Kayleigh Hone from Donegal Town tells Donegal Woman how she is putting animal welfare in focus as she sets her sights on the title of Miss Universe Ireland 2017.

Kayleigh Hone

Kayleigh, aged 20, cried with joy when she heard she was a finalist in the competition celebrating women of Ireland. She was working in Portugal when the good news came, and is now back home to appear in the upcoming final on Thursday, August 31st.

She has already seized the chance to highlight major issues through her campaign for the crown, which has been previously worn by top models Roz Purcell and Joanna Cooper.

Kayleigh has studied Animal Science and volunteered with Animals in Need Donegal for the past three years. She is all too aware of the state of animal welfare in Ireland.

She plans to discuss this in tomorrow’s final as the revamped contest aims to draw strong opinions from the women taking part.

“It’s important to talk about current issues around us and being able to form an opinion and speak out about issues. It helps give women a voice,” Kayleigh said of the competition.

If chosen as Miss Universe Ireland, she plans to be an ambassador for the country and raise awareness of the puppy farming industry in Ireland.

“Ireland is known as the puppy farming capital of Europe. I would like to stop this by bringing more awareness into this subject to encourage stricter customs in our ports. I plan to use the position I would be in for good and not to take advantage of said position,” she said.

Kayleigh has five of her own dogs and collects and grooms badly treated animals rescued by Animals in Need Donegal. “I believe charity work is crucial as it important to give back to our community,” she said.

The Miss Universe Ireland pageant appeared on Kayleigh’s radar when she applied online, with some degree of uncertainty.

“I have watched the Miss Universe competitions for many years. I have always aspired to be in the competition but I didn’t believe I was good enough.”

“Brittany Mason then contacted me asking me to go to the Miss Universe Ireland Bootcamp in which I had a such a wonderful experience. The bootcamp really enlightened me to the power of Miss Universe,” she said.

Kayleigh has has practice in similar contests locally, including the Lady Nuala in Donegal and Miss Donegal 2017. To hear she was selected for Miss Universe Ireland was a complete shock, she recalls.

“At the time, I was in Portugal when I found out and I just started to cry with joy. I couldn’t believe that out of more than 200 ladies I was chosen. I’m still in shock.”

“I am truly lucky and grateful to have been chosen amongst such beautiful and strong women,” she said.

Kayleigh Hone – Miss Donegal final

Former Miss Universe Ireland Joanna Cooper and Kayleigh Hone

The competition has already had a big effect on her life, she says: “I have became a stronger and more confident person. Miss Universe is a life changing experience, I cannot wait to get up on that stage on the 31st of August.”

Kayleigh hopes to highlight her love of animals, mental health awareness and the importance of exercise in her interview in Dublin tomorrow. She already has a strong support team cheering her on in Ireland and abroad:

“I would like to thank my sponsors The Reveller Bar, Donegal Town, Rory MC’s Bar in Alvor, Portugal and Get That trend. They have been very supportive.

“I would also like to thank my friends and family for helping me and supporting me especially as I was away in Portugal working it made it harder for me to get things ready for my competition which mum helped me with so much.”

Kayleigh aims to continue her studies at LYIT in Veterinary Nursing in pursuit of her dream career. This week, she is living out a different dream in the aspirational competition.