Outraged Wigan beauty queens have spoken out in support of a contender who handed back her title after being told to lose weight.
Zoiey Smale, who is a size 10, was due to represent the UK at the Miss United Continents competition in Ecuador next month, but gave up her crown after contest organisers asked her to “lose as much weight as she could” to be in with a chance of winning the international prize.
And two Wigan pageant competitors have voiced their support for the 28-year-old from Nottinghamshire, who announced she would be taking a break from the pageant circuit after the controversial incident.
Bethany Dove, who was Miss Bolton and Bury 2016/17, said: “I commend Zoiey for handing back her crown.
“I’m sure it will have been devastating for her.
“But raising the point of such unestablished pageants is important as they represent the opposite of what reputable pageants have worked so hard to distance themselves from.”
The 21-year-old from Whelley, who is also a size 10, added: “I have never had any pressure put on me about my weight and, if I did, I would not have spoken so highly about the organisation that I am so proudly apart of and continue to represent.
“We continuously try to promote that we are a confidence building system, with absolutely no pressure on your body shape or size.”
Sophia Hardman, a plus-size model from Marsh Green, said: “We’re trying to promote body-positive images with young women, and to tell a size 10 woman that she needs to lose weight to compete is disgusting. She is perfect as she is, that’s what we should all accept.
“There’s no need to change ourselves for anyone else unless we want to do it for ourselves.”
Bethany and Sophia both issued similar advice to anyone unsure of entering pageants for fear of the same treatment as Zoiey’s.
“I can’t stress enough to anyone interested in pageants that you research well the competition that you are getting into,” Bethany said. “As part of my role last year as the reigning Miss Bolton and Bury, was to judge another Miss England heat: Miss Cheshire.
“I feel that makes me the right person to assure anyone that nowhere on the judging criteria is there anything about your appearance, your walk, your figure or your looks. It’s simply your presence, personality, willingness to be involved in your community and how charitable you are.”
Sophia added: “It’s a case of women looking into the pageants they are entering first, researching its history and thinking if it’s something they want to stand for.”
Zoiey told MailOnline: “Out of the blue, it was really random, she rang me and said ‘I’ve had some feedback from the international director.’ I was like, ‘OK, fine I’m always open to new ideas’. She tried to put it tactfully but I knew exactly what she was getting at.
“She said to me ‘They want you to go on a diet plan and they want you to lose as much weight as possible for the finals.’ I was like, ‘pardon?’
“It was one of those things, in the 21st century you don’t actually expect people to be that blunt.”
She said the request “hurt like hell.”