A showjumper who overcame an eating disorder and went on to start a personal training business has been named a finalist in the Miss Scotland competition.
East Lothian-based Ailsa Black, 25, is one of 11 finalists vying for the crown, the winner of which will compete for the Miss World title in December.
Ailsa, who is a level two British Showjumping accredited coach and runs her personal training business A2B coaching, told H&H she was persuaded by a client to sign up for the competition.
“I’d never thought of doing something like this before but my client said I’d be perfect for it. I thought the worst that could happen was that I wouldn’t get accepted, but I heard back and was invited for an informal interview where I met the organisers and previous winners, and then a few weeks later I found out I was a finalist. I felt a bit star-struck when I found out, I thought ‘They really want me?’”
Finalists will be set a variety of online-based challenges and be scored on their social media engagement, creativity and content. During the final, on 29 July, the contestants will take part in an interview in front of a panel of judges.
“The theme is ‘beauty with a purpose’ and it’s really about inspiring young people. They are looking for an ambassador for Scotland to represent the country at its best. The idea is promoting that you can be beautiful, but that you can do other things as well – you can study, or do your dream job, you can move up the ranks and you can help and inspire others,” said Ailsa.
“One of the challenges involves fitness so I’m looking forward to that one.”
Finalists must also fundraise for their chosen charities, and Ailsa is raising money for an organisation close to her heart, eating disorder charity Beat. Aged 18 Ailsa developed an eating disorder, and at one stage was hospitalised.
“I want to show people that it’s not the end of the road and you can overcome it, with the right help and support,” she said.
“At the time it started I was doing my exams at school and it all hit me quite badly. It went on for a couple of years, and I realised it was totally affecting my health. Now I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum and I’m healthy. When I look back I realise I could never have done what I’ve gone on to do with my horses if I was that underweight and unwell.
“It’s nice to support Beat because I’ve got that direct experience and I’ve overcome it. It’s something a lot of people suffer with, especially with social media and people comparing themselves to others, and until there’s more awareness these things will never get better. My family own a haulage business so I’ve got lots of ideas for promoting the charity and the competition and hope to get some crazy signage on the lorries and things like that.”
Ailsa, who is a regular on the Scottish showjumping circuit and has previously ridden at Horse of the Year show in the Talent Seekers and Foxhunter finals, is stepping back from competing for a few months while she focuses on her coaching – and Miss Scotland.
“I started my personal training business four years ago and this year did my level two showjumping coaching certificate. Both are my passions and for me it’s trying to bridge that gap and make people understand how important it is to be fit to ride, and not just about your horse being fit,” she said. “Showjumping, eventing and dressage are advancing to such an insane level, you have to be ticking all the boxes in every department if you want to go all the way.
“If I was to win Miss Scotland and make it to Miss World it would be mind-blowing. It’s all so exciting. It’s just amazing to be able to have a go and be challenged to something that’s totally different to my norm – but still promoting all the things I believe in.”
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