First lesbian Ms Great Britain finalist will use platform to tackle prejudice and empower plus-size women
A woman, believed to be the first lesbian Ms Great Britain finalist to enter the Ms World contest, has shared how she hopes to use her platform to campaign against homophobia and empower plus-size women.
Mother-of-two Emma-Jay Webber, 41, from South Gloucestershire, originally started entering pageants following the breakdown of her marriage in 2016 when she was struggling with low self-esteem.
After googling "how to improve self confidence", she came across pageantry and decided to put herself forward for Miss British Beauty Curve 2018.
Having reached the final ten for Miss GB in the 31-44 age category last year, Webber has now scooped the Ms United Kingdom World International 2023 crown.
She is now due to head to the Ms World competition this August, which takes place in Florida, and hopes to use the stage to raise awareness about issues impacting those in the LGBTQ+ community, a mission she feels both "nervous" and excited about.
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"It still doesn't quite feel like it's happening," Webber explains.
"I'm still very much buzzing but nervous.
"With everything happening in the world and the massive increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people, I thought this has to be the next step.
"I need to take this platform to the world stage and use it as a huge megaphone."
She also hopes to shine a light on body positivity, having learned to embrace her new curvier body after having children.
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Webber says she gained weight after having her son Zack, eight, in 2014 and daughter Maggie, six, in 2016.
"I was slim until I had my children and now I am a size 18-20, which is actually the average size for a woman in the UK," she explains.
"The fact I've been able to have children is a miracle in itself and I'm proud of my stretch marks and mummy tummy."
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The mum-of-two is concerned about a potential revival of the 'heroin chic' look, which was popular in the 90s and hopes to encourage everyone to embrace their bodies, whatever their size.
"I remember what it was like in the 90s with everyone thinking they had to be super-skinny,"she says.
"Businesses earn billions because of people's insecurities, but we are all beautiful and different shapes and sizes."
Webber first started attending beauty pageants when she "hit rock bottom" after her divorce in 2016.
She says she had no self-confidence and even removed all the mirrors from her house because she couldn't stand to look at her reflection.
"I had no self-esteem," she explains.
"I lived in big, black hoodies and jogging bottoms, one day I just thought I've had enough of this.
"I googled how to improve your self-esteem and saw an ad on Instagram for Miss British Beauty Curve," she continues. "I loved the fact there were women on stage who looked like me."
She entered Miss British Beauty Curve in 2018 and came a runner-up in the competition.
Having never worn heels before, she says she had to practice walking around the house in them before the pageant.
Since then she has entered six major contests, showcasing everything from evening-wear to swimwear.
"The swimwear rounds are quite controversial but as a plus-size woman I actually love them as it makes you feel fantastic about yourself," Webber explains.
"What people see is the end product but what they don't realise that all year pageants will be working so hard to raise thousands for charity."
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She hopes by revealing her own pageant journey she might help break down some of the misconceptions surrounding the industry.
"People need to be open minded to pageantry, as it's not what is used to be," she explains. "Feminism has taken over, it's all about sisterhood and being in an army of positive women."
When she's not in the glamorous world of pageants, the mum-of-two drives a forklift truck and is also proud to represent women in the traditionally male-dominated construction sector.
"I'm still driving my forklift truck and I love it," she says of her day job.
"Women can work in construction, a male-dominated industry, and still be beautiful and feminine," she adds.
Additional reporting SWNS.