A hero coronavirus nurse is swapping her scrubs for sequins and tiaras in a bid to be crowned Miss England.
Lizzy Willis, 22, applied to the national beauty contest after struggling to sleep following a gruelling night shift treating Covid-19 patients.
She has been working flat-out at the intensive care unit at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, since the outbreak swept the UK.
She was inspired to apply to Miss England by Dr Bhasha Mukherjee, who took a career break as a junior doctor to win last year’s competition.
Lizzy, who is also a British Army reservist, has now made it through to next week’s virtual semi-finals.
Lizzy, of Maida Vale, West London, said: “It was really really random.
“I couldn’t sleep after a night shift one day and I was reading some news articles and I came across the previous winner, Bhasha Mukherjee, and saw she’s a doctor
“I just thought ‘oh I could do that’ I had a look at the website and just decided to send in an application and managed to make it to the semis.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the contestants will not meet each other or the judges in person.
They will be connected via the video calling app Zoom and submit their entries remotely.
Lizzy added: “The remote nature of it has definitely made it very weird.
“We had a trial run the other day and it was quite interesting seeing everyone up on the screen.
“I guess when you’re in person you kind of have a lot more freedom with your body language and how you present yourself and what you wear and things.
“When you’re just sitting in front of a screen, I have only got a phone screen to record on.
“You’ve just got that tiny window to present yourself and sell yourself, so it is tough.”
Lizzy started her nursing career just before the coronavirus outbreak last December and has been working round the clock ever since.
She said: “It has been the busiest and craziest time of my life, definitely in my career. I only just started when this first kicked off.
“I’ve been talking a lot with my family about what’s going on because they’re also in the medical profession, so I know they can really relate to how busy and how crazy it is.
“I’ve been focusing on the competition too because there are so many elements that
there are to do. For example, there’s a Miss Eco round.
“Part of that is making your own outfit and presenting it to the judges.
“I’ve been spending quite a few evenings sewing little garments and it’s been really therapeutic after work.
“It is made from old clothing and the idea is to reuse to make something brand new.
“The competition is something new for me but it’s also a new way of working.
“It’s a new experience for the judges, let alone the contestants, but everything is very, very positive.
“You hear rumours that it gets very competitive and the girls are quite mean to each other but this has been very very pleasant.
“Everyone has been coming together and supporting each other.
“I have done some modelling during university, just to kind of build up my confidence, but I have never done pageants.
“It is quite a jump into the deep end.”
The Miss England Semi-Final will be held on July 31.