A British beauty queen made history this week by becoming the first woman in a hijab to compete in the Miss England pageant finals.
Sara Iftekhar is a 20-year-old law student from Huddersfield, a town near the city of Manchester. After winning local beauty pageants, she faced off against 49 other contestants during the final round of the Miss England pageant in Nottinghamshire on Tuesday.
Iftekhar didn’t win the overall prize this year ― the title of Miss England 2018 went to Alisha Cowie, a contestant from Newcastle. And she’s not the first Muslim woman in a hijab to compete for this particular crown ― other hijab-wearing contestants have participated in qualifying rounds for the Miss England pageant, according to the Independent.
Still, Iftekhar says she’s proud of being the first Muslim woman in a hijab to walk the catwalk at the finals.
In an Instagram video posted after the results were announced, Iftekhar claimed that winning the overall title “was never my purpose.”
“My purpose was just to show that we’re regular girls as well,” she said. “And I think I showed that by reaching the top 50 after 22,000 girls. ... That’s something I’m proud of.”
Sara Iftekhar showcases her talent ― makeup ― in the video below.
Iftekhar told the BBC she decided to participate in the contest for “a bit of fun.”
“If I want to cover myself up and dress modestly why should that be an issue? I am just like the other contestants,” she said. “If I am sending out that message, it will motivate other people to participate in a beauty contest.”
For the talent portion of the competition, Iftekhar showcased her skills as a makeup artist. For the eco dress, she transformed a cardboard Kentucky Fried Chicken box into an ocean-themed fabric clutch.
On a GoFundMe page she set up to raise money for Beauty with a Purpose, a charity associated with the Miss World competition, Iftekhar wrote that she wanted to show people that “beauty doesn’t have a definition.”
“Everyone is beautiful in their own ways, regardless of their weight, race, color or shape,” she wrote.
Muslim women have been breaking barriers in the modeling industry for quite some time. In 2016, Somali-American model Halima Aden, competed in Miss Minnesota USA while wearing a hijab. Aden went on to appear on the covers of Vogue Arabia, British Vogue and Teen Vogue.