A Wigan woman who took up pageantry to combat mental health issues has been crowned the winner of an international competition.
Jessica Ferguson, from Ashton, first got into beauty pageants as a way of dealing with low self-esteem.
After applying for a borough-wide competition four years ago, the 21-year-old has continued to impress judges, this year being named Miss Belle International 2019/2020 in Spain.
“A few years ago I was really struggling with my mental health and needed something to make me feel better about myself, something to rebuild my confidence,” said the former Cansfield High student. “I saw on Facebook a local ad for Miss Wigan beauty.
“I contacted the lady and started from there. I loved the day, even though I was petrified.
“But I made one of my longest best pageant friends from that pageant, Emma, who won the Miss Curve International title in Spain with me.”
In August 2017, after only two years in the business, Jessica was announced as a finalist for the Miss Belle UK pageant in Blackpool.
As part of her journey, Jessica – who works as a shop assistant – has raised more than £1,100 for the Ronald McDonald charity, which provides accommodation for families of sick children at Alder Hey Hospital.
In the past year alone, Jessica has been working hard holding fund-raisers and making appearances to generate another £750 for the charity.
After Jessica successfully clinched the UK title, she was entered into the competition in Spain for the international crown, and was delighted to be announced the winner at the gala in April.
“I was absolutely ecstatic to win the title, as I had worked nearly two years for it and it was such a hard competition,” Jessica said.
“In the future I would like to carry on with pageants as they are a huge part of my life they help so many girls feel beautiful, help their community and help great charities.
“I would recommend pageants to anyone who is wanting to make a difference not just in their own lives but in others as well.
“It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you’re from or if you think you don’t ‘fit the mould’”