A woman who was bullied as a youngster is enjoying the last laugh over her tormentors – by making a name for herself in swimsuit competitions.
Danielle Singh, 24, decided to enter a contest on a whim after years of being made to feel like the "odd one out" because of her mixed race heritage.
Rugby player Danielle now says that taking part in this year's Miss Swimsuit UK has left her feeling empowered and confident, and even given her a new group of supportive friends.
She told the Manchester Evening News she became intrigued after an Instagram post from competition bosses, featuring the motto 'be confident, be you, be fun', caught her eye.
"I never would have entered anything like this because I think there is a stereotype – but it was that motto," says Danielle.
"Other competitions are about beauty and your shape, and obviously that plays a part, but the whole day was about empowering women and making friends for life.
"I'd love to be a part of something like that as long as it was about empowering people and when I spoke to the CEO she assured me that they wanted women to feel confident, and it's a fun thing."
Danielle entered the competition without any expectations and was stunned when she went on to win the Manchester heat, which took place at Viva, in the city centre, last weekend.
She says the competition has helped her with anxiety she developed as a child, when school bullies targeted her because of her mixed British and Indian heritage.
"I was bullied at school, I was made to feel like I stuck out like a sore thumb, that's how kids made me feel," she says.
"It wasn't until my third year at uni that I realised that a lot of people would want to be my colour, and I started to embrace it.
"I had a lot of anxiety issues from school, but my boyfriend encouraged me to enter.
"When I was in the competition, I felt so confident and so accepted by everyone. I just want everyone to know that that's what it was about. I didn't feel like the odd one out any more.
"I'm so humble and grateful that I won."
Danielle, who plays rugby for Ormskirk, also wanted to prove that being athletic and feminine are not mutually exclusive.
"I play rugby, I enjoy my sport and for me to enter something like this was a big deal.
"There's a stereotype to playing rugby too, which I wanted to buck. People think you have to be a big, butch girl, but I'll wear eyelashes and extensions sometimes."
The competition required the contestants to appear in four rounds, in swimwear chosen by the organisers, swimwear they chose themselves, evening gowns and black dresses of their choosing.
While many people might baulk at the idea of being in swimwear in front of strangers, Danielle says it gave every woman taking part, including herself, the chance to feel amazing, because they all supported each other.
"We had a lot of rehearsals before the show, and every time someone walked down the catwalk, everyone else was screaming her name, so by the time it got to the competition we all felt so confident," she said.
"By the time it got to the third rehearsal, you genuinely wanted that girl to feel like the best person in the world."
Danielle, who will now be entered into September 7's final after winning the Manchester heat, says there was great camaraderie between all the women who took part in the competition.
"I just think it's great what they are trying to do, they just wanted us all to get on and be friends," she added.
"It's such a nice network of girls – some other competitions don't even let mums enter, but there were mums there and they came away feeling amazing.
"The organisers told me they wanted us to come away feeling like we are a family.
"We met each other at 10am and by the end of the day we were best friends, we feel like we've made friends for life."
The competition was launched several years ago to 'shape the beauty stars of tomorrow, meeting the demand among today’s social media generation for glamorous, accessible role models that they can aspire to and emulate'.
The competition say previous winners have gone on to be commercially successful and win modelling contracts.
"It was uplifting. Every girl felt like they deserved to be there, it was such an inspirational day. It's really opened my eyes," added Danielle.
"I just want people to know that this competition was not the stereotype you think of. Everyone deserves to feel this way once in their lives."
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