A beauty pagaent is not just about slim models parading around in swimming costumes, as EMMA HARROWING found out when she spoke to the organisers of the Miss Universe Norfolk competition which takes place next month

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What does a homeless person who has turned her life around by setting up her own business, a woman who is training to run her first marathon, a woman who can speak five languages and a student of civil engineering have in common?

They are all finalists in the Miss Universe Norfolk competition. The contest is the official qualifier for Miss Universe GB and Miss Universe, yet co-directors for the Miss Universe Norfolk event Louise Harris and Tosin Ogunnusi stress that this is more than just a beauty pageant:

“The competition is about finding a woman to represent Norfolk in Miss Universe GB who can empower and inspire women so it is not just down to looks,” says Louise. “We are personally training and coaching all the finalists giving them life skills that will hold them in good stead for the rest of their lives, not just the competition. This is a great experience for young women in Norfolk.”

The grand final takes place on February 10 at Dunston Hall. The finalists will be judged on a range of criteria by a panel of judges from television, fashion, sport, business and beauty.

“This competition is all about changing the perception of beauty pageants,” says Louise. “All of the finalists have been taking part in fund raising events to raise money for the Hemraj Foundation who are supporting the charity Strongbones.”

All of the finalists have taken part in an Earth, Wind and Fire challenge in a bid to raise money for the charity. Activities such as a fire walk over hot coals outside The Forum, a cold dip in the sea at Cromer on New Year’s Day and a five kilometre run has seen the women push themselves to the limit.

The finalists have also had an empowering day and training with Miss Universe GB 2011 Chloe Beth.

Louise says: “Our ultimate objective is to find the woman to go all the way and win the title of Miss Universe. We believe Norfolk has the potential.”

Meet all of the finalists by clicking on the photo gallery at the top right of this page.

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