A teenage beauty queen who overcame a physical condition by taking up ballet is off to represent the region in a national contest.
Esme Phillips, of Thames Road, Hebburn, is going to Miss Teen Galaxy UK in her role as Miss Junior Teen Tyne and Wear.
The 14-year-old was first featured in the Gazette in March 2011 when, as a 10-year-old, she landed a part in a production of the ballet Coppelia – despite being born with a condition that made her feet point almost 90 degrees the wrong way.
The youngster had been told by doctors that she could face a major operation, or she could try ballet, which might help.
Three years later, she secured a part in English Youth Ballet’s production of Coppelia at the Tyne Theatre, in Newcastle.
Esme, a pupil at Durham High School for Girls, will head to the Park Hall Hotel, in Lancashire, in February to compete in the contest.
She does it for fun and it’s something that we enjoy doing together.Emma-Jane Phillips, Esme’s mum
The winner will be flown to America in the summer to take part in the competition’s international stage.
Her mum, Emma-Jane, said: “She’s really excited for it. She does it for fun and it’s something that we enjoy doing together.
“We’re both so busy so this is our time together. I make her dresses and help her get ready, and she’s definitely the only emo beauty queen I’ve ever seen, so she does stand out. She’s done dancing for a long time and I thought dance mams were scary but they’ve got nothing on pageant mams.”
The 43-year-old, who lectures in computing at Northumbria University, added: “A lot of the girls sit there talking about how much their dresses cost and Esme tells them that I’ve made hers, and she’s the only girl I’ve seen walk down the catwalk in Dr Martens and fishnets, but the fashion round is about showing your own style and that’s what she likes.
“She doesn’t conform to what people would expect a beauty queen to be.”
Contestants are judged in four rounds, made up of fashion wear, swimwear, evening wear and an interview.
Esme endured a tough start in life. In 2008, her stepfather Glenn suffered a major blood clot and died while playing with her in the family home. He was just 36.
She was targeted by bullies at primary school in Gateshead – suffering a cracked rib and pelvis after being pushed off playground equipment – and faced her own health problems.
Despite all that, Esme has grown into a confident young girl who gives up her spare time to feed the homeless at a Salvation Army soup kitchen.
She also still enjoys ballet and dances four nights a week at the Worx Academy, in Sunderland.
Emma-Jane said: “Esme volunteers at the soup kitchen at the Salvation Army in Jarrow and went out with them the other night giving blankets and sleeping bags to homeless people in Newcastle.
“As part of the pageant she also has to make public appearances and get sponsorship but she hasn’t got the connections some of the other girls have, so anything people can help us with will be great.”
She added: “Her legs are fine now and she’s doing great. She still loves ballet dancing and she’s even on point now, which is something the doctors said she’d never be able to do. Her dance teacher is amazing.”
l Anyone who would like to sponsor Esme or have her make a public appearance as Miss Junior Teen Tyne and Wear can email Emma-Jane at firstname.lastname@example.org.