Derry’s newly crowned Mrs. Ireland said she wants to use her platform to lobby for mental health services and faster diagnosis of Autism.
Jennifer Taylor was announced as the new Mrs. Ireland this month in Dublin.
The 32-years-old mother-of -one, who was born in Scotland but resides in Newbuildings, said she was delighted to have been awarded the accolade, but added that she was plagued with self-doubt during the process.
Jennifer, who is the marketing manager for Derry’s Richmond Centre, moved to the city over 10 years ago with her now husband Kris.
At the Ireland Pageants Final, Jennifer not only won the overall title of Mrs Ireland 2018, but also the sub category awards for ‘Best in Fashionwear’ and ‘Most Photogenic.’
Jennifer said: “I started out with involvement in pageants three years ago when I received a phone call with an offer for the Richmond Centre to sponsor the Miss Earth Northern Ireland pageant. Three years later the competition is bigger and better than ever and the Richmond Centre still sponsor the event.
“I am usually head judge for the competition and felt that I was too old to take part in beauty pageants. However, when I saw that there was a competition with a ‘Mrs’ category, I decided to take a shot. Low and behold I was made a finalist and travelled to Dublin for the final.
“I had never expected to be made a finalist, let alone win the competition. I felt I was not the pageant stereotype, I am not a size 8, in fact, I am a size 16 to 18 and the fashion industry calls this ‘plus size.’ Nor am I young, I have had a child and I am married. But the truth of the matter is pageants stereotypes are just that, and it is an extremely inclusive network of hardworking, kind and caring women who all empower one another with a real focus on raising money for a plethora of charities.”
In the six months leading up to the competition she said she had a very difficult time with the idea of being judged, “deeming myself not pretty enough, not young enough, not slim enough”.
“This stems,” she said, “from a five year battle with mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. I told myself countless times I wasn’t good enough and had no chance of winning and at times wanted to drop out of the competition. However, the pageant director, Jennie Lynch and the other contestants, my family and friends were always so supportive and gave me the confidence to push forward until the end.
“I even had the sponsorship and support of local business, Little House of Hair and Makeup and Elite Aesthetics, who provided me with treatments and beauty preparations to help my confidence.
“One in four people will suffer from some sort of mental health issue and I think it is important, especially in this city, to make sure there is a proper, well-funded and functioning service to help those with such issues.”
As well as raising awareness and funding for Mental Health Awareness, Jennifer said her platform as Mrs. Ireland 2018 will be used to raise awareness for the need for faster diagnosis of Autism.
“My darling five-years-old son was diagnosed with Autism in the summer of 2017, two years after initially being put on the assessment waiting list. This caused difficulty in his first year of school, where he only could stay half a day, as without one-to-one supervision, Zachary could not remain at school due to his condition. This was due to lack of funding and a severely long waiting list for assessment.
“While his school was very accommodating and did all it could to help Zachary, staff faced the difficulty of reduced school budgets too and did all they could to help. This meant through no fault of his own, the schools or ours, Zachary missed out on half his education in Primary One, a critical foundation year for any child. There is certainly a lot being done to raise awareness for Autism but without diagnosis, children will struggle to gain the help and support they require at home and critically at school.”
Jennifer said that winning the pageant has made her realise “that I am fine just as I am”, and that “no matter your size, shape, age, marital status, or background, that you can achieve anything you put your mind too, and I hope to be a role model to women out there, that despite my mental health issues that I too can be a beauty queen, even as a size 16-18, even as a mum, even at 32. Anything is possible.”