26-year-old beauty queen’s family moved from South Africa when she was seven years old
Miss Galway Pamela Uba, who made history by being crowned the first black Miss Ireland, has said she wanted more for her life after living in direct provision for 10 years.
The 26-year-old, whose family moved from South Africa to Ireland when she was seven years old, graduated with a master’s degree from Trinity College in clinical chemistry and now works in Galway University Hospital.
Speaking about her time in direct provision, she told the Irish Independent: “It was 10 years of my life, and it’s 10 years that you’re left in a standstill, you don’t know if you’re ever going to get out of it or what life is going to be.
“At the time, the rules of going to college and working were that you couldn’t really do either so it’s very hard, especially on young girls.
“Because they finish secondary school and they look at themselves and think what’s next?
“But there’s nothing really next for them then, so they have kids really young, and I knew that that’s not what I wanted – I wanted more for my life so I really pushed to get there.”
Pamela got residency halfway through her first year in college so from her second year onwards, she was able to benefit from State grants, but before that, she and her mother had to work incredibly hard to get her into university.
“It was my mom, she raised money for me to get there,” she explained.
“Whatever she could do, she did for me to get there. Even myself, I tried to get cash-in-hand jobs or babysitting, whatever it was to be able to get there.”
The medical scientist said she believes direct provision “definitely needs looking into”. She added: “And if that means abolishing it, so be it; it’s a system that either needs to be looked at to be done better or got rid of altogether because it’s people’s lives at the end of the day, and people can’t be treated like livestock.”
Pamela worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic, all the while holding the title of Miss Galway for 18 months as she patiently awaited the Miss Ireland contest.
“It was so tough, you’re dealing with the pandemic, your normal work and then dealing with a cyber attack,” she explained.
“I found myself running results to hospital wards when everything went down just to keep the service up and make sure patients got their results, so I think I did 35,000 steps in one day.”
Speaking about her historic win, Pamela said: “It was a surreal experience and I’m so delighted. I couldn’t believe this actually happened.
“Even being Miss Galway for a year and a half, it was a long time coming, I thought the pageant would never happen.
“I am so happy and the outcome is amazing.”
She said she had her heart set on applying for Miss Ireland for six years after she worked at a Miss Galway event in a bar and was mistaken for a contestant.
“I was in Coyotes working and one of the judges thought I was a contestant and so she encouraged me to try it out some day, so that put it in my mind,” she said.
“I looked up what the pageant was and what it
stood for and I thought ‘I have to do this one day when I’m able’ so I was just waiting for the moment when I was ready.”
Director of Miss Ireland Brendan Marc Scully said Pamela had “put her heart and soul into her Miss Ireland journey”, adding that “she has a very bright future ahead of her”.