A MODEL is shaping up for the final of a worldwide competition after a near-death experience pushed her to follow her dreams.
Natasha Usama – who is a size 28 – is one of 30 in the running for the Miss Plus Size International title.
The beautician decided to grasp the opportunity after she became dangerously ill on New Year’s Eve and almost bled to death, as she suffers from Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), an autoimmune disease which affects the blood.
The 21-year-old, who is a full-time carer for her mum Susan Lough, 55, an osteoarthritis sufferer, said: “After what happened, I thought this year I’m going to go for it.
“You’re here to do good things and when you leave earth, that’s what you’re remembered for. It’s quite new to me, although I thought about it when I was 17, but I didn’t feel confident in myself at that point in my life.
“Now I’m 21, a bit older, wiser and know a bit more about what’s needed to take part, and I think I have a chance.
“I think it’s good, as it goes to show it at a different level.
“Women such as Rihanna and Beyonce are very streamlined. It’s liberating to show women of different sizes and that not all women are slim.
“I’ve been a big girl since I was younger and I never felt there was enough positive influences for girls.
“I think this puts us on a more even platform.”
Natasha, from Peterlee, won through to a shortlist of 70 from 12,000 entrants to make it to a first round in Birmingham where she wowed judges with her catwalk turns, citing her mum as her inspiration after teaching her how to sew and bake among other skills.
Natasha, whose dad David, died aged 50 when she was 15, is being backed by her family, including husband Muhammad, 23, an engineer who works for Solartron in County Durham.
Natasha, who made her own wedding dress and cake, added: “I’ve got a wonderful supportive family and friends.
“If I can help one girl or person, anybody with a body confidence issue to feel better about themselves, then I think it’ll be worthwhile.”
In between now and the final, which will be held in Manchester next September, Natasha will take part in a series of workshops to help her prepare, from perfecting a catwalk strut to interviewing tips.
She will take part in prom dress, swimwear and casual fashion modelling rounds, as well as speak to judges about her life.