We all have our own ideas of what it means to be a pageant queen. We imagine tall, slender girls walking gracefully in ball gowns, smiling brightly and speaking profound words of world peace. The women of Miss Wales have been working hard to shatter the stereotype, and I caught up with the contest’s latest winner.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Bethany Harris, the newly crowned Miss Wales 2018, who was a breath of fresh air, breezing in on such a humid and sultry day in the office.

Miss Wales 2018

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. As you would expect, Bethany is beautiful to look at, a statuesque 5ft 10, with big brown eyes and groomed brunette hair. With not a hair extension or falsh lash in sight, Bethany has an easy glamour about her.

There’s more to a beauty queen than looks though, and any winner will describe the long process of preparing for a pageant. Worthy winners will need to be well rounded, intelligent and sharp individuals, with a clear vision for the future of young women to come. This is about brains, beauty, and a reflection of Wales.

On a day off from her sales job at House of Fraser, Bethany came to meet me with her sister, Becks, at the Style of the City offices, before we headed out for a spot of lunch and a catch up about what it means to be queen.

While many still view pageantry as archaic, Bethany explains the empowerment behind the competition, “This is all about celebrating women, and in this case, Welsh women. The entire experience was so empowering, and we all supported each other and felt so confident.”

As we sit down to eat, she tells me all about her favourite food and drink haunts, admitting gleefully: “Italian is my favourite.” A girl who unashamedly loves carbs is a girl after our own hearts.

She also shares with me that her favourite night out on the tiles of Cardiff is at the city’s glamorous cocktail bar Dirty Martini.

Although I am sure most of her weekends are spent on romantic nights out with her ever supportive boyfriend of 5 years Rhys; “Rhys is always so supportive and came to the Miss Wales event last month in Newport, he also wants to come to Miss World in China in December.”

I ask her what she thinks made her stand out during the competition, and she explains: “I didn’t want to prepare a speech for the judges. While I know preparation is key, I wanted to be as authentic and down to earth as possible.

“It might have put me on the spot, but I spoke from the heart. I think that matters.”

Bethany has been busy in the weeks since winning the crown. She has been promoting and supporting charities such as “a-Sisterhood”, a UK-based organisation that aims to empower, support and protect women worldwide and at home.

The new Miss Wales recently showed her support to the charitable trust by attending its latest ball held at the Cardiff Marriott hotel, which raised £5000 for the organisation.

A-Sisterhood is a charity close to Bethany’s heart, as she explains: “This is a charity that feels passionately about protecting women, and looking after our ‘sisters’. We’re all in this together, and anything we can do to come together and help women in need is so important.

“Women across the globe are enduring some horrific experiences, and I feel so strongly about raising awareness for these women.

“Some of the causes supported by A-Sisterhood include the Stop Acid Attacks campaign, the National FGM Centre, the Black Mambas, and Llamau, which is crucial for women living on the streets of Wales.”

So what’s next for Bethany?

In a trip that I’m definitely envious of, Bethany will be representing Wales and joining the other finalists for the 68th Miss World competition in Sanya, an exotic island off the coast of mainland China.

Bethany will be supporting another charity very dear to her at this event, Beauty with a Purpose, when the competition will award contestants with the most valuable project in her nation.

The charity, founded in 1972, raises money and generates awareness for disadvantaged children across the globe, and she explains: “It’s so important to recognise and empower young people, who so often do not receive the same privileges as the rest of us. I’m proud to be supporting the cause.”

This is a journey that Bethany will not experience alone, when her family and sister join her for a 10 day break during her month stay in Sanya.

There’s a look of anticipation across her face as she talks about the trip, “I have never been to China, and I am so excited for this trip and sampling the cuisine- I eat almost anything!”

What strikes me most about Bethany is how down to earth and naturally beautiful she is. With a natural glow, I’m keen to find out how she does it.

When quizzed about her beauty regime or favourite products she answered humbly; “I am a hot water and soap kind of girl, although I do like No7 make up products.”

She also states that her favourite high street fashion label is River Island, however, her glamorous ball gowns are provided by 102 Couture, a prom and beauty pageant specialist based in Sketty, Swansea.

As a final thought Bethany left me with valuable advice for any girl thinking of entering pageants, “I would advise anyone thinking of doing it to just go for it, it is a real confidence booster and opens up all kinds of doors. Plus, I made so many friends! There is a real sisterhood in pageants, and I loved every minute of it.”

I am sure all of Wales will get behind Bethany to cheer her on this December in Miss World 2018. I am sure if she is as down to earth as she was when we met then she is in with a sterling chance.

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