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My people: Leanne McDowell on her special relationships

By Kerry McKittrick

The newly-crowned Miss Northern Ireland Leanne McDowell (19) is originally from Cookstown but lives in Newtownabbey.

My best friends

The first is called Olivia Allen. We met in fifth year at Cookstown High School. We'd been in the same year the whole way through school, but it wasn't until a health and social care class that we actually became friends.

Olivia has now moved to Scotland to live with her dad but she still phones me every night without fail.

My second friend is Alex Reid who lives in Kent. We've known each other since we were born because our mums are best friends.

She moved to Kent when she was in primary seven, but she still comes home and we talk all the time.

She has an English accent now, but she gets her Northern Irish one back when we talk on the phone.

My mentors

Last year's Miss Northern Ireland Rebekah Shirley is definitely my mentor.

If there's ever a job to go to she can tell me where to go, what to wear and what to expect. She's always there to help and she's a great mentor. She's very into health, keeping fit and eating right.

For anything to do with make-up I go to my other friend Olivia Hutton, who's a model. She's one of the few people I told about entering Miss Northern Ireland after my parents.

She really knows what she's talking about when it comes to make-up and loves the competition as much as I do.

My parents, Elaine and Mark

My mum works for Age NI and my dad works for a marketing company - he's originally from Liverpool.

I'm the only child so I'm very close to my family and mum and dad were really the only ones I told about entering the Miss Northern Ireland contest, apart from Olivia.

They're very proud of me and I could see my mum crying from the side of the stage when I was being crowned. My dad has been getting all the papers and sending out pictures to everyone.

I'm taking a year out from my marketing degree to be Miss NI, but after I graduate I want to expand an online fashion business I started last year. Ultimately I would like to design my own label.

Person I go to for advice

That is certainly always my mum for anything from finances to boyfriends. She's the most sensible person I know.

My celebrity crush

It has to be Jamie Dornan. I even put him up as my man crush on Twitter the other day in the hope that he would retweet me. He hasn't yet.

Fantasy dinner party

Marilyn Monroe would be my first guest. Not just because she was a model, actress and a cultural icon, but also because she was a business woman in her own right and managed her own production company. I would love to pick her brains about that.

Next I would ask the fashion icon Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel as she's my fashion idol.

Then I would ask Zoe Salmon to host the dinner party - she hosted the Miss Northern Ireland competition and was brilliant at it.

Finally I would ask Patrick Kielty. I met him at the Irish Open recently and he was so funny. It would be nice to sit and talk to him.

Belfast Telegraph


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