WHEN Stephanie Murphy takes to the stage in Kent in the UK this weekend, she will be proudly representing Ireland at Miss International Curve 2018.
The Cork native, who now lives in Youghal, currently holds the title of Mrs Republic Of Ireland Curve.
Miss International Curve is a plus size beauty pageant with three divisions — Miss (age 18-29), Ms (age 30 or over and not married) and Mrs (age 18 and married).
Contestants represent their country or continent and must have heritage in the one they wish to represent, and this year’s final takes place on Saturday, October 20.
“I’ve been involved in beauty pageants over the past seven years,” says the 34-year-old mother of three.
“My daughter encouraged me to take part in the Mrs Ireland pageant back in 2016. So I applied and got to represent Cork as Mrs Cork. Then, to my shock and horror, I won first runner-up and that was it, I was hooked.
“I went back the year after and won Mrs Ireland 2017. I was hanging up my pageant heels until I was on Facebook and I saw Miss International Curve, a beauty pageant for curvy girls that works with SANE, a UK mental health charity working to improve quality of life for people affected by mental illness
“I believe in spreading awareness for mental health as it’s close to my heart. I have seen family and friends pass away from suicide and mental health issues so it’s important to me to not just represent Ireland in an international pageant, but to also help charities for mental health.
“My own chosen charity for the pageant is Pieta House and whatever money I raise I will split between the two organisations.”
Body confidence means a great deal to Stephanie because she was never confident herself or comfortable in her own skin until recently.
“Growing up I was a size 12-14. I had wide hips and big boobs and I always compared myself to others, which made me self-conscious. I think all girls are a bit like that though. Now I’m a size 18 and I have a mummy tummy and I have my tiger stripes like most woman after giving birth to three babies, and yes, I know I haven’t taken care of my body over the years, but I have never been more happy with my shape and size right now.
“Only eight months ago I was a size 22-24 and almost 22 stone. I am now almost five stone lighter and feel incredible. My weight loss has given me a huge confidence boost and I am eager to keep going until I feel like I am 100% happy and healthy!”
Stephanie has lost weight with the Cambridge Weight Plan and has also joined the gym at the Quality Hotel and Leisure Centre in Redbarn, Youghal, where she works out and swims along with her young son Ollie.
“I’m enjoying the new routine of the gym and swimming,” she says. “Never in a million years would I have thought I’d do that and now look at me! I used to be afraid of what others thought of me in the gym, being a bigger girl among all the skinny girls working out, I used to be paranoid! Now my head is held high and I work my butt off!
“Every body is different,” she adds. “We all have our imperfections and our differences. Some differences we can see, others we don’t. What we do see are people afraid to show off their bodies because we value other people’s opinions. I have learned to love me and as long as I am happy within myself then that is all that matters. I love my curves, I love my tiger stripes, they are my trophies of my three babies that my body carried and brought into this world.
“I also believe in empowerment and that ladies should empower other ladies. If you gave just one compliment to one person every day for a week, not only will you feel good about making someone smile, but you’re making that other person feel good about themselves and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Stephanie believes that a good role model is someone who can achieve goals, follow their dreams and believe in themselves no matter their sex, size, shape, colour or past.
She herself has two, who are both the complete opposite of each other, but are both independent woman who believe in success and giving back, she says.
“One is Oprah Winfrey, who is a woman I admire and look up to. Her past is incredible and for her to go through such a horrid childhood and come out the other side through hard work and believing that she could do it, then that to me is a role model. She’s kind, caring and gives back and that is important to me. Those who give back will forever enjoy life knowing they did the best they could for others without seeking something in return.
“My second one is Gemma Collins. I did say they were total opposite of each other! Gemma is a plus size diva and business entrepreneur who loves the limelight and fashion and all things girly! She’s a hard worker and not afraid to hide away behind black clothing. “Being plus size girls, we tend to hide in dark colours, but Gemma shows us that yes, we can wear bright, bold colours! I just love her and all she does.”
If Stephanie wins, her title will go from Mrs Republic Of Ireland Curve to Mrs International Curve.
“I’d be bringing the crown home to Ireland,” she says.
“For my year ahead, I would love to continue to raise charity money for mental health and also try to raise awareness for autism and try and get funding for the kids who are on waiting lists for two years just to be seen and get a diagnosis so they can the help and treatment they require.
“I understand the HSE has a shortage of staff, but that’s no excuse when parents are crying out for help for their children.