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Dee-Ann Kentish Rogers is more than just a beauty

A VOICE FOR WOMEN’S ISSUES: When her time as Miss Universe GB is up, Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers plans to become a lawyer

LAST MONTH, Dee-Ann Kentish-Rogers became the first black woman to take the Miss Universe Great Britain crown. The Anguilla native, who spent her early days climbing trees on her nation’s beautiful beaches, has breathed new life into the competition and hopes to take home the global crown this December.

Kentish-Rogers says it’s an incredible feeling to have won the Miss Universe Great Britain title and even more incredible for it to be a history-making moment. The panel’s choice is somewhat in line with the beauty of black women being better represented now in everything from the cosmetics industry to the media, but Kentish-Rogers says it’s more than that.

“It says much more that black women with self-belief excel in any endeavour,” she told The Voice.

And this outlook is emblematic of Kentish-Rogers’ approach to life. A former professional athlete, who trained alongside Team GB sprinter Zharnel Hughes and long jumper Shara Proctor, she was forced to retire from athletics – where she competed in the heptathlon – due to a knee in- jury. But a sudden end to her burgeoning athletics career didn’t stop her from pursuing and obtaining success. In part, her spirit has been shaped by her grandmother.

“My grandmother had many sayings. One she repeated most often to me was, ‘behind every cloud was a silver lining’. In that moment of disappointment and despair, her words came to me and I knew I had to re-create myself,” she said.

Kentish-Rogers’ grandmother came to the UK in 1956 to work in a factory in Gloucestershire, but returned to Anguilla after eight years. As a result, she has felt a personal connection to the recent Windrush controversy.

“It has great signi cance to me and generations of Caribbean people who have made the United Kingdom their home.” Referring to the difficulties that many who chose to stay in the UK have been facing, she said: "I struggle to understand actions which deny their great contribution and which rejects their right to citizenship.

"I am, though, heartened by the response of public outrage and the steps in progress to right the grave wrongs.” Righting wrongs is quite possibly something that is in Kentish-Rogers’ future. On the day I spoke to her, the reigning Miss Anguilla was on her way to the bar.

Not content on having represented Anguilla and now Great Britain, she is planning on becoming a lawyer, completing her training once her role as Miss Universe Great Britain is over.

“My plan is to pursue my legal career further and to continue to be a voice for women’s issues across the world,” she said. While some might not think that a pageant queen is the right role model for young women, Kentish-Rogers’ perseverance in the face of adversity and ability to excel in a variety of fields is bound to inspire.

The 25-year-old said her message to young black girls is to “aspire” and “believe in yourself. "Every obstacle or disappointment can be turned into an advantage. Most importantly, if there is a space in this world that you want to see yourself in, even if there is no one else there who looks like you – go there, don’t apologise and be brave,” she said.

What’s more, she’s keen to prove that there’s more to pag- eants than what meets the eye.

“There’s a misconception that pageantry is simply about beau- ty. Usually the day on stage is our day to have fun but a lot of hard work goes in beforehand – preparing our platforms, raising money and awareness for the causes of our choice and sup- porting the network of women that we meet.”

In September she will be travelling to South Africa to spend some time with Black Mamba, an all female anti-poaching unit who work to save endangered rhinos. She will also be visiting a centre for victims of acid attacks in India and a centre that helps survivors and those at risk of FGM in the UK.

In addition to learning more about what the organisations do and what they need, Kentish- Rogers will be presenting them with funds raised in the UK. For Kentish- Rogers, a combination of a quest to satisfy her desire to compete and some serendipity led to her embarking down the pageant route.

“My first pageant was Miss Anguilla in 2017 and I really enjoyed the experience and early on discovered that it revitalised my competitive nature. That’s how I set my sights on Miss Universe Great Britain. I was living in Birmingham so it all fell into place,” she said. Her family and friends have been extremely supportive.

“Thrilled, overjoyed and immensely proud are just some of the sentiments they expressed to me. They were on Facebook and Instagram sharing my pictures and celebrating my win, grabbing 10 copies of each paper and recording every interview that they’ve seen online,” she said.

And her athletics friends have shared their congratulations. Hughes said: “I’m really proud of Dee-Ann. She’s a phenomenal woman, she has her head on, she’s very focused, she’s very intelligent as well and I’m just really proud of her to see that she went out here from small, little Anguilla and represents to the full of her potential and she came out victorious.”

Proctor said she screamed when Kentish-Rogers’ won and that the achievement pushed her on the track. “It definitely gave me that inspiration to make Anguilla proud because we are small but we do have a lot of talent and I’m nally happy that it’s being recognised on a world stage,” she told The Voice
“She’s like a little sister to me... She’s very intelligent, she’s very athletic, she’s an all- round great person.” Proctor said she was confident that Kentish-Rogers can go on to win the big prize of Miss Universe. And she’s not the only one.

Kentish-Rogers said: “I feel extremely privileged to representing GB and by extension Anguilla in the Miss Universe final. I do feel that it is a tremendous responsibility. However, it is one that I eagerly embrace, knowing I will dedicate every fibre of my being over the next four-and-a-half months to make GB and Anguilla exceedingly proud.

“I would be [overjoyed] to medal for GB and Anguilla by bringing home the Miss Uni- verse crown.”

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