A model whose catwalk success helped build up her confidence after a horrific attack is hoping to inspire other women.
Chanttelle Ward, 20, suffered permanent scarring after her ex-boyfriend Rhys Culley bit through her upper lip in an attack.
After he was jailed in 2014 for eight years for wounding with intent, Chanttelle began rebuilding her life and last November was crowned Top Model England 2015.
Now she’s helping to launch Top Model of Sunderland to encourage other women to pursue their dreams of being in the spotlight.
“I never thought I’d even get through to the final of a modelling competition, let alone win one,” said Chanttelle, from South Shields.
“For women who’ve been through domestic violence, especially women with scarring, like me, it’s a constant reminder and at times you just want to hide away. But then you think ‘why should I?’
“I want to show women that you don’t have to be perfect. Competitions like this aren’t a fix, real people can win them. It’s the person inside that counts too.”
Chanttelle, who works as a finance assistant, also competed in Miss Sunderland GB last year, coming third, and raising £1,200 for charity.
She said: “After everything that happened, competing in modelling competitions can be a lot to get your head round – but everyone has been supportive, and I’ve made some good friends in the other girls.
“I want women to look at me and think that they don’t have to have their life changed by something like domestic violence. It’s hard, every day is hard, but you can do something positive. Just give it a go.”
The competition is being brought to Sunderland for the first time by regional director Ailish Shaw.
She’s looking for 20 girls to compete in the grand final at the Stadium of Light on June 11. All proceeds will go to the Foundation of Light, and finalists will be tasked with fundraising for the charity in the run-up to the final.
Ailish said: “Although there are some elements of a beauty pageant, this is more of a modelling contest. In the rounds, girls will be asked to put together an outfit that reflects them, and there will also be a designer collections round.
“It’s a great way to prepare the girls for catwalks and photo shoots.
“I decided to bring the competition to Sunderland because I believe there’s a market here, girls with great modelling potential.”
The winner of Top Model of Sunderland will win a prize package and will also win direct entry into the Supermodel England national final, where they will represent the city.
Grand prizes at the national final include an all-expenses paid, five-star trip to South Africa to represent England at World Supermodel, representation by GAP Models, London, and the chance to travel to China to trek the Great Wall for charity.
Supermodel England national organiser and Sunderland-born, Alexandra Devine said: “I’m really excited that Ailish has taken on the regional heat for Sunderland. Being from Sunderland myself, it’s fantastic to see the competition coming to the city.”
Applicants can be aged 16 to 29 years, be single, married or divorced and be with or without children.
To apply for Top Model of Sunderland 2016 or for more information, visit www.topmodelofsunderland.co.uk