By Reena Kumar
A Miss Birmingham finalist has spoken about overcoming adversity through modelling and is hoping to inspire other Pakistani girls to follow in her footsteps.
Aqeelah Sajad, is the only Asian woman who will compete in the finals of the competition next month after battling through five rounds.
Hoping to impress a panel of judges, she will be in with a chance of competing for Miss England if she is crowned Miss Birmingham.
The 23-year-old hotel worker spoke to Eastern Eye about her struggle with anxiety and growing up with an abusive father.
“From a very young age I grew up with an abusive father- which pretty much destroyed me,” Sajad said.
“Every day the police would come down, he was physically abusive to my mum and she raised me as a single parent. She has taken care of me and supported me through all my difficult times.”
The model, who studied tourism and business management at university, was also bullied at school and has spent years suffering from panic attacks and social anxiety.
“I pushed myself everyday to get to where I am today, gaining a degree was something which I achieved for my mother. It was a struggle for me as I have fought anxiety and other issues every day. In primary school up until college, I had girls picking on me, calling me names and making comments about the way I dress.
“Over the years I’ve had panic attacks and social anxiety, and continuing with my daily life is a struggle in situations where I’m communicating with people, socialising with friends and family, and going to work.”
When she started working after finishing her degree, the graduate said her confidence grew and her anxiety slowly began to subside.
“I thought why not give modelling a go. I’m doing it to prove to myself that I am capable and anyone can follow their dreams. Now people who thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything will see I am capable of doing well, you just have to try hard. I am extremely proud of myself to say I am now a finalist for Miss Birmingham 2017.”
Sajad, who is also raising money for the charity Beauty with a Purpose, which helps under privileged children around the world, is hoping to inspire other Pakistani women into the industry.
“Most (Pakistani) girls are not allowed to go forward but my family and my mum especially have been really supportive. It’s really important to show that there’s nothing wrong with taking part in this. It has been great, I’ve got to meet a lot of finalists which has been fun. Maybe in the future you will see more girls taking part.”
Miss Birmingham will take place on May 21.