The current Miss East Yorkshire has celebrated being one step closer to a place in an international pageant as her mental health advocacy continues to gain worldwide recognition.
The UK event is a pageant with a difference, in that participants are not scored on physical beauty. Instead, the competition seeks to “be a guiding force in the development of strong women” who will use their talents to support their chosen charitable cause.
Student nurse, Chloe Roberts, 22, of Hull, was selected as one of the representatives for Yorkshire at the event, after competing in a vigorous application process with other women from across the UK. Roberts said: “When people think of pageants, they think of ‘toddlers and tiaras’ and it’s just not like that.
“There’s so much more to it than fancy dresses and sashes, it’s about the charities and advocacy work that these amazing girls do. I’m so excited to compete in September, but the stage is only the final prize after all our hard work advocating for our charities.”
From model to mental health advocate
After modelling for companies like Mothercare as a youngster Roberts first started participating in beauty pageants aged 16 when she saw an advert on Facebook and thought she’d give it go.
Then, when her friend Chelsea sadly passed away, she saw the pageants as an opportunity to carry on her legacy, and fight back against mental health stigma to give people the support they might need.
Roberts said: “Sometimes people stereotype pageants as a waste of time, but I always say to them, you might play rugby or football, but pageants are our rugby and football.
“It’s just so amazing to see so many girls from different walks of life come together, and to be able to raise awareness for mental health is so important as there’s still such a huge stigma where people are scared of being judged. There’s a real fear of the unknown.”
Beyond the pageants
Outside of her pageants, Roberts has created her own internationally recognised podcast called ‘Talk it Out’, which has listeners from as far as Germany and America.
The podcast started as a project where she would talk to pageant girls about their experiences and how they deal with the pressures of the events but has since grown to feature guests from mental health services across the UK.
Roberts said: “With the podcast, it started really after I lost Chelsea. She was always there for others and the type of person that you could go and talk to about anything.
“I wanted to help raise awareness and offer support to those that might need it as I know that she’d do the same. It really has been amazing to hear everyone’s stories and signpost people to great services that are available to offer help and support.”
The current Miss East Yorkshire also runs her own suicide prevention group called ‘Hope Army’, which started on Instagram and Facebook to support those who might need to talk to someone about how they’re feeling.
Since working with the mental health charity Shout, Roberts is trained in providing support to those in crisis and also offers training to others who want to get involved.
She said: “There really is a demand for mental health support, especially post-lockdown, so if people want to come and help out with Hope Army then that would be great. Even if they can only offer a couple of hours a week, it all makes a big difference.”
Balancing her time
Alongside raising awareness for suicide prevention, Roberts is also busy as a student nurse at the University of Hull, which she admits can be overwhelming at times.
Roberts said: “Being a student nurse, I’ve seen the impact mental health problems can have on people first-hand. Not just for the patients, but also amongst the staff and that can have a knock-on effect on all NHS services.
“It gets very hard to balance everything at times, but then I remind myself why I’m doing this. I get messages on social media from people that say, ‘Thank you for having that chat with me last night, you really saved my life’. Just knowing that I’m making a difference inspires and motivates me to keep going.”
Roberts has now been asked to give a speech at an event in Hedon in support of the charity Ruben’s Voice, which was set up by Katy Smith in memory of her son, Ruben Ferrol, who took his own life.
The charity aims to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health and raises money to help struggling young people receive support. The event this year will involve a free concert, performers and guest speakers.
Roberts said: “It’s amazing to be invited to talk at events like this and help to spread the message that support is out there and the storm won’t last forever – just keep going.
“When you speak about mental health and the services available to someone, you might just be saying it to the right person who needs to hear it.”
For more information on the Royal International Miss pageant visit the website here
For confidential support in times of crisis contact the Samaritans here or call directly on 116 123