Cherie crowned Miss Northern Ireland
The new Miss Northern Ireland was almost speechless when she stepped up to receive her crown at the Europa Hotel in Belfast.
And that's because Cherie Gardiner, a 17-year-old student at Glengola Collegiate in Bangor, had literally lost her voice. But Ulster's new glamorous ambassador took it all in her stride at the big gala final of Ulster's premier beauty contest.
"It just hasn't sank in yet. I'm absolutely thrilled and can't believe it," she said.
Asked what made her enter the competition, Cherie, a 6ft blonde, said: "I think you have to go for everything once in your life. I had just hit the age that you are allowed to enter and I thought I might as well go for it."
Outgoing Miss Northern Ireland Judith Wilson will always remember the event for a different reason - other than it being the night she passed on her title.
For earlier yesterday her boyfriend proposed to her while they were on a trip up the Big Wheel in Belfast.
"I'm still on cloud nine. It's something we'd talked about but something I hadn't planned for today, so it was totally out of the blue."
Judith said her year as Miss Northern Ireland had been 'a whirlwind'.
"Cherie is a very lucky girl. She'll have an absolute ball. Later this year she'll be off to Miss World, which is just a truly fascinating experience."
Competition organiser Alison Campbell, herself a former Miss Northern Ireland, said this year had seen the highest standard of entrants she could remember since she first started running the event in 1987.
"The girls are all-rounders. They are gorgeous, intelligent and have loads of talent. They also have the commitment and the personality. They just have everything that it takes. It makes it so hard to win a competition like this nowadays," she said.