CORK'S Leila Ecker has been named one of two finalists from the county who is in with the chance to represent Ireland at this year’s Miss Universe competition.
19-year-old Leila Ecker from north Cork has been named one of 12 finalists for the Miss Universe Ireland Competition.
Following a public vote, six ladies will be chosen to go ahead to the final round of the competition and represent Ireland at the 2020 Miss Universe Competition which will see current Miss Universe, Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa crown her successor.
The international pageant sees contestants from across the globe and of the 12 finalists, two are from Cork.
Along with Aishat Onliogbo, Leila Ecker will be in with the chance to represent Cork and possibly all of Ireland at this year’s competition.
For Leila, to be named a finalist is a “dream come true”.
“I was over the moon when I found out. I was ecstatic. It's definitely a dream come true,” she said.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do over the past year. I feel like in our country, there’s a lot of things that need to be said and this pageant is where we can do something about it as individuals.”
Leila recently hit headlines for her involvement in the 'Go House', a house for Irish content creators and with over 400 thousand followers, she hopes to broaden her platform to raise awareness about the issues that matter most to her.
“My aim is to make a difference in Ireland. My main focus is on homelessness and mental health in Ireland.
“I come from a small town in Cork and I feel like I’ve been so sheltered and after moving up to Dublin, it has really opened my eyes to the issue with homelessness and it's so sad to see,” she said.
“I’ve always had an interest in [mental health]. One of my close friends suffers with her mental health and I can see how that affects her and I have previously suffered with anxiety myself and I think that I could be a great spokesperson.”
Leila has described last year’s Miss Universe Ireland, Fionnghuala O'Reilly as someone she looks up to and who inspired her to get in involved in Miss Universe Ireland 2020.
“I look up to Fionnghuala O'Reilly as she’s such an inspiring and powerful woman. She’s really given me motivation and I aspire to be like her.
“I would love to meet her one day.”
With a large following on social media, Leila has had a taste for what it means to be able to inspire young girls to do what they love.
“I do get a lot of DMs [Direct Messages] from girls to say that I inspire them and that makes my day because that’s all I want to do and if I get to do this competition, it would give me the chance to reach more people.
"I would like to show women that it's ok to be who you are. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.”
With a previous 2018 Miss Universe Ireland also coming from Cork, Leila hopes that by getting to the next stage, she will have a chance to bring her county to the international pageant.
“I have so many ideas and it’s not about the crown and all of that, you’re doing it to help people and to be someone that can be a spokesperson for your country.”
To support Leila Ecker or Aishat Onilogbo in the public vote, visit https://missuniverseireland.eu/