Belfast Telegraph

It’s not all tiaras and glamour as new Miss NI admits usual footwear is steel-toed boots

Miss Northern Ireland Lauren Leckey at the Europa Hotel in Belfast after being crowned this year’s winner
Miss Northern Ireland Lauren Leckey at the Europa Hotel in Belfast after being crowned this year’s winner
Miss Northern Ireland Lauren Leckey at the Europa Hotel in Belfast after being crowned this year’s winner
Miss Northern Ireland Lauren Leckey at the Europa Hotel in Belfast after being crowned this year’s winner
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

You may be surprised by the new Miss Northern Ireland's daytime footwear - steel toe cap boots.

So it certainly isn't going to be all tiaras and taffeta for 20-year-old Lauren Leckey who admitted that her job at her dad's concrete company often involves pottering around a yard.

But what a night to remember for the raven-haired sales rep from Stoneyford who won the coveted crown during a glittering gala event at the Europa Hotel in Belfast on Monday.

Dressed yesterday in a fetching fuchsia ensemble - comprising a high-neck, short-sleeved asymmetric top paired with tapered ankle grazers and nude court shoes - she was already attracting considerable attention early on in her new role.

First up with congratulations was Northern Irish actor and Coronation Street star Charlie Lawson who had just arrived at the hotel and was introduced to the very gracious and charming non-soap watcher Lauren by ACA Models boss and style queen Alison Campbell, who is married to golfer Darren Clarke.

"I couldn't be more delighted to meet Miss Northern Ireland! What a great way to start the day," he bellowed, posing alongside the beauty queen for a couple of photographs. Then, sitting down for the first time after finishing a professional photo shoot minutes earlier, Lauren carefully removed the golden crown - designed by Nichola Ruby and worth £5,000 - setting it down on the table in front of her.

"I don't think it's fully sank in yet... I can't believe it," she said. "I didn't get much sleep last night. When I got into the room myself it was slowly setting in and I was thinking 'Oh my goodness'... I never saw myself winning.

Miss Northern Ireland Lauren Leckey at the Europa Hotel in Belfast after being crowned this year’s winner
Miss Northern Ireland Lauren Leckey at the Europa Hotel in Belfast after being crowned this year’s winner

"You dream of it, you think it would be amazing but if anyone had ever told me when I was Miss Spice (Templepatrick) that I would be Miss Northern Ireland I never would have believed it."

She added: "When I think back to our boot camps with Alison teaching us how to walk and to stand properly and even how to look nice in the photos... I can now see how much has changed."

Lauren revealed that she was first bitten by the beauty bug when she was 15, adding: "I remember seeing Meagan Green become Miss Northern Ireland and I thought, 'Wow, I'd love to do that!'"

Her homemaker mother Lisa and father Trevor, a businessman, who are both 50, were there on Monday night to see their second oldest child take the tiara from last year's Miss Northern Ireland, nurse Katharine Walker, from Hillsborough.

Describing her parents as being "over the moon" at her success, she also revealed that her dad, who was livestreaming the event, "just dropped his camera as soon as he heard my name being called out".

Prior to the contest, Lauren spoke of how her dad's involvement in a motorbike accident in 2005 resulted in him being paralysed from the waist down.

She said: "Growing up so close to someone with a physical disability has taught me so much, and has given me so much compassion and understanding for people living with physical disabilities."

Also cheering her on at Monday's high-profile event were her grandparents Florence and Brendan, who are in their 80s, while her sister Kori (21), a chemical engineering student, brothers Jamie (18) and Zak (17), who both work in the family business, Stoneyford Concrete, and her youngest brother Lance (13), a school pupil, were flying the flag from home.

Winning Miss Northern Ireland comes with an extensive prize package, including an all-expenses-paid trip to the Miss World competition, which will take place in Pattaya City, Thailand on December 7.

Lauren Leckey with actor Charlie Lawson
Lauren Leckey with actor Charlie Lawson

And to help ensure that the former Hunter House College pupil cuts a stylish figure at Miss World, she gets to take home eight designer dresses from Rosie's Closet, while she'll also enjoy a modelling contract with ACA Models, a year's supply of beauty treatments and a Mini Cooper car.

She said: "I think it'll be amazing to go to Miss World and to have all those beautiful dresses to wear in the competition!"

There's also some good news for the young workmen at the Europa who were visibly taken by Lauren's undeniable beauty on Tuesday morning, as well as her many other male admirers out there - she is currently single.

Miss Northern Ireland Lauren Leckey at the Europa Hotel in Belfast after being crowned this year’s winner
Miss Northern Ireland Lauren Leckey at the Europa Hotel in Belfast after being crowned this year’s winner

Asked what qualities are important in a prospective suitor, she replied: "Someone well grounded who has got big aspirations and is smart and kind."

Lauren revealed that she wrote a poem "all about the Miss Northern Ireland experience", which helped her secure the crown, adding "all the girls really liked it; they said it was a poem about us".

And for her, like the other entrants, the competition is "much more than a beauty contest".

"If people looked into it properly they would see how many smart girls are here - we had doctors and lawyers and nurses," Lauren said.

"It's not just a beauty pageant, it's a role - it's about being someone for other people to look up to. And it's not just for the year - but for years and years to come. That's a responsibility I'm going to take very seriously."

Lauren said she hopes to be a true inspiration to younger girls who are thinking about following in her footsteps.

"My job isn't very glamorous; it's in a yard, so I want to show that I can go into work in a pair of steel toe cap boots and then come out and be in a formal dress that night," she said.

"I want to show that you can do anything if you put your mind to it."

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