Preston’s Lizzy back with a bump after ‘incredible’ Miss World trip

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Lizzy Grant has only just stopped spinning after the whirlwind that is the Miss World contest.

Coming back to earth from the stratosphere of the planet’s top beauty pageant has been a difficult re-entry for the 20-year-old from Preston.

To help her adjust to normality after three weeks of “insanity,” Lizzy switched off all social media over Christmas and New Year and just unloaded to her family and boyfriend.

“It’s been madness,” she said after returning to her part-time day job in a city centre shoe shop. “The most incredible experience I’ve ever had.

“But it’s back to reality now.”

With reality comes the realisation that there will be no more beauty contests for Lizzy. After she hands back her Miss England crown and sash in July that will be it.

A career which only began last April can go no further. Eight months after winning the Miss Preston title as a competition novice, she has already reached the end of the catwalk.

“I’ve got lots of engagements to fulfil as Miss England over the next few months, but no more competitions,” she said.

“I’d love to continue. But I can’t enter the Miss England contest again and you can’t have a second go at being Miss World. So there’s only one place I could go and that would be to enter Miss Universe.

“I can’t do that, I wouldn’t do that. It would be like stabbing Julia Morley and the Miss World team in the back by joining the opposition. I respect them far too much for that.”

Lizzy admits she was dizzy when she flew back from the United States after an intense three weeks in the Miss World circus.

A relentless schedule building up to the final night on December 18 in Washington DC left her exhausted and jet-lagged.

“I slept for 24 hours after I got back,” she said. “I was that tired. I’m back to normal and back at work now. And all I’ve got are wonderful memories.

“When you’re flying out there you’re full of excitement and nerves. It’s what you dream about, yet you haven’t a clue what is going to happen or what you’re going into.

“I’d never been to the US before. But for me to go there as Miss England and to be competing in the Miss World competition was absolutely insane.

“I felt like a kid in a candy store. My eyes were bulging out and my mouth was wide open. Everything was so big and so amazing. I found it so surreal.

“It soon became clear that a lot of the girls had gone to pageant school before arriving at the Miss World contest, so they’d been taught how to dress and what to say.

“We don’t get that training here in England. But, having said that, I don’t think I would have wanted that. I just wanted to be me.

“It was quite intimidating at first. But the girls were just great and we got on so well. In just three weeks I think I’ve made some real friends for life.

“We weren’t told until we arrived who we were rooming with. I guess they wanted to see how we would react to being given a stranger as a room-mate. They wanted to put us under pressure and see how we dealt with it

“I shared with Miss Cayman Islands and she was absolutely fabulous. We hit it off straight away.

“The three UK girls - me, Miss Wales and Miss Scotland - were really good friends as well. And we all had little cliques, with our group including Slovenia, Gibraltar, Malta, Guyana, Brazil, USA and Australia.

“Every day there was something different going on. But we were never told too far in advance - usually it was just seven or eight o’clock in the evening before we found out what was happening the next day.

“There was one day when we were told we were missing breakfast and would be having brunch about 10.30 to 11. So we didn’t have to rush.

“We were just relaxing and I’d just come out of the shower when I heard my team leader banging loudly on the door. I was told I’d got to be ready for a press interview in 10 minutes. I needed to have make-up and hair done and I just freaked out.

“So Miss Cayman rang Scotland and Wales and they rushed to our room to help me get ready. One was doing my hair, another helping with the make-up and the other zipping up my dress. That’s how much we pulled together for each other.”

The 2016 Miss World contest may have lasted three full weeks for the 120 girls , but it was still shorter than previous pageants.

“Others have been four or five weeks in length,” said Lizzy. “Usually they have a lot more rehearsals and a lot more appearances.

“It was a new-look Miss World. They wanted to get away from the sexist stereotype of bikinis and high heels and have a much better format.

“And instead of the walk down in evening dress we had a dance number to perform, arranged by the choreographer from Dancing With the Stars.

“I think they were a bit anxious how everyone would receive the new format for Miss World. But it went well. All the girls agreed it was much better than having the old style swimwear stuff. We had all been told months before - in my case when I won the Miss England title - that there wouldn’t be a bikini round and I was glad about that.”

So what now - and can anything ever live up to the experience Lizzy has just had?

“I took a year out of university to do the Miss England thing and I always said I would return to Liverpool and carry on studying for my psychology degree in September.

“I’ve always felt it was important to have a good degree behind me, whatever I decide to do in the future.

“I’m working in the Clark’s shoe store in Preston and I also do shifts at Glovers Bar in the city centre.

“Both have been brilliant, supporting me throughout all that’s happened in the last eight months or so. They’ve helped me whenever they could because they could see it was difficult trying to balance everything.

“And then there are all the engagements I still have on my diary as Miss England.”

If that wasn’t enough, Lizzy is throwing herself into the launch of a special project at Derian House Children’s Hospice at Chorley, where her sister Melanie was cared for as a 12-year-old before she died in 2001.

As a fund-raising ambassador she has been helping with the new Beyond the Cradle campaign to provide a specialist baby and toddler group for babies with terminal or life-limiting illness and their siblings.

“My family has a strong bond with Derian House and I’d like to devote as much time to as I possibly can to this new project. It’s a group to help families who have experienced a difficult childbirth - a sort of safe haven for them where they can find help and moral support.

“The girl who won Miss World, Miss Puerto Rico, became a good friend during our three weeks in the States.

“I know she’s going to be really busy over the next 12 months, but I’m hoping she can come over to Lancashire and make a personal appearance here.

“I’d also like to do some pageant training with girls in the future, using my experiences over the past year to help them. If I could do that it would be absolutely fantastic.

“I’d like to think I’ve come back from the Miss World contest a better person. I certainly feel that I have.

“I think I’ve grown spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I hope it’ll help me in everything I do from now on. The whole experience has been just incredible - by far the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”