Competing in beauty pageants has brought confidence, opportunities and amazing travel experiences for the Ipswich-born Miss Universe Great Britain 2021.

Emma Rose Collingridge, who is 23 and from Kesgrave, has spent eight years taking part in pageants – with the highlight being two weeks in Israel for the Miss Universe finals in December 2021.

She said: "The morning of my flight we woke up to the news that they were closing the borders to all foreign travellers because of Omicron.

"So my parents couldn't come and I was completely out there by myself, where some of the other girls had directors and family and teams of stylists out there with them.

"My family really wanted to come and watch. My mum's been such a fan of Universe and World since she was little so always got quite emotional that she'd be able to see her daughter on the Miss Universe stage.

"Unfortunately that couldn't happen."

The competitors were tested every few days to make sure that the pageant could continue safely, and media appearances and tours around Jerusalem kept Emma busy for the first week in Israel.

Ipswich Star: Emma's family couldn't fly out to watch her compete because of Covid restrictionsEmma's family couldn't fly out to watch her compete because of Covid restrictions (Image: Emma Collingridge)

She continued: "Then we moved down to Eilat for the last week and on the way down I was really fortunate that I was in the group that went down to the Dead Sea. I got to tick off floating in the Dead Sea off my bucket list, which was amazing.

"We went on boat tours, saw dolphins, did yoga on the beach – all between doing multiple interviews per day.

"It was so much fun and all the girls were amazing."

A win wasn't on the cards for Miss Universe Great Britain 2021, but Emma was one of only two Europeans to make the top 16 – out of 80 total competitors – and, she notes, the only blonde.

She's also only the fifth person to have represented Great Britain to make a placement at the pageant.

"It fills me with pride," she said. "It was a really amazing achievement."

And the exciting opportunities kept coming, with a trip to Dubai for a major designer photoshoot starting the year for the model.

She said: "International fashion designer Manal Ajaj created a Big Ben inspired dress to honour the Queen's Jubilee this year, which was amazing."

The dress, decorated with crystals and hand silk embroidery took 675 hours to create, and Emma describes wearing it for the shoot as "incredible".

Alongside her work as a model, getting involved in charity campaigns are an important part of English graduate Emma's day-to-day life.

It's a key part of pageant competitions, but many women give back to organisations that they have a personal connection with.

"I founded a campaign called 'Draw the Line', which aims to empower women through self-defence and conflict management knowledge," she explained. "But also educating society on the importance of bystander intervention in preventing violence against women.

"This is something that's quite personal to me, having experience during my time at university, so I've got a lot more planned with that for the remainder of the year."

Ipswich Star: The Draw the Line campaign was started by Emma to empower women with self-defence educationThe Draw the Line campaign was started by Emma to empower women with self-defence education (Image: Emma Collingridge)

Applying for Miss Universe Great Britain – and competing in pageants since 2014 – has taught Emma a lot about herself and how she wants to move through the world.

Speaking about her experience versus the perceptions people have about the pageant world, she said: "I think it's so important to remember that, particularly in the UK, women go into pageantry because they need to rebuild their confidence because it's been lost.

"A lot of women I've met have similar stories to me. We were – and are – all trying to rediscover and reconnect with themselves.

"And while doing that we've been able to volunteer, speak to people from all walks of life, give back to charities and organisations that have helped us personally or that we have personal connections to.

"I've been able to have all these incredible travel experiences and I now have friends all across the globe.

"For me it's been such a huge confidence builder. I think it's because of pageantry that I am who I am today."