“I’m going to put my best into it – I want to make Croydon proud!” says beauty queen hopeful Tina Antwi with a smile.
The 23-year-old, better known as Tina Charisma from Croydon, is in the running to represent Britain at Miss Universe this year.
Despite the introduction as a beauty queen, however, she stepped off the train with little make up and a flustered look: “Sorry I’m late – my train was delayed and I’ve been in meetings all morning!”
These meetings were regarding the charity campaign she is fronting, the Charisma Campaign, which involved hosting a fundraising dinner in Soho on Sunday June 18.
For this, Antwi teamed up with Strongbones, a charity which helps children with different diseases of the bone, and Sheroes which works with survivors of acid attacks in India. She’s doing all this is alongside setting up an educational programme for young girls in Ghana.
“I want to make a significant impact with this campaign, to make a change in Croydon and Ghana – both the places I am from – as well as in India. This means everything,” she said.
“The dinner was not just to raise money for my campaign, it was organised to inspire conversations about the charities and to say thanks to everyone that has supported me.”
Those invited included “those in the fashion, film and media industries, vloggers, bloggers and politicians”.
“This is about tackling issues” she says, when discussing the campaign in general.
“Beauty is a personal thing, and it is very individual to each person. It is up to individuals to make their way and educate themselves about what all of beauty really is.”
Does she think the new host, plus-size model Ashley Graham, will change opinions about promoting beauty as ‘super skinny’?
“There is a lack of knowledge about these events, and I think [Ashley Graham] will add profile, as she will always be known, but this is the big one, people know about Miss Universe already and it’s not just any other pageant. She might give it more standing, though,” she said.
“People face battles in their lives about their appearance, and some super skinny people will sit and think ‘I wish I had those curves’, and some curvy people will be like ‘I wish I was super skinny like them’.
“People need to stop backlashing at each other, but there are all these fights and rallies to make industries see that beauty is personal, it’s impossible to make a straight judgement.”
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Antwi also reflected on her race: “Being dark skinned wasn’t a thing before recently, but now we have so many black idols out there – I feel a real confidence in that and what I am doing.”
She said her background is not linked to beauty .“I am more known for being vocal and political” as she gave a cheer for the recent Labour victory in Croydon Central.
“This is my first pageant, which is why it is such a big deal for me to even be considered for Miss Universe. Before this, I actually studied International Relations and Sociology at Keele.
“Even after this – and studying in Sweden for a while – I find it amazing that I still happened to end up back in Croydon. I grew up here and it will always be home.”
She also spoke about the amount of talent coming out of Croydon. “It is super exciting, the number of young people and their creativity coming out of Croydon. Adele and Stormzy, who are both very proud to have connections with the area have set that example – and I suppose I will too.
“There’s great things to come out of Croydon, and the negative connotations attached to the area need to be banished because it is so much more than that.”
Speaking about the upcoming competition for Miss Universe GB, which is being held in South Wales in July, Antwi explained how she will be competing for the title alongside 40 other girls.
“They’re all really great as well! I have learned a lot from all of them and I have really grown from this experience – it’s become a big part of my life.
“Now it is so soon, it’s time to get intense. The workout is on the high and I’ve got personal training sessions.
“I’m really taking it seriously. Beauty is a part of everyday life and is in whatever you do. Doctors, journalists, politicians – they all use their beauty as a way of presenting themselves and what they do. It is a way of being part of something bigger and that is what I am standing for.
“I’m going to put my best into it – I want to make Croydon proud!
“This is where the Charisma Campaign comes in, it’s a community thing – within our community!”
Before she left Antwi talked about a book she is writing on London culturalism – “it’s about creating a sense of identity”, but this is all she was willing to give away.
To find out more about Tina Charisma, go to her Instagram page @verostina.