'˜My title gives me the chance to help others'
From charity work to campaigning for LGBT rights and coming to terms with chilldhood bullying, Junior Miss Preston tells Tom Earnshaw why beauty pageants can be a force for good.
For some, beauty pageants are something that belong in the past.
They have been called sexist and outdated on more than one occasion and have more recently hit the headlines through the most powerful person in the world, President Donald Trump, who owned the Miss USA pageant competition from 1996 to 2015.
But the idea of the competitions being a contest of good looks alone are wide of the mark, according to those who take part in them.
Jessica Jackson was crowned Junior Miss Preston 2017 at the Preston Playhouse theatre back in April after being shortlisted for the final a month earlier, winning over the judges through her anti-bullying campaign efforts to inspire other teenagers to understand just how wrong bullying is.
In April, Jessica said: “I am so thankful and lucky for the opportunity and I am going to make the most of it. I want to use the title to bring about a change in the current attitudes in our society.
“It is something that is extremely close to my heart as I have been bullied for 10 years and have suffered greatly because of that and other factors.
“I don’t want anyone else to suffer how I have done and I will continue to campaign throughout the rest of my life.”
For Jessica, pageantry is a force for good that goes beyond a battle of appearances. Since being crowned, the 17-year-old has used her title to attend various public events as a spokeswoman.
Jessica said: “My title gives me the chance to help out at events in the local community. Whenever I’m asked to lend a hand, I of course say yes.”
The Cardinal Newman College student had the recent pleasure of attending Preston Pride 2017, where she took photos with members of the public and spoke to them about their and her experiences.
At the festival Jessica presented a lifetime achievement award to LGBT campaigner John Miller for his continued fight for equal rights, something which meant a lot to the junior title holder.
Jessica said: “It was quite a big thing for me, as I myself am bisexual, and because John does so much for equality in Preston.”
Jessica added: “I did a little speech about what Pride meant to me and gave a thank you to those who have helped me through my personal circumstances.”
Next stop is a fundraising night for SEED Eating Disorder Support Services, taking place at Evoque nightclub in Preston, where Jessica is hosting an Amy Winehouse Tribute concert from 7pm to midnight on Saturday October 7.
Public events such as these are just one side of her role as Junior Miss Preston, with Leyland-born Jessica using her title to raise money for various charitable causes, some of which have been very close to her own heart.
June saw her complete the five kilometre Pretty Muddy obstacle course at Moor Park in Preston, scrambling over A-frames and crawling through mud pits for Cancer Research UK, raising a total of £280.
Jessica said: “It’s a charity close to my heart as both my Grandma Maralyn and Uncle Ellis have suffered from cancer.
“I use my title to show people what they can achieve in their own lives.”
Jessica’s personal ambitions are reason for inspiration too, with the student wanting to pursue a career in computing through either Oxford or Cambridge university to study computer science and government and politics.
“I’ve always been interested in politics,” Jessica said. “I watch the news every day, morning and night.
“I just want to follow my passions going forward in life.”
This year has also seen Jessica raise £1175.94 for the children’s charity Variety.
Whether that is through walking the 21-mile Guild Wheel route, taking part in a bungee jump or hosting a community raffle, Jessica has done them all.
She is also putting together a charity Christmas hamper in time for the festive season.
Jessica said: “I’m looking to get a range of local businesses to donate anything they can, small or big. So far we have two bottles of prosecco, a bottle of champagne, a teddy bear and chocolates.”
Variety, which tries to improve the lives of children and young people throughout the UK that are sick, disabled or disadvantaged, is a charity that have been close to the Miss England organisation, the overriding body of Miss Preston, for many years.
July saw Miss Lancashire, Olivia Seed, raise £1,200 for the charity through her a ‘wear your own clothes’ day at her old school, Cardinal Allen High School, in Fleetwood.
Miss World, the body which Miss England is a part of, has had what it calls its ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ programme at the core of its work since 1972, founded by chairwoman Julia Morley.
The organisation even received a message from former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, commending their work with disadvantaged children.
Read by his grandson, Chief Mandela, the letter read: “Nelson Mandela would like to extend a congratulatory message to the Beauty with a Purpose programme as you celebrate your 40th birthday and wishes that you grow from strength to strength as you continue with your work of empowering young people to be of service to their communities.”
For Jessica, the Miss Junior England final now awaits, but winning everything.
She said: “I’m really nervous but really excited; I’m working really hard.
“I just want to help people. I’m not aiming to win - if I do it would be great but I would have done so much to help people regardless.”