A FORMER heroin addict who appeared on Jeremy Kyle is now a Miss England finalist after kicking her habit and getting a job on a farm.
Atlanta Wilsher, who started drinking as a nine-year-old and became a drugs addict at 18, is now set to compete in tomorrow’s final.
The 25-year-old, from Harlow, Essex, knocked her habit after spending a month in rehab and was persuaded by mum Jane Penfold to enter the beauty pageant.
The former tearaway was grilled on the Jeremy Kyle Show after Jane, 59, forced her to appear to face her heroin problem.
She spoke on the now-axed show with her sister Georgia and mum in 2017, talking about how her grief after her boyfriend’s death had triggered her addiction.
Atlanta also revealed that she had taken heroin immediately before the show to cope with the pressure.
‘I FOUND THE STRENGTH TO CHANGE’
Speaking now, Atlanta said: “I spent eight years squatting in different houses – I went from my life before where I had lots of qualifications and was doing well for myself, to being on the streets begging and injecting daily.
“My mum came and brought me home one year ago, like she’s done so many times – I weighed just five and a half stone.
“I don’t know what it was, but this time I just found the strength to change things.”
When her mum entered her in the pageant she thought nothing would come of it – and was left screaming in shock when she found she’d got through.
I spent eight years squatting in different houses – I went from my life before where I had lots of qualifications and was doing well for myself, to being on the streets begging and injecting daily.
Atlanta credits her recovery with volunteering on a farm in Sawbridgeworth, Herts., run by family friend Marlene Brunt.
“Since then [entering the pageant], I’ve actually had to practice wearing stilettos, for ten minutes a day! I am still more used to wearing my wellies.”
Her duties at Kecksy’s Farm include mucking out, feeding and training highland cattle, donkeys, chickens and goats, as well as no less than 63 dogs.
But she also knows a thing or two about being on stage from taking part in shows in her younger years, and from mum Jane’s career as a dance teacher and past as a former showgirl.
Atlanta, who won South East semi-final to bag her place in the final, said: “It’s so informal on a farm, they’re not exactly glamorous places, but being around animals has helped me so much.
“When you’re recovering it’s like you’re is treading on eggshells.
“But volunteering on the farm takes my mind off everything because the animals are so loving and affectionate.
“Going from there to having your nails done and being on the catwalk is really strange. It can be a bit dazzling when you’re not been on stage.
“Everyone at the farm was amazed when I told them I’d got into Miss England – but now I’m in the finals they’re delighted.”
Don’t look down on addicts and the homeless, that’s my message. Everyone has problems and we all try to deal with them in our different ways, but it shouldn’t make anyone less than someone else.
Atlanta has never let herself forget about the life she had, as she sees so many people still dealing with the problems she herself faced.
She has praised Open Road in Harlow, a drug and alcohol recovery service, and West Essex Specialist Treatment and Recovery Service (STaRS), in helping her with her recovery.
She added: “Don’t look down on addicts and the homeless, that’s my message.
“Everyone has problems and we all try to deal with them in our different ways, but it shouldn’t make anyone less than someone else.
“I want to support people in addiction because there’s not really anyone else out there for them.
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“It only takes one person not to be ashamed and say ‘I was an addict’.
“Those still out there need a voice, and I want to be that voice.”
The final of Miss England 2019 will take place tomorrow and Thursday in Newcastle.
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