Sara Iftekhar, The Inspiring First Hijabi Miss England Finalist

While she didn’t make it to the Miss World competition, Sara Iftekhar has made her fellow Muslims really proud.

Sara Iftekhar became the first ever hijabi to make it to the Miss England finals, which recently took place in Nottinghamshire. While others have worn hijabs during the qualifying rounds of the national pageant, she is the first to have been named a finalist. The 20-year-old was one of the 50 contestants hoping to represent England at the Miss World pageant, which is taking place on December 8 in Sanya, China.

While the title went to Newcastle’s Alisha Cowie, Iftekhar, a law student from Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, feels proud to have made history. She is also thankful for the experience.

“It was an incredible experience and something which I will never be able to forget,” she wrote on her Instagram page. “The opportunities which I have received with being a finalist in Miss England are opportunities which I would never have thought of, and will forever be grateful for.” And after the results, the University of Huddersfield student posted a video on the same page, explaining winning was never the intention. “My purpose was just to show that we’re regular girls as well. And I think I showed that by reaching the top 50 after 22,000 girls. ... That’s something I’m proud of.”

Iftekhar also told the BBC that she decided to take part in Miss England for some fun. “If I want to cover myself up and dress modestly why should that be an issue? I am just like the other contestants,” she said. “If I am sending out that message, it will motivate other people to participate in a beauty contest.”

The dark haired stunner, a make-up artist who has been passionate about beauty since she was young, set her sights on becoming Miss England after she won the Miss Huddersfield 2018 and Miss Yorkshire Popularity 2018 contests. Iftekhar, who showed off her skills as a make-up artist during the talent part of the competition, also set up up a fundraising page for a children’s charity during the pageant.

Beauty with a Purpose is an NGO that has helped underprivileged and displaced children in Vietnam and cleft palate teams in South America, Sri Lanka and Russia. “I participated in Miss 2018 in order to show that beauty doesn't have a definition, everyone is beautiful in their own ways, regardless of their weight, race, colour or shape,” she wrote on her GoFundMe page.

Iftekhar, who often posts pictures of herself in traditional styles from her native Pakistan on Instagram, founded her own clothing business at the age of 16. Throughout the competition, the inspiration documented herself wearing eco dresses made from things like paper boxes and plastic garbage bags. She even managed to transform a cardboard Kentucky Fried Chicken box into a clutch that was ocean-themed.  

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