I was a big ball of nerves and excitement whilst making my way to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry on Thursday morning. This was the first time I had entered any type of pageant and so I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I was so excited to meet all of the girls and hear all about their inspiring journeys to the finals made up of personal projects and charity work.
When I arrived, I carried my trillion bags from the car and went to register. Many of the girls had already arrived and were milling around. It was nice to see some familiar faces as well as some new ones.
I handed in my publicity folder, my auction gift and hung my dresses with the other girls’, before heading straight off to do my interview to camera. One by one we were taken off to a room whereby they were filming each contestant introducing themselves. We said our name, age, the area we were representing and an interesting fact about ourselves. Mine went a little like this:
“Hi my name is Jade Secker and I am Miss Black Country. I’m 24 and an interesting fact about me is that I once wrote a teenage fiction book that was commended by Jacqueline Wilson.”
Following that, I was whisked away by Linford to phone Birmingham Mail for a telephone interview, which was great! I told her all about my eco dress and its connotations, how I was feeling and what it meant to be representing the Black Country.
The test consisted of 20 questions; general knowledge and Miss England history questions. Now, I will be honest, when I heard about this round, I panicked a little. Whilst I have always been academic and succeeded in my studies, general knowledge seems to be something that eludes me. I surprised myself with the test and was happy with my performance. Six girls got full marks and went to complete a further, much harder test before they could have an official Brainy Beauty 2015.
Next up was the Billion Dollar Smile round that I had been shortlisted for, following promoting their product over the last few months in a variety of ways. The ladies from billion Dollar Smile had joined us and were judging the round. The shortlisted girls one by one took to the catwalk in their Billion Dollar Smile branded vest top to portray their glistening smile. There were 22 girls shortlisted from 52 and the judges were only selecting 5 with the winner being announced at the Miss England Finals. Unfortunately I wasn’t shortlisted down to the top 5 but I was happy to have been given the chance to take part in this round.
We warmed up as a team and were then split into pairs or on our own for the next section. There was an array of exercises set out for us to circuit around, from squats with weighted bags to press ups on a medicine ball – which, might I add, does not stay still!
Our time on each exercise was guided by the amount of time it took one of the girls to run around the entire perimeter with a dead body. Well, not literally a dead body, but a camouflage covered, body shaped weight that was meant to resemble a solider in Afghanistan that you were now responsible for saving. I have to say, it was quite eye opening and really made me think about (whilst realising how little upper body strength I have) what our soldiers must go through in the plights of war. It was merely a glimpse into their world but it was definitely something that makes you consider how lucky we are and how much respect these soldiers deserve for their hard work and dedication to their country.
I was on my own during the circuits and so any motivation had to come from within. Again, I was pleasantly surprised with how I did and training in the gym had obviously paid off.
Next up… LUNCH! The food was amazing and very welcome after being too nervous for breakfast followed by a calorie-burning workout. We had vegetable pasta with chips and chocolate cake to finish.
This was where the real work started; rehearsals. Tonight we would be taking part in the Mr England final show in our Eco round. The theme for this year’s eco round was James Bond.
Rehearsals went really well and it was great to see all of the girls on the catwalk. Lisa choreographed the routine and we had a few run-throughs before being sent to get ready for the evening show.
Going out onto stage was thrilling and it was so wonderful to see the time and effort everyone had put into their eco dress. There were some really unique ideas including the one produced by my lovely roommate, Devon who is Miss Essex. She had created the ice palace from the film Die Another Day and I was blown away by the detail.
My dress was inspired by my love for literature and writing. When people think of James Bond, they often forget that these thrilling stories once began as books. For Ian Fleming’s 100th Birthday, Penguin commissioned a re-print of the books with a very retro feel to them. Each cover pictured the bond girl from that story in a pin-up, retro style. The bond girls depict individuality in women and this is reflected in the Miss England competition; we all bring something unique to the table as do the Bond girls. I used the covers to create the main part of my dress and had a head piece created from pages of the book as well as a book itself as a prop.
When the round was over, we were able to go and watch the rest of the Mr England finals, seeing the brilliant Chris Brammell, Mr Liverpool be deemed the winner. He spoke so wonderfully about his work in his region and he was such a deserving winner.
After a jam-packed day and night, we headed for our coaches to check in to the hotel for the night and get some well-needed sleep.
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Rehearsals were underway before we knew it as we had quite a lot to get through. We firstly rehearsed our Little Black Dress round which was the opening number for the show. The music was James Bond with a great little twist and really made you want to strut your way down the catwalk.
Lisa was a brilliant choreographer and her vision for the show was very inspiring. There were a lot of us to organise and she did a great job. I am really looking forward to seeing the footage back as it was so slick and professionally choreographed – it was amazing to be a part of it.
We had a break at lunch time and were fed some more scrumptious food before continuing with rehearsals into the afternoon and learning the choreography for the evening wear round as well as for the top 15; should we be selected.
Before long, rehearsal time was over and it was time to head downstairs to the dressing rooms to begin getting ready. We had a brilliant team of hair and make-up artists that have worked on some amazing projects including the Soap Awards.
The make-up team were just as brilliant… contouring away and creating a perfected smokey eye look that all in all made me feel like a million dollars.
To top it off I was very lucky to be wearing a Kiss Me Kate designed dress for the evening round. It is such a stunning gown and I was honoured to have been asked to showcase it at the finals. I was even more touched as the team from Kiss Me Kate had come along to the finals to cheer Rosie (Miss Birmingham) and I on in their dresses.
I took a moment to think about all that I had achieved and be proud of myself for getting to the finals, regardless of the final result.
I, unfortunately didn’t place in the top 15 on the night. At the time, like everyone else probably did, I naturally felt a little deflated. It’s hard to be objective in those kinds of situations as you are only aware of how hard YOU have worked. I heard a few of the girls saying, ‘I’m really annoyed I didn’t place, I have literally worked so hard.’ The truth is is that every single girl in that competition, myself included, has given it their best shot and done as much as they can in their communities and with their title for a place in the top 15. When I had had a few days to reflect, the deflated feeling passed and I became more proud of what I had done and where I had gotten to in the competition.
Natasha was a very worthy winner and I wish her the best of luck in the Miss World competition in December. I know she will do us all proud.
A few days later, the Miss England team announced the top 21. Seeing my name next to the 19th place filled me with pride and I was so glad that everything I had done over the last few months hadn’t gone unnoticed.
I hope I have done to Black Country proud and it is certainly an experience I won’t be forgetting any time soon. It is a cliché to say I have made friends for life; but I truly have. Not only from the competition itself but from working within my community I have met so many people along the way that I now consider to be life-long friends.
I, of course, would love to come back next year and give it one last shot before I’m too old for the competition (wahhhhh). However, for now, I am so privileged to be continuing to representing the Black Country and I have some projects in the pipeline that I cannot wait to share with you all so stay tuned!
Miss Black Country