Belfast Telegraph

My Miss World Diary: Miss NI Katherine Walker on her packed schedule ahead of the big contest

The children's intensive care nurse (23), from Hillsborough, reveals what goes on behind the scenes at the global event

By Stephanie Bell

She is almost 5,000 miles away from home and is making Northern Ireland proud as she represents her country in this year's Miss World contest in China.

Katharine Walker is one of 120 beautiful women hoping to be crowned Miss World 2018 at this Saturday's ceremony.

After completing four night shifts in a row in her job as a children's nurse, she boarded a plane for the long trip to Sanya on November 8.

Since arriving in China, she has been taking part in the contest's different stages, but it's been anything but easy work.

Katharine has been starting each day at 6am, her duties including hectic rounds of engagements and activities and giving media interviews - not to mention making new friends along the way.

Here, she gives Belfast Telegraph readers an exclusive glimpse of what it is like to compete in the contest.

Speaking from China, Katharine says: "I'm having the time of my life. It's like nothing I've ever experienced before, and I'm unlikely to again, so I'm trying to make the most of every day."

The 23-year-old Queen's University graduate, from Hillsborough, is in an environment that couldn't be more different to her day-to-day life on a children's intensive care ward in the Royal Victoria Hospital, where she has worked for the past two years.

Most beauty queens take a year off work to fulfil their duties, but Katharine has continued to combine her job with the demands of being Miss Northern Ireland.

She's now competing for the biggest crown of all, and has been loving every minute of it.

"I'm having an absolute ball," she says. "The girls in my team are all brilliant. I've got really close to the girls from the UK, Ireland, USA, Mexico, New Zealand, Guam and Philippines.

"It's been such an experience to see women from all around the world come together, all so different in background and personality, but similar in so many ways too.

"I have loved learning about the different cultures - not just Chinese culture, but from the other girls too.

"I cannot wait for the final show, but it will be bittersweet because I don't want this experience to end.

"I feel like I've genuinely made friends for life, just like I did in the Miss Northern Ireland contest."

Katharine grew up in Hillsborough, Co Down. Her dad, Fred, was a civil servant, and her mum, Wendy, was self-employed. Both are now retired.

She attended Friends' School in Lisburn before studying nursing at Queen's University. Currently single, she enjoys playing hockey and tennis in her spare time.

Winning Miss Northern Ireland was something that had been on her mind.

She entered the contest for the first time in 2017, finishing in the top 10. "I won Miss Personality, which was very special to me because it was the other girls who voted for it," Katharine says.

She had such a great experience that she decided to have another go this year.

Katharine won Miss Horatio Todd's during the heats, and was thrilled when the crown was passed to her from last year's winner, Anna Henry, with whom she shared a stage in 2017.

Plans to relocate to Australia for 12 months to work in a Melbourne hospital have been put on hold, with her reign stretching into next year.

As well as a modelling contract with the ACA Model Agency, she won a year's supply of beauty treatments, a bespoke personal training package, the use of a car for a year and, of course, her trip to the Miss World contest.

A top team of professionals from Northern Ireland have been helping Katharine prepare for her big night to ensure that she looks her very best.

She was training hard in Think Fit gym on the Lisburn Road in Belfast in the run-up to Miss World.

She also became a regular at the city's Bronze, where she got her favourite beauty treatments including gel nails, waxing and Insanity Tan spray.

Make-up artist Paddy McGurgan, who has a column in the Belfast Telegraph's Weekend Magazine, has been teaching her beauty queen make-up tips at his Make-up Pro Store, and she also learnt how to get the perfect blow dry and colour from Michele International.

Local boutique Rosie's Closet ensured that Katharine was looking her best with a range of dresses which her new Miss World friends have admired.

A series of stunning pictures on social media capturing the highlights of her trip so far are being followed by thousands at home.

It has been a busy but memorable experience.

"A day usually starts about 6am, when all the girls are up for breakfast, then every day is so different," Katharine says.

"Some days we are in rehearsals, learning choreography for our opening dance routine, and other days we are out on excursions, being shown around Sanya and Haikou.

"Often, when we are out and about, there will be a lot of media, so there can be impromptu interviews.

"We are like celebrities here, which is a novelty."

A fantastic ambassador for Northern Ireland, Katharine has been giving her new friends an insight into her home country, which she admits to missing greatly.

"I miss my family and friends, but the only thing I'm really homesick for is a good cup of tea," Katharine says.

"I really hope I've done Northern Ireland proud. I've been trying to teach the girls about our slang and telling them all about our country, from the Titanic and Game of Thrones to all of the major sporting events that we hold.

"I've been showing them pictures of places like the north coast. They can't get over how beautiful our coastline is."

Katharine has also fallen in love with China.

Sanya, where she is based, is known internationally as the Oriental Hawaii because it is summery all year round.

While temperatures plummet at home, she is making the most of the heat abroad.

Katharine says: "China is absolutely spectacular - where we are especially is like a tropical paradise.

"It's a bit warmer than I'm used to, but I can't complain because I'm sure it's much more pleasant than at home.

"The people are extremely welcoming. I also got to see a panda. They're my favourite animal in the whole world, so that was fantastic."

Katharine is thrilled by the support, which is helping keep her home sickness at bay.

She says: "I really would like to thank everyone who has followed me on social media. I am genuinely overwhelmed by how supportive everyone is."

Katharine’s account of her hectic, but enjoyable, first five days in China

Day 1

Arrived in Sanya after a 12.5 hour flight to Hong Kong and a two-hour flight to the island of Hainan. It was a nice surprise that I was sitting beside Miss Ireland on the way to Hong Kong and have her company.

In Hong Kong you could spot who the Miss World contestants were because of how glam they were, even after all the travelling. We arrived in Sanya at about noon and met with more contestants. We were then taken to our rooms. The resort is absolutely huge and stunning.

We have a beautiful view of the resort from the pool. It's very, very warm, a pleasant change from the weather I left at home. We settled into the hotel and, to be honest, I slept most of the day.

I set alarms, but the jet lag and the fact I'd flown after four night duties in the hospital meant that I slept right through them.

Day 2

I got up and had breakfast with Miss Ireland, Miss Philippines and Miss Germany. I also met the other UK girls. We are all in the blue team, so it was a good thing I brought blue lipstick with me. This is not a usual shade I'd pick, but something told me to pack it.

We relaxed around the hotel, went to the pool, and mingled with other girls who arrived throughout the day. It's so funny in the hotel as we are like celebrities, always having our picture taken by other hotel guests.

Day 3

Today we filmed short introduction videos for the Miss World website. The hair and make-up teams had a tough job because all of our make-up was melting in the heat and hairspray was no match for the weather.

We then had auditions for Dances of the World. Last year's winner, Anna Henry, taught me a simple Irish dance routine, which we put together to a remixed Game of Thrones soundtrack. This was because my costume design was inspired by Game of Thrones and Celtic fairytales.

We then had an impromptu interview with the Chinese media. Such a whirlwind of a day, but I'm loving every minute of it.

Day 4

Today we went to a beach and got picked at random into our head-to-head challenge groups. This is where we sit on a panel with our fellow contestants and answer questions. My name was one of the last to be called. I was put in group 17 with Malta, Spain, Aruba, Mexico and Russia. Quite a tough group. Hopefully I get good questions!

Day 5

Today we started into rehearsals. I can't detail any of the songs or routines because it's a surprise, but the opening dance is just really spectacular. I'm in the front row as well, so be sure to look out for me.

Rehearsals went on all day, but it was great to mix with different groups of people during it.

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