How Milla beat the fat-shaming bullies to become the first plus-size Miss England

Newly appointed Miss England Mila Magee has a tiara on her head (it comes in its own box with a handle, who knew?) but she doesn't look like a beauty queen at the moment. She told me she'd never used fake tan in her life, and even though her teeth are bright white, they're all hers.

Her hair is blonde blonde but she thinks this is partly genetic (“I don't know how because my mother is really dark”) and partly because she's always in and out of the sea, so there's some natural bleaching going on.

She also – and this is amazing – has not mastered the basic beauty queen art of wearing high heels while wearing a swimsuit.

“I never wear high heels with a swimsuit,” she says, aghast. She reminds me that when she's not a beauty queen, she's a lifeguard. It would be hard to save someone's life by wearing a pair of Louboutin shoes, we agree.

But the reason Mila, 23, made headlines this week is because she broke what we all assumed was the first rule of beauty queens: You should be able to effortlessly wear a size 10 dress, preferably a form-fitting one. Backless and perhaps frontless too, but with enough room for sequins.

When she's not a beauty queen, Mila Magee, 23, works as a lifeguard

Mila, sixth from right, proudly admits to wearing plus-size dresses as well as XL clothes and says she's not your beauty queen

Mila, sixth from right, proudly admits to wearing plus-size dresses as well as XL clothes and says she's not your “standard” beauty queen.

At the same time, she is a woman who has been known to need a size 14, and even a 16, depending on the size of her cut.

But over the course of the two-day competition, Mila shared her vision of how she could change the world and beat all the other skinny girls to make history by becoming the first ever Miss England winner.

We can debate whether a size 16 (the average British woman's dress size) should be considered a plus size – as ITV viewers did, after Mila's appearance on Lorraine on Friday sparked outrage on X, with many echoing one comment: 'Size Plus?” ?!! It looks slim to me!

But Mila says: “I'm happy to show women that when it comes to clothing sizes, they're just numbers. Somehow we're so focused on them that they don't matter.”

“So I'm happy to admit that I would buy a size 16, or a size up a size. When I was younger it was very different, but it led to mental health issues.”

She adds: “I think the message I want to get across today is that you don't have to conform. You don't have to wear a certain size because you want it to fit you. I can see now that I will never be small. First of all, I don't have the bone structure, but the pressure you put on Young women's need to conform is something I understand a lot.

In the body, Mila is a stunning beauty, exuding health, vitality and youthful promise. I told her that she sometimes reminds me of a mermaid, as she talks a lot about the sea. “You saved me,” she says, “or saved a young Kate Winslet.”

This is quite a coincidence since Winslet is her heroine. “Oh, she was a huge inspiration to me, because she also struggled with body confidence issues.

“She was told by her drama teacher when she was 14 that she would never make it because she was fat. She is very open about it. However, she did it. She is beautiful and amazing and she did it on her own terms.

Was Mila called obese when she was younger? “Oh yeah,” she says. “Obesity, overweight, all of it.” I look back and think they were children, so it wasn't their fault, but the point is that they were conditioned by our society that says it's okay to use those words.

While the body positive movement has taken off in recent years, the beauty pageant industry hasn't necessarily followed suit.

The basic Miss England pageant – the winner of which traditionally goes on to compete for the Miss World title – tends only to feature women who conform to expectations.

“In fact, dress sizes are getting smaller,” says Angie Beasley, who organizes the pageant and was a former beauty queen.

Mila found it difficult to make friends at school because she was often bullied because of her height and weight

Mila found it difficult to make friends at school because she was often bullied because of her height and weight

Mila met Prince William at a recent event in Newquay and shares his environmental concerns

Mila met Prince William at a recent event in Newquay and shares his environmental concerns

“In my day, most girls wore a size 10 or 12, even a 14. But in recent years, the norm has become a size 8 to 10, or even a 6. One girl recently was a size 4. This is what makes Mila’s success so interesting and wonderful.” Extremely.

So where did Mila grow up from? The idea that she emerged from the sea in her beloved Newquay, where she now lives, is tempting, but unfortunately it is not true. Her background is way more rock and roll. “Even though I'm not,” she insists. I do not drink. I have never touched drugs in my life. “I will be the most boring Miss England ever.”

I grew up in the exclusive area of ​​Primrose Hill in London, surrounded by some of the most beautiful (and kindest) people on the planet. Her mother (who now drives her everywhere) is Katrina Russell, a former record label executive best known for making the Gallagher brothers, also known as Oasis, household names.

Kat has moved in circles that have included Robbie Williams and Steve Coogan (rumored to have dated both), and gone out with Michael Hutchence and Kylie Minogue. Paul Weller was a family friend, as was actor Ray Winstone.

