A size 10 beauty queen pulled out of an international beauty pageant after being told she needed to lose weight to stand a chance.
Zoiey Smale, 28, from Nottinghamshire, was named Miss UK after winning the UK round of the Miss United Continents contest in June.
But as the beauty queen prepared for the final round of the competition in Ecuador, she says the organisers told her she needed to “lose as much weight as possible” to get anywhere.
The mother-of-one was left gobsmacked after speaking to the competition’s national director who said she was passing on feedback from the international director.
* Pageant rules block women who have had abortions, given birth or been married
* Body shaming is never okay
* The #theysaid movement unearths painful memories of body shaming
* Fashion fights body shaming with diverse models
All Smale could say was “pardon?”, before hanging up the phone. A fortnight later, after failing to get back to them, she decided to pull out.
With a job in the sports industry, the size 10 beauty was meant to travel to Ecuador next month.
“I can’t represent a company that thinks it’s OK to body shame women because they don’t have the right measurements,” she told the UK Telegraph. “I was asked to submit every measurement on my body, which I didn’t do. My measurements should be irrelevant.”
Keen to use her experience to combat body shaming, she says: “I think it’s important to empower women and know it’s OK to be healthy, educated and a good role model.”
“I’m not big at all I’m just bang on average. I just think to be told to lose as much weight as possible for a competition, why would people say that?
“It’s horrible and it made me feel so rubbish about myself for a long, long time.”
First competing in a pageant at the age of 18 through a dare, Smale has won three national titles and told The Independent that the contests have helped her to cope with an eating disorder.
“Puberty hit me like a brick in the face and I grew to a staggering 5ft 11 whilst most of my friends were still 5ft,” she recalls. “I used to hunch and make myself smaller to not stand out. I put pressure on myself to be as small as possible and developed a unhealthy view of myself and food. I was obsessed with weight. I remember having a check up at the doctors and putting stones in my pocket.”
“Pageants were a place where they embraced my height so it helped me develop a love for myself. I didn’t take them very seriously but I saw a side that was alien to me: empowerment.”
Since speaking out, she has been overwhelmed with support for speaking out about the dark side of beauty contests.
“I worked so hard gaining sponsorship deals, raising money for charity and making individual costumes. So it was a shame to think my hard work went to waste. But it hasn’t. After telling people my story and having emails about how I have inspired others, that means more to me than any crown could,” she told The Independent.