65-year-old Maija Ozolina has been selected among 50 other finalists to take part in the National Final of the Classic Miss British Isles modelling competition after being crowned Classic Miss Lancashire last year.
Originally from Latvia, she first moved to Lancashire two decades ago following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which impacted economics, culture and arts in the country and forced her and her partner to survive from paycheck to paycheck.
Maija currently works for Integrate Preston and Chorley Ltd, supporting young people with learning disabilities and complex needs as a Project Worker and Social Inclusion coordinator, and is preparing for her return to work following an acute stroke in January of this year.
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Determined to get back on her feet, she entered and won the Classic Miss Lancashire modelling competition and will go head to head in a catwalk against other finalists from across the country in Chester on September 2.
She said: "I applied and had to go to a photoshoot and an informal interview before I was crowned Classic Miss Lancashire. It was amazing to me because Lancashire has always felt like more of a home to me than anywhere, I love it.
"In the final, we will have a rehearsal before I will walk down the catwalk twice, once in a cocktail dress and then an evening gown in front of judges.
"It shows how multicultural this country is and how accepting we can be in a society that I have reached the final. I love it when people just accept those who are different, from all walks of life and different backgrounds.
"It would be amazing and a real honour if I was to win the competition and represent the country."
Maija will be required to take part in a professional photoshoot prior to the final then a catwalk show at the final in front of judges.
Previous winners of Miss British Isles organised events have gone to be signed by top modelling agencies and taken part in major TV shows and films.
And she has been a member of the community writing group Just Write, held at the Harris Museum, since 2015, and now leads the group as a volunteer, self-publishing short stories and poems.
Maija had suffered an acute stroke in January of this year and claims that after 'determination, lots of exercise and a positive mindset' she is eager to get back into action and take to the stage in next week's final.
She added: "I am always so busy and just don't know when to stop working. My job is extremely demanding and was very difficult during the pandemic and lockdowns, supporting people with mental health issues and integrating them into society.
"As well as this, I am running all my other groups such as the Just Write meetings and working as a community interpreter in Latvian and Russian languages.
"My blood pressure just went through the roof and I suffered a stroke on January 10. I was in hospital and it has been a long recovery, but I am determined to get back on my feet, push myself to get back to normal and make myself proud."
If she wins the competition, Maija will get an official class A modelling and influencer contract, keep the star-studded Classic Miss British Isles Crown.
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