by LAUREN CODLING
A SOCIAL worker in the running to become the first British-Indian Miss England has said she hopes the opportunity will help her to empower women from different backgrounds.
Neha Dhull, 23, was crowned Miss Kent in April and will be competing in the Miss England semi-finals next month.
Her hope is to use the opportunity to make a change in society.
“With Miss England, it is about being a role model and empowering young girls,” Dhull told Eastern Eye in central London earlier this month. “I’m a social worker, I’m a feminist and I believe in safeguarding children, so I want this platform to talk about it.”
Dhull, currently living in Oxshott, Surrey, also highlighted how her own cultural background
and heritage meant she would be able to reach out to ethnic minority communities and better understand their views.
The Miss England pageant was founded more than 65 years ago. In 2016-17, more than 10,000 contestants aged between 16 and 26 competed for the title across the country in online heats and regional finals.
It is the only contest in the country to send its winner to Miss World. The current Miss World holder is Manushi Chhillar, who represents India.
Previous Miss World winners include Bollywood stars Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra. Both have since established themselves in the entertainment industry but have also made efforts to focus on philanthropy projects.
Dhull said she cites Chopra as a role model as they have similar motivations to help
with charitable projects. Knowing Miss England promotes charity work was an incentive for the Kent-born model to compete as she hoped it would give her more opportunities to get involved.
Previously, Dhull has taken part in two 10 km Santa-Dash runs for Great Ormond Street
Hospital; organised a fashion show for mental health charity Mind; and also participated in
events for cancer support charity Penny Brohn UK.
The competition has also allowed Dhull to get involved with the Beauty with a Purpose
charity, a humanitarian project associated with Miss World.
The Miss England competition has been labelled as misogynistic by some critics.
However, Dhull is keen to change the perception of the contest.
“Since getting involved, I know Miss England isn’t like that – it is about being a role
model,” she said. “People shouldn’t be under a misconception. It is about who you are.”
A self-confessed feminist, Dhull remarked how lucky it was that so many women were out there doing amazing things in all different fields.
“It is so inspiring to learn from all of them,” she enthused.
Remarking on the recent sexual misconduct accusations, including the Harvey Weinstein case which inspired the #MeToo movement, Dhull said although a lot still needed to be done, progress is being made.
“I feel right now, it is the year of women – they are standing up and talking about their rights,” she said. “With the way things are going, change will happen.”
In the run-up to the semi-finals, Dhull is working hard juggling her day job as a social worker and organising charity events and activities for the community. Having initially
only told her parents and best friend about Miss England, she revealed she is nervous
about the competition as more people are now aware of her participation.
However, she is most excited about the response of her parents to her success.
“Seeing them happy and proud of me has been the biggest thing,” she said. “I am who I
am because of my parents. They have always encouraged me to do what I want to do.”