Representation is having a moment, and it’s about time! For the first time in its history, the Miss England pageant has featured a hijab-donning finalist.
Sara Iftekhar, a 20-year-old law student, recounts that her participation in her first pageant was fueled by a desire to prove that “beauty doesn’t have a definition” and that “everyone is beautiful in their own ways.” She yielded her first win as Miss Huddersfield 2018, a title that qualified her for the current Miss England pageant, and has competed alongside 49 other hopefuls.
The Huddersfield-native has so far shined in a plethora of pageant activities such as the ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ round, in which participants are invited to raise funds for local charities and use their titles for the greater good, or the ‘Eco Round’, in which contestants are encouraged to get creative and fashion an outfit out of recycled materials. Who knew that an empty KFC box could moonlight as a chic clutch? It’s well-worth a visit to Sara’s Instagram page to have a gander at the transformation of something seemingly ordinary into an accessory worthy of the Miss England catwalk!
As indicated by her repeated expressions of gratefulness, the self-proclaimed make-up enthusiast is under no false pretenses and understands the heavy significance of being the first-ever hijabi Miss England finalist. Winning the title of Miss England would catapult Sara to the global stage afforded to Miss World contestants, making her the first ever hijab-wearing participant to compete for that title as well. She stands firm and vocal in her belief that her dressing modestly shouldn’t be an issue at all, giving a platform to the *GASP*, radical idea that a person’s worth goes beyond dressing the way societal norms dictate.
Similarly in March 2018, a hijab-wearing woman by the name of Maria Mahmood, who concluded the Miss Birmingham 2018 pageant as 1st runner-up, made waves when she said she was either considering skipping the swimsuit component of the competition, or opting to wear a burqini to stay true to her worldview that a person’s worth goes beyond how much skin they’re willing, or not willing, to show. Yet another moment for an ideology that differs so massively from a widely-accepted discourse, brought to you by a Muslim woman.
The presence of a hijab amongst the Miss England finalists is indicative of a myriad of things, not least of all the recognition of beauty in multiple forms and the acknowledgment that diverse manners of conducting oneself are just as worthy of being celebrated.
Pageants haven’t traditionally been seen as havens of diversity, so it is an unequivocally welcome change to see Muslim women, hijabs displayed proudly, elevated as a standard of beauty and poise. The presence of a hijab amongst the Miss England finalists is indicative of a myriad of things, not least of all the recognition of beauty in multiple forms and the acknowledgment that diverse manners of conducting oneself are just as worthy of being celebrated. Whether Sara wins or not, her status as a finalist for the title of Miss England has brought us one step closer to a world where difference isn’t gazed upon with suspicion, or revulsion, but as another welcome piece of a varied jigsaw.
Representation is having a moment, and currently, that moment’s name is Sara Iftekhar.