'Body shaming of beauty pageant models is all down to jealousy'
Miss Universe Ireland models will be grilled on Brexit, writes Niamh Horan
The Irish may be generally more recognised for charm and a sparkling sense of humour than our exotic good looks, but Ireland's newest Miss Universe pageant boss, Brittany Mason, is about to change all that.
The former model and Miss Indiana USA had just 12 weeks to find an unknown girl among the highways and byways to represent Ireland at the Miss Universe final in January - and she believes she has unearthed some hidden gems.
"It's crazy, there is so much undiscovered talent here," she tells the Sunday Independent this weekend.
"We have a lot of great girls and I have seen some major transformations. One girl, when we first met, she wasn't even standing straight and had no confidence but she has a stunning face and beautiful body. She is a smart girl and now she has completely transformed, I feel like I am finally seeing the real her.
"One contestant is a 25-year-old teacher from Galway who has never done anything like this before, she has never even had her make-up done professionally, but she nailed the photoshoot."
Speaking about her intentions to bring the beauty pageant into the 21st Century, Ms Mason said that in addition to the bikini section of the competition, the girls will also be asked questions on a range of topical issues, such as the challenges Brexit poses to Ireland.
She says that a whole range of current national and international issues will all feature in the model's on-stage grilling.
"We want to address issues that are relevant in Ireland and the interview is not going to be easy. We want to know where they stand on certain issues that are relevant in this country."
As part of a new feature of the show, Ms Mason is also welcoming the public to join in the fun: "We are going to ask the people of Ireland what they want to know from these contestants so they can submit questions to ask in advance."
Asked to address the accusations of sexism that inevitably swirl around such contests, she is dismissive.
Ms Mason believes no woman should be made to feel ashamed of their body, saying: "I don't feel that we should be shunned and ashamed for showing our bodies.
"It's a beautiful thing. And we are promoting health and fitness and body diversity as well.
"I certainly don't understand why we can't celebrate our bodies. Women are multi-dimensional. This is about celebrating everything it means to be a woman. To be beautiful, to be intelligent, to be strong and empowered.
"I am a former contestant myself and a title holder with the Miss Universe organisation and I never felt violated wearing a swim suit.
"I can tell you it takes a lot of confidence to get up there on stage.
"I want to create more of a sense of community among women where we are not tearing each other apart.
"In this competition we are supporting each other and we are becoming better. And we are lifting each other up.
"Usually when you are criticising someone else it comes down to yourself and I think it is sad when women treat other women this way. I have never understood it and it's absolutely jealously. It's sad."
The grand finale of the Miss Universe Ireland competition will be held in the Round Room of the Mansion House on August 31.