First Published August 2017
THE FACE OF A MODERN MISS UNIVERSE
Whenever people mention something like the Miss Universe pageant it’s usually the same old prejudices that first – and fast – spill forth. The most obvious ‘sure-all-that-is’ that’s launched forward from the pulpit of the Know-it-all-ery being the somewhat lazy comparison to the infamous ‘Lovely Girls’ contest in Father Ted. And while there’s no doubt that particular episode was twenty-four carat comedy gold, neither can anyone deny that the Ireland, and the particular kind of contest that episode sought to make light of, was one of a bygone era.
Delve a little deeper beneath the surface of this year’s Miss Universe Ireland finalists, however, and you’ll find singer/songwriters, fashion bloggers, motivational speakers, actors, and entrepreneurs in the running. In fact, such is the genuine depth of talent that this pageant now offers a platform to, that you can even find all of the above wrapped up in just one of the finalists in this year’s contest, and that young lady is Dubliner Hannah Hawkshaw. We’ll be chatting with Hannah again in the not too distant future about how a twenty year old can successfully keep so many plates spinning all at once, but when we met for coffee last week, we focused on her forthcoming appearance in this year’s Miss Universe Ireland Final in the Round Room of the Mansion House in Dublin this coming Thursday evening, August 31st.
I began by asking Hannah why she decided to become involved in the contest in the first place….
“I’ve always wanted to do something like it but I’d never had the confidence to apply for it. This year I actually met the director, Brittany Mason, at a fashion event, and then I went away and decided to really have a look at what Miss Universe Ireland is all about. I just felt like the timing was right [to enter], and it was something that could be a great new experience, so I wanted to put myself forward for it. But I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that I’d been selected as a finalist. Now the final is in a week! So yeah, I’m very, very excited for it to come around.”
So what’s life like for someone who is a potential representative of Ireland at the Miss Universe Final?
“Well so far there’s been a few different photo-shoots, for sponsors and things like that around the event. We’ve also had our official head-shot photo-shoot which was great, we got to work with a great photographer, Aaron Hurley of Zero One Salon, and also the Make Up For Ever team who helped us prepare for it. Again, it was something I haven’t had the opportunity to do too much of, modelling, but it definitely sparked an interest for me. I really enjoyed being on-set, and getting to meet such creative people was really exciting. Lately I’ve been prepping for the final by working out a lot, eating right, trying to make sure I’m as prepared as possible for the bikini segment of the show [laughs]. But also just thinking a lot. Having this opportunity has made me think a lot about things I’d like to go on and achieve in life, and with my career. One of the things we had to do was send in a booklet of information answering questions like what would we do if we were to win. For me, this was a big part of the experience. Because I think as a young person it’s important to think ahead about your life and career, even though it may not seem like the most glamorous thing to do.”
So what will tomorrow night’s final, in front of a ‘live’ audience at the Mansion House, involve?
“Well I actually don’t know every single detail yet about what’s going to happen. But there’ll be the opening sequence where we present ourselves with the dress sponsors, Starla Dress Boutique, and the shoe sponsors, Shoes By Chavez out of Toronto. From there, there’ll be a bikini segment and also an evening gown section, not sure in what order. Then the winner will be crowned! But the day before there’s a very important section which is the interview process. Every finalist will have an interview with the judges where we could be asked anything in relation to topical issues in Ireland or around the world. So that’s going to be quite an interesting process, I’m sure. So we need to make sure we stay up to date with current events so that we can be sure of our opinions on things. And hopefully, confidently portray those views, too.”
As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, for a lot of people (but not myself, might I add) something like the Miss Universe contest or the Rose of Tralee used to equate almost directly to the ‘Lovely Girls’ contest in Father Ted. So I wondered if, for someone who has developed such a varied and impressive personal skill-set as Hannah, this presented any inner conflict about becoming involved? Possibly jeopardising the time and effort already invested in areas which, for the most part, are perhaps more traditionally accepted as being skilled, or of greater value, in comparison to being part of a pageant?
“You know what, it didn’t really enter my mind, to be honest. But I think that, for one thing, it’s made me realise how much of a stigma surrounds pageantry. A lot of people, I think, associate it with ‘Toddlers And Tiaras’ [the tv show], and all that orange fake tan, and crazy hair! [laughs]. But from my experience so far, and from looking into the Miss Universe organisation, I’ve come to realise that it’s an amazing platform for young women to have, not just to speak about issues that are important to them, but also to launch a career from. A lot of very successful women have come through the Miss Universe organisation. So for me, I suppose it was a chance to get my name out there a little more. But also for confidence. I think, for example, having to challenge yourself to walk down a runway in a bikini is something that I would never, in my wildest dreams, have considered myself doing at this point in my life, you know. It’s not really your kind of everyday, ordinary thing, is it! [laughs]. But we all need to challenge ourselves, whatever that challenge may be for each individual. For me, this whole experience is a big challenge, but one I’m excited to take part in. Overcoming confidence issues was a big thing for me in my past, so this will be a nice milestone. With pageantry, it’s very much about who the whole person is, their views, and not just about what somebody looks like. I know it sounds cheesy, but it really is about what’s on the inside, and what someone can bring to the role. Because essentially, you’re becoming an ambassador for the organisation. So for me, it’s a very positive platform to be in a position to utilise.”
Hannah mentioned earlier in our conversation that part of the selection process involved detailing some of the things finalists would like to do if the were crowned Miss Universe Ireland. So how did Hannah answer that question?
“I would really love to use the platform to talk about issues like mental health and bullying. But specifically mental health. I think the mind is the most powerful tool that we have. Whether it’s with illness, or confidence, or bullying, whatever you’re going through, I think your mind can be your greatest help or your greatest enemy. It can so easily swing either way. I think young people especially need to be prepared and equipped like this, through schools, or social media campaigns, whatever way we can help people. Both young and older people need it, but more specifically younger people because we’re growing up in an age where social media is so prominent, and we’re constantly looking at people living ‘great’ lives and comparing ourselves. We need to learn to be our own rock. And your mindset plays a big role in that. From my own experiences, and my mindset about things and the way I’ve overcome certain obstacles in my life, they’ve all stemmed from learning more about mental health and how you can help yourself. So really, I’d love to use the Miss Universe Ireland platform to highlight any topics that need to be highlighted in our society.”
We’ve already had a Miss World, so why not a Miss Universe, too? If Hannah gets that opportunity, I have no doubt she’d do us all proud. But regardless of what happens tomorrow night, I think Ireland, the world, and the universe, will have only just begun to see the best of this young Dubliner.