19-year-old Aishat Onilogbo from Midleton has been named as a finalist for Miss Universe Ireland and is one of two Cork ladies in with the chance to represent their county - and possibly country- at the international Miss Universe competition this year.
Miss Universe is an international beauty pageant that has about 500 million viewers each year.
However, outer beauty is not the extent of the competition.
Many contestants for both the Irish and international stages of the competition have utilised their voice to raise awareness about different issues, such as last year’s winner Fionnghuala O’Reilly who used her platform to highlight the need for diversity in STEM subjects.
A pharmacy student at University College Cork, Ms Onilogbo is hoping to use her platform to inspire young girls.
She wants to raise awareness about the barriers in Ireland’s education system and hopes to advocate for free school meals in Ireland.
“My main goal with Miss Universe Ireland is to raise awareness of the socio-economic barriers that young people are facing in Ireland especially with sports and education.
"In regards to education, you have to pay so many fees and rely on parents to get you into college, when education is the main priority in life,” she said.
“You have to find a job and it’s so hard to balance mental health with work and college.
"Mental health is such a huge issue right now and I feel we could really take the pressure off young people and get more funding in regards to barriers in education,” she said.
Ms Onilogbo is a sprinter for Leevale AC and was part of the Emerging Talent Programme in 2016/2017 and 2017/2018.
In 2017, she was named Athlete of the Year at St Mary’s High School in Midleton and believes that sport and mental health are often intertwined.
She hopes to also use her platform to speak about funding for women in sport during this year’s competition.
“I have a passion for sport and would love to speak about funding for women in sport and inequality in sport.
“I really loved sports, but my parents had to pay so much.
"And, I feel like physical activity is really important in this day and age.
“People don’t always have the basic funds to pay for a sport that they like and in other countries, you can see that there are a lot more sponsorships in terms of sports.
"We’re a small nation and we’re not doing too bad, but we need to do more.”
The next stage of the Miss Universe Competition will see the 12 finalists cut down to just six, with one to go forward and represent Ireland at the 69th Annual Miss Universe pageant where Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa will crown her successor.
For Aishat Onilogbo, the dream is to get the final stage and be in with a chance of representing Ireland and showcasing our diverse culture to the rest of the world.
“Seeing Fionnoughla O’Reilly win last year- the first woman of colour - there’s so much diversity in Ireland and I feel that we can show that off to the world.
"I think that can inspire young girls that no matter what their background is, anything is possible and pageantry is not all about being a model and looking pretty.
"You can use your voice to change things in society and that’s the main reason why I want to do Miss Universe Ireland,” she said.
“No matter what your background is or what colour you are, you’re still Irish and that’s the great thing about Ireland, there’s so much diversity and being part of Miss Universe, I can show that to the world.”