AMBITIOUS Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers always dreamed of representing Great Britain on the world stage.
But she thought she would do it wearing trainers and gym kit rather than stilettos and a bikini.
Instead of becoming an Olympian as she had hoped, the 25-year-old from Birmingham last week became a pageant queen — and in doing so has made history.
The law graduate is the first black woman to be crowned Miss Universe GB in its 66-year history, and will represent Britain in the final in December.
Former athlete Dee-Ann told The Sun: “When I entered I wasn’t aware that I could be the first black woman to win, I was just Dee-Ann.
“It was only after I won and the messages started to flood in that I realised. I got loads from people saying that my win felt like a win for them as well.
The Law graduate is the first black woman to scoop the gong in the competition’s 66-year history[/caption]
“That’s when I realised that what had happened was a big deal for a lot of people. I was like, ‘Wow’. I was overjoyed.”
Dee-Ann grew up on a farm in Anguilla, a British territory in the Caribbean, making her a British citizen and eligible for our Olympics team.
But after an injury forced her to give up her promising heptathlon career, she turned to pageants instead.
Now she is just as proud to represent her country on the catwalk as she was on the track.
She also reckons her win has proved that modern Britain is a long way from the divided nation too many paint as racist following the Brexit vote.
She said: “I don’t think Britain is becoming more racist, despite people saying it is. I can only speak from my experience but I haven’t experienced racism.
“I think me winning this competition demonstrates a move towards inclusion, and that’s important for us right now.
“I’m proof that we’re not becoming more divided.”
Her historic win is a dream come true — even if it is a different dream from the one she held as a sports-mad kid.
She explained: “I think I was running straight out of the womb. I grew up in a very athletic family. Everyone trained and naturally ate healthily.
“When my mum asked what I wanted to do as a child I said I wanted to go to the Olympics. So I set my sights on that from a very young age.”
Dee-Ann started as a 400m runner but soon switched to heptathlon. In 2014 she competed in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games for Anguilla, which has its own Commonwealth Games team but not one in the Olympics.
Dee-Ann’s historic win is a dream come true, despite it not being her original dream[/caption]
It was a huge step towards her dream — but the games would end her athletics career.
She recalls: “It was in the javelin round. As I turned to throw I heard a popping sound and my knee had been totally destroyed. I was rushed to hospital. I was gutted. I think I cried more that day than I ever have in my life.”
Unwilling to accept her fate, Dee-Ann tried to continue with athletics.
She said: “I went straight back into training. It was my dream for so long so I at least wanted to try.
“But my knee went again in training and my coach told me I had to stop. He said, ‘Look, your knees are important — you need your knees to walk’.
“That’s when it really hit home I’d never be an athlete for Great Britain.
“It was one of the worst days of my life. It was very tough.”
After getting over the upset, Dee-Ann decided to channel all her energy into her law degree, which she had started at the University of Birmingham in 2013.
Dee-Ann started her Law degree at the University of Birmingham in 2013[/caption]
She said: “I’d been neglecting it. You know when you have two passions and you prefer one of them?
“I’d always preferred athletics so my degree took a back seat, but I thought since I’d lost the former I should give the latter a shot.”
But ever-competitive Dee-Ann needed the thrill of knowing she could win something. She said: “I wanted a new challenge.”
That was the Miss Anguilla pageant.
The new Miss GB beat 37 other finalists in Newport, South Wales last week[/caption]
She said: “I spoke to a previous winner who told me she never realised she was neglecting investing in herself until she entered the competition.
She said she had to examine herself and figure out what she actually wanted from her life.
“I thought that was really interesting. I asked my mum what she’d think if I entered. She was like, ‘What?!’ Because I was such a sporty tomboy.
I was always in trainers and track gear. I didn’t do glitz and glam.”
But Dee-Ann was a natural and was crowned Miss Anguilla in August 2017.
Then she set her sights higher, applying for Miss Universe GB in January. She went on to win against 37 other finalists in Newport, South Wales, last week.
She said: “Funnily enough, preparing for a pageant is very similar to preparing for the seven events in a heptathlon. They’re both split into segments.
“I wanted to win. That’s what I planned for. But it was still surreal when I did.”
The British beauty now hopes to compete in the Miss Universe competition in the Philippines in December[/caption]
And she believes she happened to enter the Miss Universe contest, which was co-owned by Donald Trump until 2015, at the right time.
She explained: “Things have changed a lot in terms of diversity.
“Pageantry has evolved just like the law, technology or science has evolved.
“If you look at the Miss Universe 2017 pageant there were different body sizes, different skin colours — there was a beautiful range.
“I think me winning is a symbol of where the pageant has been moving for the past decade.”
With her new-found status and increased popularity on Instagram — her number of followers jumped from 700 to 7,000 in two days — Dee-Ann hopes she can use her self-belief to inspire others.
She said: “I’ve always had inner confidence. It’s something that’s been drilled in me from a very young age. I grew up in a very matriarchal family. My mum and my aunt always said ‘Believe in yourself’. They said ‘You have to trust yourself’.”
But 5ft 9in size 8 Dee-Ann has had that tested several times.
Social media is an empowerment tool for women, according to Miss Kentish-Rogers[/caption]
She said: “I’ve had people tell me I’m quite hard-looking for a female. Or that I’m not pretty or whatever. It’s not nice but it doesn’t matter.”
Dee-Ann now hopes to take the title of Miss Universe in the Philippines in December.
She said with a smile: “I definitely think I’m capable of winning.”
But before then Dee-Ann, who passed her final law exams last month, is enjoying some down-time.
Dee-Ann is enjoying some downtime after passing her Law exams last month[/caption]
She said: “In my spare time I love salsa dancing but also, I absolutely love sudoku. I know that’s quite a strange habit for a 25-year-old but I love it.”
Single Dee-Ann also admits that in the immediate future she is unlikely to have time to find love.
She said: “I’m single at the moment but I’d love to be in a relationship in the future.
“But right now my life is a little bit too crazy.”
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In the meantime she is happy bigging up the sisterhood.
She said: “Social media is a good empowerment tool for women. Even if I don’t know a woman I’ll go on their picture and say ‘you are awesome’ — even if I sound crazy. I love being supportive.
“Every kind of woman can be awesome and I want to help people and be inspiring.
“I think I can use my new platform to do that.”