A STUDENT from Wooler has been catapulted into the national spotlight, after being crowned the first Miss Northumberland.
Laura Hickey will now go on to represent the county at the Miss England finals next month, following her victory in the grand finale of the regional contest staged at Linden Hall Hotel ,near Longhorsley, on Friday night.
The 21-year-old, who is currently studying at Leeds Met University to become an osteopath, dazzled the panel of four judges – including reigning Miss England, Jessica Linley – with her glamour, grace and personality.
But Laura was stunned when she was declared the winner by unanimous decision.
“Never for a moment did I think it was going to be me – I really can’t believe it,” said Laura, who initially won the opening heat of the contest held at the Metrocentre back in April. “There were so many other girls in the final who were amazing.
“I’m proud to be representing the county at Miss England and I did work hard for this. I’m so pleased I won and I want to go on and do the best that I can for Northumberland.”
Laura and her fellow finalists battled through three rounds on the night, first showing off their individual style, followed by a fun sportswear section and finally modelling evening wear.
Out of the 22 who took part, a final group of eight girls were then selected to speak directly to the judges and impress them with their personality.
They included 17-year-old Amber Stewart, from Amble – who was awarded the Miss Photogenic prize, which is a modelling contract – Kate Stewart from Seahouses, who raised the most money for charity during the event, and Tanya Thompson from Belford.
But it was Laura, whose round-the-world adventure during her gap-year included teaching English to children in Thailand, who stood out.
Judge Jessica said: “It was a really difficult decision and our final eight were gorgeous, but the main reason we chose Laura –and it was a unanimous decision – was because of the way she just sparkled. She is so natural, with a lovely smile, and she’s not afraid to show her emotions.I wish her the very best of luck and I’m sure she will be brilliant in the Miss England final.”
Miss Northumberland organiser Simon Robertson said: “I think we have proved that Northumberland can compete with the best of them and Laura will be a fantastic ambassador for the county at Miss England.
“She has style, grace, confidence and personality and that has shone through tonight.”
Runners-up on the night were 18-year-old Emily Stokoe, from Morpeth, and Chantelle Fairbairn, 21, from Blyth.