Since opening her dress shop three years ago in Doncaster, former health worker Alison Peddis has become so involved with the pageant world that she is now the official dress partner to Miss England 2018 and has judged at both regional heats and this year's semi-finals.
Not only that, but she hopes to travel to China later this year for a week of the Miss World competition, that she reveals is a real challenge for those who take part.
It takes place over six weeks, she said, so contestants must demonstrate ‘a high degree of inner strength’.
Alison’s boutique business, Bella Donna, specialises in prom and pageant dresses that she chooses herself.
She works by appointment, “to allow every customer the time to relax properly and enjoy the whole experience, with a glass of prosecco or a coffee.”
Alison has done a great deal of charity work and fundraising.
Her involvement with pageants began by her sponsoring competitors, particularly in the Miss England competition, she
“I take a friend along to events with me sometimes who works in palliative care, and she finds it all a very uplifting experience. I can’t believe I’m doing all this and feel like I’ve been involved for years.
The Miss England organisation is just like a family, added Alison: “The caring friendship between contestants is amazing. Some girls have had it very tough, taking the journey stepping out on that platform has been a life saver for some and they all have their own stories to tell.
“At the end of the day the platform of the Miss England competition takes you on your own individual journey, helping you become who you want to be, and along the way you meet fantastic people who care and who help build your confidence. You gain friends for life.
“I’ve worked very hard to become known and boost my business. I hope the rewards for my work will come along in time.
“The girls share my boutique page through social media, and I give vouchers to contest winners, but that doesn’t mean they have to come to me.
“I was head judge at the recent Miss Yorkshire contest. There are a number of different titles these days, but it is only Miss England who can go through to Miss World.
“Miss England is also the only title that is won entirely on the girl’s own merit. Every contestant gets the chance to raise money for their chosen charity.
“It’s a different world, and an interesting one. I just hope I can continue to enjoy working within it as I do now.”
In her former life Alison worked for the NHS as a hospital healthcare assistant, for many years.
She and her husband first branched out when they opened an Italian restaurant business, Vivo, that is on Bennetthorpe, and has just won the title of Doncaster Italian Restaurant of the Year.
“It’s all been a learning curve, but in fashion there are changes all the time,” admitted Alison.
“When I’m buying from the various labels,,,and there are a huge number...I try to go for the unusual and stylish.
“The gowns can’t always be what I would wear as people have different taste, and need to suit their own body type and style.
“I feel I have an eye for it though as my choices are liked by my customers.
“Contestants range in size as there is no restriction in the heats. Keira Brennan, the Doncaster air hostess who recently made it through to the Miss England semi-finals, is quite tiny in height, less than five feet.”
When judging pageants, said Alison, she looks for confident, approachable people who are photogenic. “They need to be inspiring, with determination and empowerment,” she added. “They will be an ambassador, possibly for their country, so they have to be a ‘people person’.
“I have to see each one as a potential Miss England.”
The winner of the Miss England finals on September 4 will be dressed by Bella Donna throughout the year and on the Miss World stage,
“I love helping people I lost my mum at the age of 14 when she was only 40...she died of cancer,” explained Alison. “She loved helping people and was a very strong willed, amazing lady. I hope she is very proud of me.”
A charity music night is to take place in Vivo, Bennetthorpe, on July 30,organised by Alison, and with Miss England Stephanie Hill and other title winners singing, chatting and entertaining guests.
Proceeds from a raffle on the evening, and a percentage from sale of tickets, will go to Beauty with a Purpose, a charity supported by the pageants that helps disadvantaged children worldwide. Funds raised in the UK are, however, spent in the UK.