A teenage beauty pageant contestant from Barnsley is using her platform to raise awareness of dyslexia – and hopes to bring the Miss World crown back to England for the first time in 40 years.
Fifteen-year-old Alexandria Crystal is the youngest ever Miss England contestant after being picked as the judge’s wildcard for 2024. She turns 16 just before the semi-final heat is held at Blackpool’s Viva! venue in April – a month before she sits her GCSE exams.
If successful, she could make it through to the Miss England final in May, the overall winner of which will win a place in Miss World 2024. As well as making her the youngest ever winner of the coveted titles, being crowned Miss England or Miss World would also give Alexandria the platform to put Barnsley and the north of England firmly on the map.
For Alexandria, she wants to give her natural beauty a purpose. In the lead up to the competition, she has been creating videos on her YouTube channel and Instagram account to raise awareness of dyslexia, a condition both she and her younger brother have recently been diagnosed with.
“I have always felt that I learnt differently but because I was learning well my dyslexia wasn’t diagnosed until I started to struggle with certain aspects of my education. I am still learning how the condition affects me and steadily grasping that I often only need things explaining to me differently or given a little more time to help me understand certain subjects.”
Dyslexia isn’t just bad spelling or getting Bs and Ds mixed up. It’s a specific learning difficulty that primarily affects literacy skills. But it can also impact how a person processes or retains information, their concentration levels, time keeping and organisational skills, and motor skills.
Around ten percent of the UK population have a dyslexia diagnosis. But because it affects people in different ways, it’s difficult to diagnose and the true figure could be up to a third of people.
Alexandria wants to create awareness that, within the next decade, will filter through into workplaces, giving today’s cohort of school and college students more support in later life.
“Some teachers have received less than an hour of training during their careers to understand dyslexia which makes them heavily reliant on specialist staff to detect dyslexia. There will be thousands of bright and capable schoolchildren who are missing the support they need because they are seen as either not engaged in their learning or not academically capable by their teachers simply because their teachers aren’t equipped to detect the subtle indicators.”
Having already interviewed teachers and other SENCo professionals, including the founder of the Toe to Toe phonics programme, Alexandria has lined up some household names to take to the hotseat in a bid to reach a national audience.