Muslim student becomes first hijabi in Miss England final
Sara Iftekhar, a 20-year-old student from Huddersfield, is hoping to claim the crown next week, going on to represent the country at the Miss World contest in China.
Iftekhar, who scooped the Miss Huddersfield title and Miss Yorkshire popularity contest, has said she can't even comprehend how "amazing" it was to reach so far in the competition.
"Wowwwwwww!!!! I can't even comprehend how amazing it felt for my name to be announced as a finalist in the Miss England Finals 2018! Alhamdullilah," she told her followers on Instagram, using Arabic for 'Thank God'.
"It was an incredible experience and something which I will never be able to forget. The opportunities which I have received with being a finalist in Miss England are opportunities which I would never have thought of and will forever be grateful for."
Read more: The year of the Muslim model
Iftekhar has used her success to raise money for Beauty with a Purpose, writing on her GoFundMe page: "I participated in Miss 2018 in order to to show that beauty doesn't have a definition, everyone is beautiful in their own ways, regardless of their weight, race, colour or shape."
The NGO raises money for Cleft Palate Teams in South America, Sri Lanka and Russia, as well as hosting fundraising tours to support abandoned and neglected children in Vietnam. Other beneficiaries include Operation Hunger and the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Africa.
While modesty and modelling are an unexpected combination, the past two years has seen a surge in visibly Muslim women fronting beauty and fashion campaigns, in a step toward the normalisation of the hijab and giving Muslim women a voice in mainstream media.
One of biggest success stories came from refugee-turned-supermodel Halima Aden who was the first hijabi woman to grace the cover of Vogue magazine, as well as model for singer Rihanna's cosmetic line, Fenty Beauty.
Hijabi blogger Ruba Zai, 23, was in 2017 named the new face of Dolce & Gabbana, and fashion designer and modest fashion blogger Dina Torkia featured in a Colgate advert and was a YouTube Creator for Change ambassador.
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