Kat remains close to Noel Gallagher's ex-wife Meg Matthews, whose daughter Anais has become Mila's best friend. “Anais and I were born at the same time, so we grew up together,” she says.

Mila went to private school (“I had to buy my school uniform at Harrods”) and when she wasn't hanging out with her parents' cool crew (“They would take me and my sister to parties. It was just 'normal'”), she would go after school to a restaurant her dad.

Brenhan Magee catered to a decadent crowd, and Milla particularly remembers hanging out in one of his restaurants, where Made In Chelsea was filmed. “I got to know a lot of stars,” she says. “I'm still friends with some.” But all of that was never “me,” even though I tried to fit in at the time.

She's confused about how fascinated people are by her upbringing. “I didn't know, at the time, who half the people in our house were.”

It's quite a leap in life, though, when you consider that this woman now talking about body confidence and the dangers of young girls feeling like they have to be thin, Kate Moss herself was once in her kitchen!

For all her outward privileges, little Milla didn't seem to be particularly happy. “My childhood, my family life was always great,” she says. “My parents have always been really supportive.” However, at her posh school, as she grew older (in every way), she felt increasingly ostracized and alone.

It wasn't just her weight, Mila is also 6 feet tall and remembers bending her legs to try to look petite. “I didn't have a lot of friends, and there was bullying,” she says. Because of its size? 'Yes. I've always been tall – at school I was taller than a lot of the boys, let alone the girls, and there was a point where I probably ate too many pork pies.

When she was 14, she weighed 14, she told me, the pain evident on her face, and it felt like the worst thing in the world. “I just wanted to fit in. Nobody wants to be different.”

Did you feel like you had to be thinner to be in the gang? 'definitely. So there is what is called “obesity”, but in fact more harmful are the mind games. You want to be a certain way, so you can be accepted.

In her case, mind games weren't just limited to school. “I was born into this life and felt like I had to fit into it. Because my mom is surrounded by these people, and my dad, and his industry, well, you create an image of what you think you should look like, and what people expect you to look like.

“And I've been told I'm overweight and that I shouldn't look like that. I'm not naming names, but in those industries people tell me I don't look the way a woman should look.

Are people male or female? 'feminine. They weren't trying to be negative. They just thought you had to look a certain way. I became determined to challenge that.

But not before Mila nearly destroyed herself trying to fit in (and not just at a size 10).

As a teenager, she dieted and “succeeded” in becoming thin. “And it wasn't healthy,” she says, clearly contradicting herself now.

I went down to a size 10, or even an 8, and it was too thin for my frame. That's when my mental health problems started.

Around this time, Mila's parents made it easier for her to get professional help. “I saw someone,” she says when I ask about counseling. “And I'm not afraid to say yes, sometimes you need help.”

She also left that private school, and this seems to be the key to her recovery. In fact he left London entirely. The family always holidayed in Cornwall, where her grandmother lived, and Mila always loved swimming and surfing. When she was at her worst in London, she became “someone else” in Cornwall.

“I realized this is my reality,” she says. “I need to be close to nature. I was always happy with swimsuits when I was in the sea. I lived in them!”

When she was fifteen years old, after her parents divorced, she moved to Cornwall. “I keep saying the sea saved me, which sounds so dramatic, but it did. I realized that I didn't have to be part of this world I was born into. I could be me.

She still returns to London, of course, where her father still owns restaurants. Entertainment industry connections remain largely intact. Meg Matthews let it go through her wardrobe when she was assembling clothes to wear during the Miss England pageant.

But why did you enter? While training as a lifeguard, she was contacted locally and asked to model.

This led to her applying for and winning the title of Miss Newquay, which in turn led to Miss England. And now… take over the world? “I don’t know when the Miss World competition will be, but yes, and it will be a great honor to represent my country.”

Many remain skeptical about beauty pageants, and Mila admits she may have been in the past, but says the world has changed beyond recognition. “The competition part of it is just one day,” she says. But there is a lot more involved. You must have a mission, and have proof that you are doing something to make a difference, and contribute to your community.

Her vision isn't the vague “save the world” vision she associates with beauty queens, either.

Mila's rescue training, especially in CPR, led her to start a campaign to teach CPR training in schools. 'This is my ambition. I want to see it implemented in all schools.

She met Prince William at a recent event in Newquay (“This was even before I became Miss England”) and shared this vision with him. She has also previously worked on other campaigns on environmental issues.

“People who think Miss England is all about showing up in a swimsuit and high heels are simply wrong,” she says.

Although this beauty pageant canceled the swimsuit several years ago after it became mired in controversy, Mila, who is now surely the most confident woman on the planet in swimsuits, will support its introduction again.

Although, without the heels.

Mila Magee won Miss England 2024 sponsored by Watermans Hair at Grand Station Wolverhampton. She will represent England in the 72nd Miss World competition next year


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