A Derry nurse who started a major cancer awareness and fundraising campaign was today confirmed as the new Mr Derry.
Emmette Dillon, who has also been a model for the past nine years and is currently with Derry model Ashleigh Coyle’s agency Elusive Management, now take on other gents from across Ireland in the battle to be crowned Mr Ireland 2016.
The Derry man, who celebrates his 28th birthday today (Tuesday), said he will be honoured to fly the flag for his home city at the finals in Dublin on June 5.
Emmette is well known locally for his ‘Be Brave Be Body Aware Be Cancer Free’ campaign and Naked Charity Calendars. He raised much needed funds the Foyle Hospice, Marie Keating Foundation and other organisations, with a charity single entitled ‘Walk With Me’ still on sale.
He launched the campaign and fundraising initiatives after losing his mother Anne Marie McFadden to cancer in February 2014. She was just 45.
The Hazelbank native produced Ms Donegal in 2015, on behalf of Ms Ireland, and has worked with organisers on the Ms Northern Ireland and Ms Earth competitions.
I am not going down there to compete, I am going there to win.Emmette Dillon
Speaking to the Journal, Emmette said he hoped to raise the profile of Derry itself through his own participation in Mr Ireland, as well as spreading the message about his cancer awareness and body image campaign.
He said: “During the whole campaign the people of Derry has been amazing, and their ability to demonstrate compassion and resourcefulness has been immeasurable. With all the events we organised they never let us down, and cancer is something that is becoming even more prevalent in our city so the message is very important.
“It will be great to go forward and represent the city as a thank you to local people and to raise the issues we have campaigning about at a national level.”
Emmette said that many people had a very negative perception of such competitions, but said they were a great way of getting important messages out to people it would be otherwise hard to reach.
“What people don’t realise is that if you don’t maintain a certain profile it is very hard to launch campaigns and to be a vehicle for change”, he said. “It is a light hearted way of bringing press attention.
“Ashleigh Coyle is a director of Ms Derry and my agent, and she has done incredible work for anti-bullying and Rainbow Rehoming Centre.”
Emmette is also busy with the third annual charity calendar, which is now in the pre-production stage.
As well as the cancer awareness message, Emmette hopes this year to hone in on the importance of screening given the experience of his own family and that of Sorcha Glenn.
He also aims to highlight men’s mental health as part of this year’s campaign, citing his own experiences since his mother passed away.
“After I set up the campaign I completely crashed and burned,” he said. “For some reason, men feel emasculated for asking for help if they are experiencing mental health problems; feeling depressed.
“I put my hands up and say, I have been in some very. very dark places. You have to choose to empower yourself or lie under it. It can end relationships and it is all consuming.
“You should never feel ashamed and it is just telling that one person, a friend, family member, a GP. “People might see you on the outside, so positive; doing a great job, but they don’t know what is going on in my head.”
Emmette said his going to the gym and diet, as well as finding space for himself, have helped to keep him going and to help him press ahead with his ambitions.
In fact, Emmette, who was selected previously as a presenter for MTV Crashes, has now secured a role in a new American drama film focused around boxing and being shot here, entitled ‘Eighth Round’.
And if successful at Mr ireland in Dublin in June, he will go on to represent his country at the global final in July.
“I am not going down there to compete, I am going there to win,” he said.
“You don’t get anywhere in life without being mindful of the opportunities that are out there.”
Emmette said he wished to thank his charity partners, the Rainbow Rehoming Centre for all the great work they are doing locally, and his local sponsors and those who are supporting his bid to become Mr Ireland: Elusive Management, Black Tie Showroom, Elite Aesthetics, Sienna on Pump Street, Nikita Doherty, Stewardy’s Gym and Get Prepped.
The new Miss Derry meanwhile will be crowned at the City Hotel tomorrow night (Wednesday), with the show getting underway at 7.15pm. Tickets are still available at the City Hotel. #BeBraveBeBodyAwareBeCancerFree