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Student Voices

Student Spotlight: life as a pageant girl

By UALHalls 01 Mar 2022

Leah Gribbin, one of our wonderful Hall Reps joined the pageantry world in 2020, competing in the 'National Miss' awards.

Within her role, she also takes part in philanthropic work raising awareness for mental health. We spoke to Leah to find out more!

What are you studying and what made you come to UAL?

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'I’m studying Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear at LCF. I had wanted to study at UAL since my GCSEs because of its reputation, I applied for this course during my foundation degree after spending a lot of time researching. I decided on UAL not just because of its reputation but because the work that was being produced represented the type of designer I wanted to be.'

How did you you first get into the pageant world?

'I first got into pageants back in 2020, I needed to find something to put my focus into and work towards. The main reason however, was to find new people to connect with and grow my confidence.  The first pageant I competed in was UK's 'National Miss' as a teen and will be returning this year as a Miss.'

What does being a pageant girl involve?

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'Being a pageant girl is about being a positive change in the world and being a role model for others. Almost all pageant girls focus on working in their community, working on their platform. This is a topic that each girl finds important to them which they raise awareness for, I personally have a focus on mental health. Pageant girls also raise money for charity as a part of their time as a finalist or title holder. As a pageant girl, I personally spend a lot of time training. I work with a coach to perfect my walk and interview skills so that I can feel confident and ready to compete. I also spend a lot of time picking the perfect competition wardrobe.'

How does being a pageant girl differ from some of the stereotypes people might have of them?

'People view pageant girls in a very superficial way based on false stereotypes they may have seen in movies. Pageant girls aren’t obsessed with looking perfect, going on constant diets or being rude and self-obsessed. We can look like anyone - I personally know many amazing queens that are plus sized, disabled and don’t fit the stereotype. In the pageant community we are also very close, that we call it a sisterhood. The community are so welcoming and supportive and nothing like the mean girl image people think of.'

Why is raising mental health awareness so important to you?

'As someone who has struggled with their mental health and has experienced so many different areas of the system, I know how isolating it can feel. I raise awareness for mental health because I want people to know that there are others out there who understand and that you are not alone. I create livestreams every Monday talking to a different person each week about different areas of the mental health system, I wanted each episode to cover something different so everyone will have something to relate to. So far, I have covered topics like eating disorders, loss and bereavement and issues with pre- and post-partum mental health.'

Which causes do you work with?

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'The charity that I personally fundraise for is the Christie Cancer Charity who use the money for a range of projects and initiatives focusing on four main areas: research, care and treatment, education and extra patient services. These services are above and beyond what the NHS provide, enabling The Christie to give their patients the best care and treatment possible during this incredibly difficult experience. Last year I raised just over £600 for them and hope to fundraise for them again this year.

This year another charity that I will be supporting is A-Sisterhood which is a UK-based organisation that seeks to empower, support and protect women worldwide. They support causes such as stopping acid attacks.'

What are your future plans and dreams?

'I have future life and career plans that I am working towards as I am a very driven person who sets a lot of goals. Currently however, my biggest goal is bringing home the UK's 'National Miss' crown in July. I have been giving this my all and feel so prepared to take on this challenge to achieve what I want.'

How do you manage your time alongside full-time studies and your role as a Rep?

'It is difficult to be able to fit everything in that I want to do, but all these things are important to me. I put aside time for each thing so that I can just focus on one at a time. This means I don’t have to worry about being unable to achieve all that I want. I look at what I want to achieve in my long term and short-term goals, and why I want to achieve them, this gives me the motivation every day to work towards them even when things seem hard.'

You can follow Leah's journey through her Instagram and find out more about her podcast and other work.

Do you have a story to tell, or are you working on a project that you'd like to share? Our Student Spotlight series is just the place for you! For more information, DM us (@UAL_HallsLife) on Instagram. We'd love to hear from you!