A domestic abuse survivor who turned her life around to win a prestigious beauty contest says she hopes to inspire other women to escape violent relationships.
Rehema Muthamia, 24, has been crowned Miss All African Colours which was introduced into the Miss England pageant following the Black Lives Matter protests.
She received her award and sash by her proud gran Monica, 69, after Saturday’s virtual final which took place via Zoom.
Rehema beat eight other competitors to win the award and is now through to the Miss England finals this summer.
The associate recruitment consultant in life science entered the contest in a bid to raise awareness about domestic violence and to celebrate racial diversity.
She said: “I did some googling and saw the brand new heat called Miss All African Colours and thought this is just perfect and it’s helping raise awareness for diversity.
“The work was actually quite a rigorous process in terms of the heat and the idea was as if we were getting ready for the Miss England finals.
“There were catwalk sessions, learning how to speak and present ourselves and also starting to work on our charities and finding a cause we were passionate about.
“I chose Women’s Aid as I had been in an emotionally abusive relationship for two years.
“I was in my early 20s and it was a case of finding the wrong individual and being in the wrong situation and taking time for me to get outside of that situation.
“I was in the relationship from the beginning of 2017 to 2019 and there were certain situations that happened and it was like a click in my head that this isn’t right.
“It was all about getting the strength to move on.
“I was gaslighted, manipulated and it was coercive control but they’re only things that you educate yourself about when you’re out of the relationship.
“Just doing this work and getting the courage to openly speak about what happened takes a lot of strength.
“I’m hoping to use this platform as I have been thrust into the spotlight and if I’m in the spotlight I’m going to use that platform to start a conversation.
“And if it helps someone going through it and if they can get help from that – it’s almost worth having gone through that in the first place.”
Rehema, from Luton, Beds., was born in the UK but her family are Kenyan and she speaks four languages.
She entered the beauty contest after graduating with a first degree in genetics from Sussex University.
She added: “It was a new experience but I can always say I had a live final competition on Zoom that can only happen in a pandemic.
“I do hate to use that word but it was surreal I couldn’t even compose myself because I was on Zoom and everyone was watching my face.
“My grandmother started screaming and plonked the crown on my head.
“She was just so happy and proud of me.
“I just loved the fact that we were celebrating minorities and ethnic women.
“My family are so supportive they can’t stop talking about it and the Kenyan community has really got behind me and wanted to support me and loved seeing someone from my heritage being represented.”