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Leanne McDowell: 'I've got pictures of former Miss Northern Ireland winners on my wall. I said to myself, I want to do that one day'

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 13/05/2015

Leanne McDowell at a photoshoot yesterday in Belfast
Leanne McDowell at a photoshoot yesterday in Belfast
Leanne with her mother Elaine
Leanne McDowell after winning Miss NI

She's drop dead gorgeous with a head for business and a huge heart to help others.

The moment the Miss Northern Ireland tiara was placed on Leanne McDowell's head was something she had already envisaged in her "dream board" - a visual representation of her goals.

"I've always wanted to win Miss Northern Ireland," the teenager told the Belfast Telegraph the morning after being crowned.

"I've got pictures of Rebekah Shirley (the last Miss NI) on a dream board on top of my bed as well as other winners in their bikini shoots.

"I thought: 'I want to do that some day'.

"I wasn't expecting to win it but I did want to be part of the competition.

"So I can't believe that it's all came true, it still feels unreal."

Leanne has revealed that there's so much more to her than the title she won at Monday's final.

At just 19, the Newtownabbey woman is already running her own online fashion business as well as co-founding a charity with her mother Elaine.

Leanne stole the show at the glittering final with her winning combination of brains, beauty, and personality.

"My mum was so proud when I won. I think she was crying nearly as much as I was," she said.

"She was so pleased for me, but I worked really hard for it.

"I started personal training back in October and I started to eat better and work out every night."

From selling her own clothes on eBay as a young girl, Leanne now runs the fledgling Pretty Dolly online fashion and accessory business.

While some other students are out partying, Leanne has her eyes firmly on expanding her business.

"I always knew that I wanted to start a business, as I wanted a story to be able to talk about," said Leanne.

"It's all about e-commerce now and one of my recent posts received 1.1m hits overnight."

She plans to take a year off as a marketing student at Ulster University in order to fulfil her official duties as Miss NI.

The stunning blonde - who is 5ft 8in tall with a size 8 figure - is also doing a charity skydive next month in aid of Age NI, where her mum works.

An only child, Leanne and Elaine have been running their charity Clear - which helps sufferers with chronic skin conditions - for the last two years.

Both have overcome their own skin problems, Leanne with eczema and her mum with sclerosis.

She said: "My mum has had sclerosis for 23 years. She was so bad with it that she was hospitalised once for two weeks.

"She learnt how to clear herself through natural therapies such as taking seaweed baths, using natural oils and following a diet plan.

"And once she was able to clear it, she wanted to help other people.

"I've had eczema last year, it was very bad and was everywhere on me.

"I knew I couldn't enter Miss NI last year until I got my skin clear.

"So I followed a diet plan and had my seaweed baths and followed everything that my mum said.

"It took some time but it gradually cleared me, so we both can identify with the issues that others have."

However, Leanne may have to redo her dream board as there is something special she still has yet to achieve.

"I've had a black Mini on my dream board, too, so I'll be working towards that by trying to get more orders and more products in order to expand my customer base," she said.

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