A high-flying investment manager who speaks six languages hopes to break stereotypes that women cannot succeed and compete in beauty pageants by being crowned Miss Great Britain after winning a regional pageant she applied to on a headbutt.
Always a numbers expert, 26-year-old Audrey Ward worked hard to achieve her dream of working in finance – landing her first job after college as a financial analyst in Hong Kong.
Working her way up to investment management in March this year, Audrey, who lives in Mayfair, London, found herself applying for the Miss Central London pageant on a whim, after coming across an advert who revived her. childhood dream of becoming a beauty queen.
To her surprise, the 26-year-old won the title in a stunning floor-length royal blue dress, meaning she is now preparing to walk the catwalk again in hopes of becoming Miss GB when of the competition to be held on October 20 and 21.
Audrey, who is single, said: “I want to show women that you can do both – you can be successful in business and follow your passion.
“Don’t let yourself be put in a box – you can choose what you want and what excites you.
“To be crowned Miss Great Britain would mean the world to me and I would feel so proud.”
Although Audrey always knew she wanted to work with numbers, growing up in Harrogate she also dreamed of becoming a beauty queen.
She said: “Mathematics has always been very easy for me and I worked hard to get my A-levels so I could study economics at the University of Nottingham.
“But when I look back, when I was about 10 years old, I actually had an interest in pageantry.
“I remember seeing it on TV, like Miss USA, and thinking it was so cool, but assuming it wasn’t something we had here.”
Putting aside her dreams of pageantry, Audrey focused on her studies, while enjoying a year abroad as part of her degree in Ningbo, China in 2017.
After graduating in 2018, Audrey got her first job as a financial analyst at an investment bank.
She said: “I started at the bottom and worked my way up.
“It was very difficult and the environment was very competitive, so I had to learn how to put myself forward.
“Especially as a woman in a male-dominated industry, I had to have a lot of confidence and learn to use my voice.”
Audrey added: “It was really scary but I loved it because it was such a challenge.
“There was such an amazing atmosphere and I loved the unfamiliarity with the city as not many people spoke English.”
Already able to speak French and Spanish which she learned at school, English and Hebrew, and Shona – a language of the Shona people of Zimbabwe which she learned at home – Audrey is also engaged in learning Mandarin, among other activities.
“I used to spend my weekends hiking or volunteering to pick up trash at the beach and find new experiences,” she said of her two years in China.
“I have also always been very interested in fashion and beauty.
“I never like following trends because I don’t think they’re lasting – my style is much more classic – like a trench coat and good boots.”
As the pandemic brewed in early 2020, Audrey returned to London and found a position in private equity.
Then, scrolling through Instagram one evening in March this year, she landed on an advert for the Miss Central London pageant – and all her childhood dreams came flooding back.
She said: “I saw the ad and thought, ‘Wow, that would be awesome,’ but I didn’t know if I would have the time or if I could.
“I decided to apply because I thought I had nothing to lose.”
To his surprise, Audrey was accepted to participate.
She said: “My family was very shocked at first but also very proud. I immediately told about my work too, and they were so supportive.
In preparation for the July show, Audrey needed to raise funds for two charity competitions, Alex’s Wish, which raises money for Duchenne muscular dystrophy research, and cancer research.
By doing bake sales and a 10k walk every day in June to raise £500 in total for charities, Audrey said it meant a lot to her.
“I lost a best friend when I was 14 who died of cancer, which I think was bone cancer,” she said.
“It was really shocking and had a huge impact on me.”
She added: “Since then I’ve always been very passionate about raising money for cancer charities, which is why it meant so much to me.”
Then, on July 24, Audrey stepped onto the catwalk in her first-ever pageant, wearing a £400 blue ‘Red Carpet Ready’ dress.
She said: “I didn’t even get my dress until the day before and it was too big at the top so my mum had to size it up!
“As soon as I stepped onto the podium, I saw my mother and my best friend in the crowd and it calmed my nerves.”
Audrey added: “I just thought I would only do this once in my life. It was exhilarating.
To Audrey’s surprise however, she was crowned Miss Central London, which means she is automatically in the running for Miss Great Britain – along with 39 other women.
She said: “I was so shocked but felt so proud.
“If I could be crowned Miss Great Britain, that would mean everything. I would love to give my 100% and do it right and support the causes I’m passionate about.
Audrey will face a number of tough rounds in the finals – including three judged walks for fashion wear, swimwear, evening wear – and an onstage interview which she hopes by taking part, it can help break down any stigma surrounding pageantry.
“There’s still a huge stereotype that women can’t do finance, modeling and pageantry at the same time, but that’s because people still don’t understand pageantry,” she said. declared.
“They give women a voice to shout about things they’re passionate about and there’s so much self-development and giving back.
“I feel extremely motivated to encourage other girls to apply because I think it can give you so much confidence and purpose.”
You can support Audrey’s fundraiser here –
And here .