contestant who gets the most votes from the public wins the People's Choice Award and automatically gains entry into the final round.
As well as that, the highest ranked UK contestant automatically becomes Miss United Kingdom, so Meagan is hoping for as much support as possible from Northern Ireland.
The final of Miss World 2013 will be broadcast on Sunday, September 29 from 5pm-7pm on E! but you can watch it live on at 12:30pm UK time on the Miss World website: www.missworld.com/LiveStream/