A Portrush woman, who was crowned Miss Intercontinental 2017 last week, has vowed to use her title to campaign for mental health awareness following the death of her best friend.
Cara Hunter won the beauty pageant last week at the City Hotel in Derry after being encouraged to enter a similar competition last year by her friend Zachary Geddis who took his own life earlier this year.
The two were close friends since they met as 12-year-olds at Dominican College in Portstewart.
Cara paid tribute to “inspirational” Zachary saying: “He inspired me to enter Miss Derry last year, he was the driving force behind it.
“He was the one who was sitting at the end of the catwalk with my Daddy when I came out, cheering and winking at me, telling me how great I was.
“I know beauty pageants can be viewed as being cheesy but I wanted to enter Miss Intercontinental as it was organised by two fantastic people Martin and Patricia in aid of the Me4Mental charity.
“This charity enables people to speak openly about mental health and depression.”
As well as representing Northern Ireland at the Miss Intercontinental finals in India next year, Cara is also now an official ambassador for Me4Mental.
“I want to use my title of Miss Intercontinental as a platform to speak out about mental health.It’s such a sensitive subject and if it wasn’t for Zachary’s encouragement, I wouldn’t be here.
“Perhaps if Zachary had known that it was OK to talk openly, we might not be where we are now.”
Zachary died in March and Cara said it has been incredibly difficult adjusting to life without her best friend.
“He was just so loved. He was a gorgeous, 6ft 2 man who just held the attention of any room when he walked into it.
“He was so encouraging and made you feel the best you could be.
“If I can ever help better anyone’s life like he did, I would love that.”