Ballymoney native and Miss Northern Ireland Rebekah Shirley took on the world last Sunday when she competed in the final of this year’s Miss World competition in London.
The 18-year-old, who was supported in her efforts on the night by a 17-strong family contingent from Ballymoney and Coleraine, has described winning Miss NI as the greatest achievement of her life so far.
Speaking about the contest, Rebekah explained: “My Miss World 2014 experience has come to an end, and what an amazing three weeks it has been. It has been an amazing and life changing experience for me and it is something that I will treasure in my heart forever.
“Being in London with 124 girls from all over the world has been surreal - we were all so intrigued to find out about everyone and learn about their different cultures.
“I would just like to thank the Miss World organisation for giving me this opportunity, being able to stand on the Miss World stage representing Northern Ireland has been a dream come true for me.
“Thank you to everyone who has supported me during my time here, your kind words mean so much! A huge huge congratulations to the absolutely beautiful Miss World South Africa, you will be an amazing Miss World and you deserve to wear the crown with pride.
“It was an emotional morning saying goodbye to all my Miss World sisters, however it’s a very good night from London. I love you all.”
Rebekah added: “I would also like to thank everyone for all their support including my parents, sister, boyfriend, aunts, uncles, cousins, close friends and of course Alison - I especially want to thank Alison Campbell [modelling agent] for enabling me to have this experience. It was so humbling to know that Northern Ireland was always behind me.”
A past-pupil of Ballymoney High School and Northern Regional College, where she studied TV and film, Rebekah has lived in Ballymoney all her life but harbours aspirations to make it in the world of media.
And The Miss World competition, she said has opened up “so many paths that I could take in the media world and I think this year will help me come to decision of what career choice to take.”
Speaking on behalf of everyone in Ballymoney, Mayor Bill Kennedy said: “Rebekah really has done Ballymoney proud in her time as Miss Northern Ireland, which was a real boost for the town. And although not a winner in the Miss World competition - she is still a winner in our eyes.”