Ballyliffin woman Layla Doherty is still on a high after a month in Vietnam as Miss Earth Ireland.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip filled with fun and new friendships, but the 22-year-old credits her supporters at home for giving her the strength and confidence to take to the global stage.
Layla was one of 85 young women worldwide competing for the Miss Earth crown on 22nd December. Albania’s Drita Ziri won the overall pageant, but Layla had countless moments to be proud of as she flew the flag for Ireland and her home county.
“The amazing support from home helped me so much and made me feel strong in everything I was doing. It was hard at times but it helped to know everyone back home was behind me,” Layla told Donegal Woman.
The ‘Beauties for a Cause’ theme of the competition encouraged contestants to champion environmental issues.
Layla, who lives in a home built with defective blocks, brought her passion for the redress campaign into many of her interviews.
“I am so delighted that I got what I wanted out of it. I didn’t expect my talk about the crisis to get so much attention as it did,” she said.
Layla spoke often about the impact that the demolition of defective block homes will have on the local environment, and of sustainable building practices to follow.
“I was shocked when I started raising the awareness,” she said. “I didn’t expect my phone to go off as much as it did with messages from people.”
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Layla’s pageant adventures in Vietnam took place over a month, and among the highlights were visits to local universities.
“It was very interesting to see how the students are very focused on education, but pageants are so big over there that when we entered the room, they were screaming. It was such a culture shock and so amazing.”
Through various competitions, Layla took to the stage in stunning gowns, many of which were sponsored by Pure Boutique Letterkenny, handmade or thrifted from charity shops.
“When I was in primary school, environmental awareness was a general thing, but now, even with the cost of living crisis, it’s cost-effective,” she said.
“In today’s day and age, we can all do something about fast fashion. I think my awareness of charity shops and second-hand clothing related to young girls back home. I was delighted that people were watching what I was doing.”
Layla had her mum Donna and aunt Mandy cheering her on for the Miss Earth final in Ho Chi Minh. Back home she had a huge team of supporters watching on, including her colleagues at Maple Ballyliffin.
She travelled back to Ireland just in time for Christmas. Now that she is back to work and back to reality, Layla remains grateful for all the experiences she had.
She is keen to encourage other young women to put themselves forward for opportunities, because who knows where it might take you.
“I’m the kind of person who will throw myself into something and see what comes of it, I had nothing to lose. It was great for someone like me from Donegal and a rural area to have won Miss Earth Ireland and I will never forget it.”
“I want to thank the whole of Donegal and the whole community for the extreme amount of support I got out there. I haven’t been able to reply to everyone’s messages but I want everyone to know that I wouldn’t have been able to get as far as I did without them.”