A brave South Tyneside woman who was badly scarred after a savage attack by her ex-partner is aiming to be an inspirational role model for all domestic abuse victims – as she gets set to launch a new career on the catwalk.
Chanttelle Ward is still recovering from the physical and mental scars inflicted on her by thug Rhys Culley, who sank his teeth into her lip during a jealous rage in February of last year.
But the determined 20-year-old is rebuilding her self-confidence and putting her troubled past behind her – after being crowned the winner of a prestigious national modelling event.
Miss Ward saw off competition from 11 other beauties from across the country to claim top spot in the Top Model of England finals in Barnsley on Sunday – and scoop a modelling contract with a London-based agency.
She is now urging other victims of violence not to ‘hide away’ and to live their lives to the full.
Culley, who had been in a relationship with Miss Ward for two years, initially denied wounding with intent but was caged for eight years at Newcastle Crown Court last November.
“You don’t have to hide away or be ashamed.”Chanttelle Ward
She said: “Winning the competition was just such a surprise. It has given me a confidence boost. The past will never go away but it has made me feel better about myself.
“The scars on my face and the feelings will never go away but I won’t let that hold me back.
“You can mask it with make-up and this shows that you don’t have to perfect.”
She added: “I have never thought of myself as a confident, outstanding, beautiful person, but when I got chosen it made me think that someone must think of me as a nice person.
Miss Ward, who works as a finance assistant, entered the competition – which featured photoshoots and a judged strut on a catwalk – after being placed third in the Miss Sunderland event in July.
While she admits the brutal experience she endured can never be erased, she is determined not to be defined by it.
She said: “It doesn’t change how I feel about myself, It won’t make everything fine but it can help me to move on and show that my whole life doesn’t have to revolve around what happened.
“I hope it proves to other girls and women, and men who have suffered abuse, that you don’t have to hide away or be ashamed, you can carry on with your life.”
Miss Ward says a chance to become a top model has always been a dream - though she feared it had been cruelly snatched away from her.
She said: “Modelling is something I dreamed of doing when I was younger but when something bad happens you feel like you don’t have those opportunities anymore.
“But I’m not a quitter. I have been spurred on by negativity.”
As well as earning representation for at least one year by Gap Models in London, Chanttelle scooped a £1,000 top prize, a chance to have a professional photoshoot, will have a personalised modelling website set up for her and will be the face of the Dressworx modelling collection for 2016.