Miss Northern Ireland Lauren Leckey: How dad's accident changed all our lives
In this week's interview Rachel Dean talks to Miss Northern Ireland Lauren Leckey (20), who lives in Stoneyford, Co Antrim. She also works for her dad's company, Stoneyford Concrete.
Q. Tell us about your childhood.
A. I was brought up in the countryside. The first time I went to Belfast I was 13.
I have three younger brothers, Jamie (18), Zak (17) and Lance (13), and one older sister, Kori (22). We're all of a similar age, there's only about a year or two between us, except for Lance.
My dad Trevor owns his own business, Stoneyford Concrete, and my mum Lisa is a homemaker. She always does the gardening and she loves sewing so she's always making curtains, painting, things like that.
We live on a farm, with loads of fields beside us. Imagine a straight country road: there's my granny's house, my great auntie's house, my dad's business, my house, my other granny and granda's house, my cousin's house and my other cousin's house.
There are nine houses in a row and it's all family. When we were young, me and my siblings were always playing outside with our cousins. There are streams out the back of our houses and we were always out playing in them until whatever time.
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I went to a really country primary school, I think there were about 13 pupils in my class. It was a tiny school - I think there were about 100 pupils overall.
We are such a close family. I see my brothers every day because they work on my dad's yard too. My sister Kori is at university, but she still lives at home.
Every Friday night we have dinner over at my auntie's house and there's about 12 of us there.
I see my granny and grandad every day.
My mum and my two aunties used to bring us all on holiday and there were five of us all under the age of about seven. We used to go to Center Parcs every year and it was brilliant. My dad didn't go on holiday with us much because he was working so hard.
Q. What are you most proud of?
A. Winning Miss Northern Ireland 2019 has been the highlight of my life.
I was going to go for it last year but I didn't, so I told myself to get to the gym and try it the following year. I've wanted to do it for so long that even just taking part was enough for me.
I had said that if I got into the top 10 that would be great, then they called my name to go forward and I thought, 'Maybe I could get into the top five'. When I was announced as the winner, I went into a state of shock. It was jaw-dropping. The pictures of me from that night are just comical looking because my smile was so big.
I'm also proud of my time in south Connecticut with AmeriCamp when I was 18. I was teaching the kids baking and cooking for three months. It was so much fun. I'm proud that I was able to go there by myself for so long and help children.
Q. The one regret you wish you could amend?
A. Whenever I was in school, I just didn't try enough. Although I love my job and I've always wanted to work in the yard at my dad's business, I just wish I had tried harder in school to reach my full potential.
Q. Do you have any phobias?
A. I'm really afraid of dogs. I was bitten whenever I was younger, but not badly - I just had to get an injection. Maybe it stems from that. I'm just really on edge when I'm around dogs, even small ones.
Q. The temptation you cannot resist?
A. Sweets. I love the sugary ones like Flying Saucers.
My mum is really good at baking and that's why I love baking now. Whenever we have dinner, she always has a dessert made, like cream pies or apple tarts or whatever. Whenever I go to a restaurant, I'm a main and dessert kind of girl. I just love anything sweet.
Q. Your number one prized possession?
A. At the minute, I would have to say my Crawford Clarke Mini Cooper S that I got when I won Miss Northern Ireland. I have my own car, but it's just sitting at my house now because I love my Mini so much. It's really sporty and I love driving it.
Q. The book that's most impacted your life?
A. Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul by Jack Canfield, Kimberly Kirberger and Mark Victor Hansen. It's full of life lessons and quotes and you can just pick it up and read it for daily inspiration.
Q. If you had the power or authority, what would you do?
A. I would divide out the world's wealth more. I went to Morocco and it was just so sad. There's the new town, which is filled with all the big shops, and then in the old town you will see tiny kids selling bags of rice or nuts.
It's sad to see. I think having too much money can ruin a person.
Q. What makes your blood boil every time without fail?
A. Rude and inconsiderate people. You know, if you hold the door for someone and they don't say thanks, or someone bumps into you without saying sorry. I don't like when I'm driving and I let someone out in front of me and they don't wave or flash their lights to say thanks. And I hate when people are rude to waiters. It's a lack of manners.
Q. Who has most influenced you in life?
A. Definitely my mum and dad, in different ways.
My dad works so hard for the family and for that I think he's amazing. Then, my mum has done everything for us - she's been our taxi, always made great food, takes care of us and the house and makes family holidays so special.
Q. Your top three dinner party guests, dead or alive, and why?
A. First, I would have to invite David Bowie because I'm his biggest fan ever. I must have walked two miles to find his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in LA just to get a photo with it.
Then, I would bring Elvis Presley - I've always loved him. I got an Elvis watch for my 10th birthday and it played Love Me Tender.
Then, I'd ask Sir David Attenborough because he's so interesting. I just love watching him on TV and I think he'd be a great person to meet.
Q.. The best piece of advice you ever received?
A. My mum loves quotes and she always says: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That's good advice.
Q. The unlikely interest or hobby that you love?
A. I love hiking and walking - I climb the Mournes a lot. It's not as fun going up but I love running down, it's quite an adrenaline rush. Even though I go to the gym, I'm not a big fan of it because I just love being outdoors.
I also love driving with music playing. It always clears my head.
Q. The poem that touches your heart?
A. There's one that my late granda Jim always used to say and we have it up in our house - it's called Trees.
It opens with: "I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree." It's just a lovely, short poem.
Q. The happiest moment of your life?
A. I would definitely say the moment I was crowned Miss Northern Ireland 2019 and all the lovely moments after it. If you were to ask me this again after Christmas, I would probably say going to Miss World which is in London in December.
I'm so excited. I think there's about 160 girls participating, so even to get into the Top 20 would be such an achievement.
Q. And the saddest?
A. Family deaths. My uncle Liam died last year after a massive heart attack.
My cousin Victoria would be my best friend and it was awful to see her go through something so difficult.
Q. The one event that made a difference in your life?
A. When my dad was paralysed. It has made the biggest difference in all our lives.
My dad was into motorbike racing and we always went to watch.
In 2006, we were all at the track and his bike had some sort of malfunction and he crashed. He broke his back and now he's paralysed from the waist down. If he had fallen anywhere else on the track, he probably would have died because his ribs crushed his lungs.
He was in a coma for a good while, but I don't really remember because I was only eight and my mum didn't want us to see him with all the tubes surrounding him.
Things have really changed, but we're so thankful to have him. I order my dad's prescriptions and I must make him about 12 cups of tea or coffee a day.
We have to do things differently, but it doesn't actually bother my dad being in a wheelchair. He even says himself that he can do anything that an able-bodied person can do, just in a different way.
Q. What's the ambition that keeps driving you forward?
A. To try to be the best possible version of myself and do my best in everything I do. Also, to experience as many things as possible, I'd love to travel and make progress in my job.
Q. What's the philosophy you live by?
A. Another one of my mum's quotes - our house is covered in wee sayings. She would always say: "It's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice."
My mum says that a lot of people say things to her like, "Your daughter's Miss Northern Ireland, she's so beautiful" and she will always reply, "But she's a lovely person as well".
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
A. Beautiful and fun, but most of all, a lovely person.