Todmorden doctor Saskia Fauguel receives record number of votes to reach Miss England final
A junior doctor has made it to the final of Miss England after receiving a record number of votes in the qualifying round - despite never entering a beauty pageant in her life.
Saskia Fauguel, 27, said she "never dreamed" of being a beauty queen but she entered the famous competition after losing four stone and enjoying a "confidence boost".
Despite having no pageant experience, Saskia recorded a staggering 27,000 votes in the qualifiers in order to fly through to the final, which is a red carpet event later in the year.
But she will have to juggle her competition obligations with a high-stress junior doctor role in the NHS where she is about to begin the six-year process of becoming a psychiatrist.
Saskia, from Todmorden, said: "This isn't something I ever dreamed of doing, I have never even entered a pageant before, but I saw the opportunity and thought, 'why not?' "I was aware of pageants when I was younger but I never dreamed of being in one myself, I never had the confidence to go for it until now, plus I was focusing on being a doctor.
"Some of the girls will be models and very experienced at doing pageants, which is the total opposite of me, but I don't mind being an underdog, I'm just really excited."
Miss England entrants ordinarily qualify through live heats; however, due to venues being closed because of coronavirus the process went digital for this year's event.
Saskia submitted images and videos of herself, including an introduction, a catwalk and a talent video for the judges to watch, before being accepted as a wildcard.
She appeared on an app, along with other entrants, and was stunned to watch on as a whopping 27,000 votes went her way - more than anyone else in Miss England history.
Saskia said: "That number of votes is really overwhelming, I don't really know how it happened.
"I asked my friends and family to vote for me, so they must have done a really good job."
Winners from the wildcard round must ordinarily pass an interview to appear at the final; however, the organisers were so impressed with Saskia she has been fast-tracked.
She said: "I'm still in shock that I've actually made it.
"While it's not something I know a lot about I'm a really determined person, so now that I have made it to the final I want to win."
Saskia added: "My gran loves pageants as well so I think it will be nice for her to see me going for it, especially if I win, she will be so happy."
Saskia said her gran, 92-year-old Eileen Ganson, is interested in fashion and won a Glamorous Grandma competition a couple of decades ago.
The junior doctor, who has worked in West Yorkshire since graduating in 2019, says she was "shy" as a youngster and has struggled with her weight and mental health in the past.
However, Saskia's fortunes began to turn in November last year when she embarked on a weight loss journey after finding out she had high bloody sugar levels.
She said: "I was always happy with how I looked but when I found at my health was at risk I decided to make a change.
"Before I used to eat whatever I wanted, I like sweets and chocolate so I was eating a lot of that and I love flapjacks, I used to eat one of those a day.
"Now I keep an eye on everything I eat. I avoid fried food and limit takeaways to one a week, whereas before it was much more than that."
Saskia's changed lifestyle has resulted in her weight plummeting from 14st all the way down to just above 10st.
She said: "I feel really good, definitely much better than before.
"It has also resulted in a real boost of confidence, which is why I'm so excited about Miss England."
Saskia, who is single and lives with her family, graduated from the University of Bradford in 2019 and took up junior doctor roles in Grimsby then Bradford.
Since then she has worked in psychiatry, ENT (ear, nose and throat) and A&E departments.
Saskia has just been offered a job with the NHS Greater Manchester, where she will train for six years in psychiatry, which is what she is specialising in.
She said: "I do see some cross-over between the Miss England stuff and my job.
"I want to use the platform to raise awareness about mental health issues, which I have suffered from before and which is an area I want to work in too.
"I will also speak about Alzheimer's, which is something close to my heart because my gran suffers from it."
Saskia said she is "very excited" to see how far she can in the Miss England final, which will stage its final in Coventry in a red carpet event on June 25.
She added: "I think I'll be a bit nervous but I'm used to being out of my comfort zone through work, so hopefully I'll be okay."