Miss Leicester: I was bullied so much I got anxiety, but look at me now
‘It was just bitchy, it made me feel awful’
A pretty postgrad who was struck down with an anxiety disorder when she was bullied by her housemates has had the last laugh – by being crowned a beauty queen.
Pretty Jessica Blake, 22, was diagnosed when she was taunted by her friends at uni. But now she has overcome the odds to be crowned Miss Leicester.
Jessica struggled to settle into halls of residence at De Montfort University in Leicester where she had gone to study in 2010.
But the friends she had planned to live with in the second year taunted her about her appearance when she got a modelling contract.
After suffering months of verbal abuse, Business and Management student Jessica moved back home to live with her parents 32 miles away for the rest of her four year degree.
She said: “I struggled to settle into my first year at university because I was away from home and my best friends had moved away too.
“The girls I had been planning to share a house with the next year began making comments about my appearance after I was offered a modelling contract.
“It was just bitchy and made me feel awful. They made comments about my hair, because it is naturally Afro hair so I have to wear extensions.”
But she realised she was still feeling increasingly anxious during the first term of her second year and within months she was too anxious to even leave her home.
She was eventually diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) at Christmas 2011 and put on medication to ease her anxiety.
She finally conquered her condition and decided to follow her dream of becoming a model and entered a beauty contest earlier this year.
On May 24 she beat more than 30 other women to be crowned Miss Leicester.
“So I decided to live with my mum and dad after the first year, but my anxiety got worse, and I was just scared to even leave my bed.
“I wasn’t eating because I just wasn’t looking after myself, and that was at its worst for about three months.
“My dad would come in with a piece of toast and say he wasn’t leaving until I ate it.
“I would just want to be alone so the only way to get him to leave was to eat it but one time it took me five hours just to eat the toast.
“I was in a bad way, and my grades at university plummeted in second year. But I was diagnosed with GAD around Christmas 2011.
“When I was eventually put on medication it helped but I don’t think it will ever be completely cured.
“I had to go back on the medication last year because it flared up again, but I feel far more in control of it now, and things like this competition give me such a lift.
“My family and my boyfriend are all completely behind me and so proud of me which feels really good.
“I wanted to win the Miss Leicester competition so much, it’s made me so happy. It’s such a high.”
Jessica, who is doing a masters degree in Marketing at the University of Leicester, is now going on to compete for the national title of Miss Great Britain in September.
Jessica was judged by a panel which included last year’s Miss Great Britain Ashley Powell and the competition’s founder Kate Solomons.
She now hopes to set up her own charity to help others who suffer from anxiety related mental health disorders once she graduates.
Jessica added: “I’m not really sure what to expect now, I know I’ll have a full calendar of events and there’s the national finals soon, so I’ll be preparing for those too.
“But for now I’m just enjoying the feeling of winning.
“I’ve bought my dress for the Miss Great Britain finals, but I won’t tell anyone what colour it is because it’s a surprise.
“It cost £480 which is way more than I have ever spent on a dress before. I’m having to pay it off in installments.
“Having this disorder has been really hard for me, so I just want to use my experiences and help other people with the same issues.
“There’s quite a lot of stigma associated with mental health so I want to break down the barriers and show people there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that it’s okay to come forward and ask for help.”
The Masters student said: “I’ve had a lot of backlash over Twitter, a lot of girls were taking the mick saying that I couldn’t be suffering from anxiety because of what I do.
“But they don’t get that my life on social media is completely different to me in real life. You put on a front.”
And outside of the pageant world she’s remarkably relaxed about her appearance. Jessica says: “At uni I put a beanie hat on and get up and go. I don’t really enjoy exercise, but I won a gym membership with my title so it’s an excuse to get fit for the next competition. I am so unfit- I was panting when I was going up the stairs in those dresses.”