Donegal woman Simone Crawford is making the most of a new platform to ensure her views on women's rights are heard.
Law student Simone Crawford from Castlefinn is one of the 30 finalists in the 2017 Miss Universe Ireland competition, which has had a revamp to focus more on the strong minds of beautiful young women.
Ahead of the final on August 31st, Simone talks to Donegal Woman about her determination to speak her mind in this year’s pageant.
Simone is about to enter her final year of studying Law at NUIG. Being a finalist in this high-profile contest gives her the opportunity to discuss social issues she feels most strongly about.
As a law student, a member of Amnesty International and a supporter of the ‘Repeal the Eighth’ campaign, Simone has been most outspoken on her views of the position of women in Ireland and abroad.
“The lack of control and autonomy women have over their body and ability to make decisions for themselves is shocking to me,” Simone said.
“In Ireland, the controversial eighth amendment to the constitution is particularly problematic to me. I don’t believe the government should be able to dictate to women what they can and cannot do with their bodies.
“I hope to encourage the understanding that repealing the eighth amendment and introducing functional, modernised legislation on the area does not equate to the idea that everyone should undergo abortions or approve of the practice.
“Rather, it is granting women the right to choose what happens to their bodies without executive interference,” she said.
Unlike other national competitions, Miss Universe encourages finalists to discuss their views on political and social topics. The organisation once owned by Donald Trump has changed hands and has a new Ireland director, bringing the pageant into a new era for women. This is something that Simone is proud to be a part of.
Since being selected, Simone has taken part in live interviews online and probed controversial topics with a contributing audience.
Simone started out as a model at the age of 14 and has worked with brands online as an ambassador and promoter. The competition does have modelling segments, but the interviews go far beyond first appearances, she says.
“Whilst Miss Universe is closely linked to the modelling industry, it’s slightly more intimidating because of the fact you have to sell yourself and your own personality to the judges as opposed to projecting someone else’s designs and visions upon yourself as a model,” Simone said.
Simone had always wanted to be involved with the pageant that has turned out major models Roz Purcell and Joanna Cooper. It was her Instagram page that caught the attention of Miss Universe scouts this year, and she decided the time was right to apply.
It was a hugely exciting moment to know she was through to the final, she recalls.
“I had only told my Mum that I had applied, so when I got the email announcing the finalists I had to secretly tell her first before we began telling the rest of my family.
“Everyone was over the moon for me, I think my nana was more excited than me! She started to cry when she saw my photos from the shoot, she just couldn’t believe it!”
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of promotional photoshoots and interviews.
“It’s been so exciting and fast-paced since the finalist announcement but I’m not complaining. Being a finalist has definitely opened up a lot of opportunities and given me a platform to speak about issues that are important to me. It has helped me to improve and develop myself a lot,” Simone said.
The new Miss Universe Ireland director Brittany Mason has been mentoring all 30 finalists and maintaining the new focus on personality, ambition and social awareness. The new goal, Simone said, is “to produce strong, driven and ambitious women to represent Ireland on the global stage.”
To take the crown and go on to the Miss Universe final would be a dream come true for Simone and she has plenty more to talk about if she were to be Ireland’s international representative.
“I would love to become a global ambassador for the modern Ireland, by helping to draw international attention to how developed a country we are.”
“The 2015 Marriage Equality Referendum proved to the world that Ireland is no longer a backward-thinking, conservative little country but a key player in progressive, liberal change.
“I hope to encourage this aspect of Ireland by campaigning to develop women’s rights and bring an end to the homelessness epidemic that’s plagued the country in recent years.
“I hope to encourage this modernisation whilst not forgetting our unique heritage and culture by encouraging young people in particular to continue speaking Irish and keep the language alive!”
Simone wishes the thank her sponsors, McElhinney’s of Ballybofey, McBride’s Bar in Castlefinn and Beauty by Shána in Ballybofey.