Linford Christie’s niece was crowned the first black Miss England in the competition’s history on Tuesday.
Rachel Christie, 20, who is also on course to appear at the London 2012 Olympics, chased down the competition to claim the prestigious prize at the event in central London.
The Londoner who specialises in the heptathlon and was competing as Miss London City, was one of the bookies’ favourites to win the competition. Placed second was Katrina Hodge, the 22-year-old lance corporal decorated for bravery after fighting in Basra. Despite saying her turn on the catwalk was the scariest thing she’d ever done, she battled her nerves and managed to fight off 48 contestants to win second place. She said ahead of last night’s vote: ‘By no stretch do I think I am the most beautiful girl in England, but for me this is not what Miss England is about. I think the winner should be beautiful on the inside as well.’ She was nicknamed Combat Barbie when she arrived to sign up for Army training with pink suitcases and kitten heels, but after her achievements in Iraq, she shattered preconceived notions of her abilities and proved you don’t have to be butch to make it in the Army. ‘People have said I’ve inspired them to join up and that I’ve shown them how normal girly girls can succeed,’ Katrina said of her success.
‘I think I’m showing that women in the Army can be pretty and girly but also that girls who enter beauty pageants don’t have to be bimbos.’ In third place was 23-year-old blonde MIss Leeds, Viki Bailey. But the event was marred by spectators who gathered outside the entrance of Metropole Hilton Hotel to denounce the competition as sexist. Protesters held aloft banners bearing slogans ‘every woman is a queen’ and ‘beauty is not skin deep’. The protest echoes similar demonstrations held last year when the Miss University London competition was branded as ‘misogynist’ by some student groups. But Ms Christie seemed unperturbed by such worries, telling competition organisers: ‘My ambition in life is to compete and win gold in the 2012 Olympics. ‘I would also love to do well in Miss England, I want to be successful in whatever I choose to do in life.’