A model, a pilot, a pageant queen: Sandra dares to dream

A Cork woman has made it through to the final of the Miss Elegance of the World 2021. SARAH HORGAN catches up with Sandra McKenzie-Vass Keogh ahead of the competition
A model, a pilot, a pageant queen: Sandra dares to dream

Sandra McKenzie-Vass Keogh. Pictures by Dermot Sullivan, dermotsullivan.com

A MODEL in the daytime, a pilot in the afternoon and a television presenter by night. It might sound like an ambitious childhood dream, but Midleton woman Sandra McKenzie-Vass Keogh is determined to pursue her goals.

Even in lockdown, her ambitions are yet to take a backseat. As a finalist of the Miss Elegance of the World 2021 competition — taking place virtually this Sunday — she continues to make her mark.

The 29-year-old began flying lessons late last year with the Atlantic Flight Training Centre, ticking yet another item off her bucket list.

“I’d like to become a flight instructor,” Sandra said.

“To train to become a commercial pilot costs €100,000 so it’s something I might look at down the line.”

The international competition crowns two winners who then go on to represent their countries. They also have the opportunity to progress to the Miss Global United States Pageant in Florida.

Due to take place in the UK, the contest was postponed as a result of Covid-19 restrictions and is now being advertised as a virtual event.

Sandra McKenzie-Vass Keogh. Pictures by Dermot Sullivan, dermotsullivan.com
Sandra McKenzie-Vass Keogh. Pictures by Dermot Sullivan, dermotsullivan.com

Sandra hopes to follow in the footsteps of Irish woman Dani Masterson, who was crowned winner of the competition in 2019 before going on to represent her country in the United States.

Sandra’s decision to learn to fly on top of this came as a surprise to everyone who read her announcement on social media.

“Flying was something that was on my mind for a long time. I do things that not everyone will consider doing. This was something really different. When I told people on social media they weren’t sure how to react.

“Learning how to fly takes a long time. You have to learn about the different parts of the aircraft and the theory as well as actually being up in the air. I chose to be up in the sky before learning the theory so I could see it all in action. I’d like to become a flight instructor because you can move on and progress from there. There aren’t currently many women training in this area. At the moment I only know one other woman who is doing the same as me and she lives in Dublin. The reason I like putting these things up on social media is to show other people what they can also achieve.”

This week, however, Sandra is pouring all her energy into training for her upcoming pageant.

In the past, her passion has taken her all over the world, including the Caribbean where she participated in The Miss & Mrs Power Woman International. She was among 30 contestants from 30 nations taking part back in 2017. One of the highlights of that experience for Sandra was seeing the event screened on U.S television. She progressed to the finals after winning the official title in Ireland.

After entering various beauty contests over the years, her ambition remains the same. Nonetheless, what is most inspiring about the 29-year-old is her unwavering self-belief.

“You have to tell yourself you’re going to win,” she said.

“I’m feeling positive but one of the great things about this event is that it’s something to do in lockdown.”

Much of Sandra’s preparation coming up to the Miss Elegance of the World 2021 pageant have included outdoor photoshoots and videos.

“I have to get on to a designer to come up with an outfit and have someone close by to take the videos. It’s all about who you know.”

Sandra insists she has no regrets.

“It’s an experience you can look back on,” she said. “The best thing about pageants is that you can only improve. You can’t go backwards. You are soaking everything in and that helps you in other parts of your life too.”

She described how having a supportive husband has helped her stay motivated.

Sandra McKenzie-Vass Keogh Pictures by Dermot Sullivan dermotsullivan.com
Sandra McKenzie-Vass Keogh Pictures by Dermot Sullivan dermotsullivan.com

“We got married five years ago in Lanzarote. He has been very supportive of everything I do and that’s something that’s very important when you’re doing something like this.”

The beauty queen has been working as a dental nurse by day and is also keen to explore the possibility of television presenting.

“I was meant to be travelling to the UK to do a presenting course,” she explained. “However, the lockdown came and that had to be put on hold. I’d like to do all of it.

“One of the good things about being a flight instructor is that I can always do it part-time or at the weekends.”

The winner of the Miss Elegance of the World 2021 will be selected on March 28. Votes can be cast by visiting the Miss Elegance of the World Facebook page and ‘liking’ Sandra McKenzie-Vass Keogh’s image.

Flying was something that was on my mind for a long time. I do things that not everyone will consider doing.

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