Black Woman Crowned Miss Ireland For The First Time Ever
Pamela Uba has been crowned Miss Ireland of 2021, marking the first time a Black woman has won the competition.
26-year-old Uba made Irish beauty-pageant history on Sunday night, September 5, at the outdoor ceremony in Cavan, as she became the first ever Black woman to be crowned Miss Ireland.
The contest has been running since 1947 and Uba, as well as working as a part-time model, is a medical scientist who worked on the frontline during the pandemic.
Uba came to Ireland from Johannesburg, South Africa, aged seven as an asylum seeker. She is one of six siblings and grew up in the direct-provision system. She told The Irish Times that when she first arrived in Ireland, she found it ‘strange’ she ‘couldn’t hear gunshots’. ‘I cried when I got my Irish passport,’ she said.
When Uba first arrived in Ireland, she spent time in centres around the Dublin area, before moving to Athlone, Co Westmeath, and finally a centre in Balluhaunis in Co Mayo. She spent a decade there with her mother and siblings.
Uba told The Irish Times that, while she loves Ireland and is a ‘very proud’ Irish citizen, she has some criticisms when it comes to the country’s system. Uba said she was in the system for 10 years ‘not knowing what was happening or when my life could start’. ‘People need to be able to live their lives,’ she said. She explained that she hopes ‘Ireland continues to help people, but the direct-provision system needs to be rethought and possibly removed’.
Uba describes herself as having been a ‘nerdy’ student, who loved sport and school, finding it like an ‘escape from the challenges of life in direct provision’. She is currently awaiting the results of her master’s in clinical chemistry, which she took at Trinity College Dublin, after she completed her medical-science degree in Galway.
Uba says her mum was in ‘absolute tears’ over her winning Ireland’s pageant. She recalls getting ready for the Leaving Cert and thinking: ‘What is the point? I am only going to be sent back to Africa to sell lemons on the street.’ But continues to speak of how far her and her family have come.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Uba monitored the inflammatory process in patients who contracted the virus, determining ‘how serious the infection was in people’, working at Galway University Hospital. She told The Irish Times she ended up doing ‘35,000 steps running to the wards’ one day after the hospital got hit by the cyberattack on the Health Service Executive.
In March 2020, when Uba was crowned Miss Galway a few days before the first lockdown, she was trolled on social media by racists. She now hopes that her title will represent a more diverse Ireland. Uba said it’s ‘horrible to hear people telling me to go back to my country when I’ve worked so hard to make Ireland my home’.
During her family’s asylum-seeking process, Uba filled out forms and sent letters to politicians, stating: ‘We are all human, and we all deserve the same love and respect.’
Uba has had support from her parish priest and her community in both Galway and Ballyhaunis, who she says are ‘all cheering [her] on’.
Winning the Ireland beauty pageant has meant ‘so much’ to Uba.
I am so grateful I can show girls that colour is not something that holds you back and it doesn’t matter where you come from, the world is your oyster.
Uba will represent Ireland at the 70th Miss World Festival, in December. It is being held in Puerto Rico. ‘I can’t even describe how excited I am to represent my country on such a huge platform. I can’t wait,’ she said.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk
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