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Best of friends... but pageant beauties will fight it out for Miss World crown

By Maureen Coleman

They are both beauty queens and university students who became good friends after meeting on Northern Ireland's modelling circuit.

But Tiffany Brien and Rebecca Maguire will be putting their friendship to one side when they go up against each other in China next month in a bid to be crowned this year's Miss World.

Tiffany (21), who comes from Holywood, Co Down, is representing Northern Ireland in the beauty pageant, while 20-year-old Belfast model Rebecca is flying the flag for the Republic.

Miss Northern Ireland winner Tiffany, a marketing student at the University of Ulster, is a keen sportswoman and sailor, who was selected as a member of the Irish Olympic sailing team.

But she relinquished her chance to represent Ireland at the Games after deciding to take a break from competitive racing.

The current Irish number one in the Women's Laser Radial class, who is the daughter of BTWCairns director Simon Brien and a model with ACA, entered the Miss Northern Ireland competition for the first time last year and was thrilled to come back and clinch the title this year.

“When I took time out last year I entered Miss Northern Ireland as a distraction,” she said. “To come back and win this year is amazing. I gave it 100% and I'm thrilled.

“I can't wait to see what this coming year holds for me and am so excited about representing Northern Ireland at Miss World.”

Before Tiffany headed off to China she took part in a charity challenge with adventurer and athlete Mark Pollock, who lost his sight at the age of 22 and was then paralysed in a fall two years ago.

The pair set off in a Skud boat from Belfast Lough to Scotland to raise funds for the Mark Pollock Trust.

But while Tiffany secured her place in the Miss World finals without controversy, it wasn't all plain sailing for Belfast’s Miss Ireland Rebecca Maguire.

The stunning brunette, who is on the books of Belfast model agency Style Academy, finally received her crown following a faltering start to her reign.

The second-year pharmacy student won her place in China after Marie Hughes was deposed for being too old.

Her title bid was also put in jeopardy after it was revealed she has a crucifix tattoo on her ankle, which goes against Miss World regulations.

However, athletics fans Rebecca later insisted that she was still allowed to take part in the pageant.

Both local girls arrived in China on July 18 for a month of training, filming and rehearsals.

Their itinerary will also include visits to Hong Kong, Sanya and Shanghai. The Miss World final will then take place on August 18, with around 120 hopefuls taking part.

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