An intensive care nurse looking after coronavirus patients has reached the semi-finals of the Miss England beauty pageant.
Elizabeth Willis, 22, works as an ICU nurse in Paddington’s St Mary’s Hospital, starting just months before the coronavirus outbreak.
And after one long night shift, the Old Kent Road-based nurse decided to apply for the Miss England contest – hoping to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner, junior doctor Bhasha Mukherjee.
If Elizabeth is successful in the final, the former King’s College student will go on to compete in the Miss World contest.
“I applied after a night shift, I’d never done a pageant before,” she said. “I saw the previous winner was a junior doctor, so I just sent in photos and didn’t think anything more of it.”
Contestants have to be “more than a pretty face” and are grilled on their general knowledge, undertake charity work, and even make their own dresses in an ‘eco fashion’ round.
Judges rank constants on how well they do in each round, while the public also vote for their favourite contestant.
“The reaction has been really positive,” said Elizabeth, who is a ‘wildcard’ entry in the semi-finals.
“I’ve told quite a few of my colleagues – they were a bit surprised, but supportive.
“I was a bit unsure about whether I should do it because I didn’t want to take anything away from my patients, but my mum said: ‘You can bring recognition to nurses’.
“Me and my colleagues were helping one of my patients, and she said: ‘A future Miss England is fluffing up your pillows!’”
Since starting as an ICU nurse at the end of last year, Elizabeth has been on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus, working long shifts to care for people seriously ill from the virus.
“It was a very difficult time for everyone,” said the nurse, who also models commercially. “Wearing PPE for hours on end, and not having any breaks, but luckily it seems to be improving.
“[At the peak] It was all just coronavirus patients. Normally we care for trauma patients, but we were just having coronavirus patients.”
The semi-final, on July 31, will take place via virtual livestream this year, because of the coronavirus restrictions.
To find out more information about the contest, including how to vote, visit www.missengland.info/qualifiers/semi-final