REIGNING Miss England Kirsty Heslewood headed to Sunderland in a bid to unearth the country’s next top beauty queen.
She sat on the judging panel for the glittering Miss 24 Carat final at the Roker Hotel to find a girl who will represent Wearside in this year’s Miss England contest.
Ashley Robertson wowed the judges to walk away with the crown and will now compete in Britain’s biggest pageant next month.
She will strut her stuff on the Miss England catwalk as Miss 24 Carat, named after Grangetown salon 24 Carat Hair and Beauty.
It was a case of third time lucky for the pageant princess who had entered the contest for the past two years.
The 22-year-old said: “I was absolutely ecstatic to win, I couldn’t believe it. The first year I entered I was second runner up, last year I was first runner up and now I’ve finally won it.
“I think the previous years gave me some good experience. I saw how hard the other girls work and it really inspired me.”
Ashley, from South Shields, impressed the judges in rounds including the Eco Dress Round in which she made a recycled dress from old ballet costumes and 200 medals she has won in dance contests.
She also won the Miss Charity round by raising nearly £1,000 for good causes by doing a sky dive.
The contest was set up by Sunderland businesswoman Jodie Breeds who believes that the area has the potential to produce a Miss England winner.
Along with Ashley, she will travel to this year’s Miss England final, which takes place in Torquay on June 14 and 15, to fly the flag for the area.
Girls can compete under an area name, such as Miss Devon, or a brand name, such as Miss 24 Carat.
Ashley said: “I went to the contest last year to sit in the audience and get a feel for it. I can’t wait to get on the stage and represent 24 Carat.”
Jodie said: “This was our third year of running our heat and this was definitely the biggest so far. All nine finalists were of a really high standard, so I’m glad I didn’t face the tough task of judging it as I wouldn’t be able to choose.
“Our winner Ashley definitely deserved the crown and I think she will be amazing in the Miss England finals.”
First runner up in the contest was Beth Hopper, 18, from Washington and second runner up was Laura Hickey, 24, from Leeds.