TWO beauties are flying the flag for Wearside in tonight’s Miss Durham final.
Helen Bell, from Tunstall, who has overcome problems with self-esteem, will put herself before the judges at the event at Sedgefield Racecourse.
“I was never always really confident,” said the 19-year-old former Southmoor School pupil.
“Five years ago, I would never have imagined myself doing anything like this. You can’t shut me up now.”
She added: “It was my mam’s idea to enter.
“I have done a bit of modelling before and I wanted to get back into it. This seemed like a good way.
“I never expected to get into the competition, but I filled in a form on the internet and sent in a few pictures.”
The contest is not the only way that Helen has shown her new-found confidence.
Last month, she crossed the River Tees on a zip wire, raising £450 for the Army Benevolent Fund.
Since leaving school, Helen has helped her mother Elaine to run her business selling dresses for weddings, proms and other special occasions.
In September she begins a beauty therapy sciences course, at Gateshead College.
Also competing is Amanda Watt, from Houghton.
“My friend did the Miss Sunderland competition and said it was a really good experience,” said the 17-year-old, who is studying for A-levels at Park View sixth form in Chester-le-Street.
“You meet interesting new people and do things for charity.
“I found out about the Miss Durham contest and it seemed a good way to boost your self-confidence.
“I’m very nervous about it, but excited at the same time.”
After an audition in February, Helen and Amanda beat hundreds of other girls to reach the final.
Tonight’s competition will see contestants parade in three types of outfit.
The first is themed on a day at the races, then there is evening wear, with fancy dress to finish.
The girls are keeping their fancy dress secret until the finale.
The winner will go forward to challenge for the Miss England title.