‘Miss Derry,’ Emma Brolly said she is using her platform to highlight mental health awareness ahead of attending the ‘Ireland Pageants’ Finals in Dublin tomorrow (Saturday).
For Emma, from the Chapel Road area of the Waterside, this will be her first time competing in a pageant in years.
Emma said undergoing a major operation last year had spurred her on to apply for and secure the title of ‘Miss Derry.’ The 40-years-old mother-of-two has also suffered from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) for many years and had to battle to secure a diagnosis.
Speaking ahead of attending the Ireland Pageants 2019 Final at the Alsaa Centre in Dublin, Emma told the ‘Journal’ she is excited and a bit nervous.
She said that the support and openness of her friend, the “Mrs. Ireland” title holder Jennifer Taylor, who also lives in Derry, has been key to spurring her on.
Having been entered into the finals in both the ‘Miss’ and ‘Curves’ category, she will have the chance to win the all-Ireland title and possibly go on to represent the country at international events.
“The last time I did a pageant was 16 years ago,” Emma said. “I’m 40 now and this is the only pageant where you can go older. I started in pageants 20 years ago. I was in ‘Miss Muff’ and I had my daughter at the time. Actually my daughter Jessica has recently competed in ‘Miss Earth.’
“I suffer from GAD and mental health is my platform. I was so bad two years ago I lost the power down my left hand side. I have had it since I was a teenager, but I was simply given tablets before I insisted on getting diagnosed. Within about an hour of seeing someone I was diagnosed and given a clinical dose of medication.
“I had a serious operation last Christmas and after that I thought, just go for it. I had had a bad couple of years and Jennifer always spoke quite openly about pageants and how much it helped her.”
Emma, who has completed a short course on mental health and suicide prevention, is currently involved in organising a local ‘Miss Shining Light’ pageant to take place locally in September and all proceeds from this will go to Derry charity ‘Me4Mental,’ a cause very close to her heart.
“It is so important to work on mental health prevention, and we have to get away from focusing on drugs,” she said. “It’s to do with money, jobs, all different things, Universal Credit and it can be passed down through families as well. Anyone who suffers or who is diagnosed, you are never going to be cured, but you can learn to deal with it.”
Together with Jennifer, she is also forming an ‘Extreme Team’ to go around local schools to speak to young girls in an effort to build confidence and self-esteem, promote good mental health practices, and speak about how involvement in pageants has helped them achieve these things in their own lives.
And avid Liverpool F.C. fan Emma is also planning to run a mental health information session for young footballers in February with Conor McGregor’s best friend, Anthony Donegan and Maiden City Soccer, where her son T.Jay (14) is honing his skills.
Foyle Search & Rescue have also come onboard along with local people directly affected by mental health issues.
Emma will be turned out at the finals tomorrow with the help of her sponsors, Bella Hair & Beauty, Waterloo Place, Define Aesthetics by Cornelia in Derry and Doire Dress Designs in Skeoge, who are creating a Derry GAA-inspired Oakleafer themed outfit for her to wear on stage.
“I can’t wait,” she said. “I am doing this for myself as you just have to look after yourself and your mental health.”