PICTURES: Miss England heats held at Chilwell Hotel
AS the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
For the hundred or so girls from Notts and Derbyshire entering Miss England this year, the first step was into a hotel basement where you had to strain to make out the tinny music.
In the room, a makeshift hair studio has been set up with two girls on hand to preen the contestants, and a photographer directed others to strike various poses.
It was a far cry from the bikini-clad women discussing world peace that Miss World contests seem to suggest.
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"Things have changed from how they used to be – it was always beauty and not a lot else, but the judges are looking for a lot more now," said Miss England organiser Angie Beasley.
"Girls like dressing up and looking their best, so the contest includes parts of that, but we also have rounds like an eco round, where girls dress up in a recycled outfit.
"The reputation of bikinis has stuck but we're trying to move away from that."
But if the reputation that Miss England is all about the beauty and not about the brains is still sticking, why do people enter?
Miss Beasley said: "The money helps – the winner gets thousands of pounds – but she also will get the chance to meet people and have an interesting year.
"The current Miss England does charity events and meets and talks to a lot of people and she's having a great time.
"And it all could be starting here in a hotel in Chilwell.
"One of these girls could represent the country at Miss World in Indonesia which would be a fantastic opportunity for them."
The entry requirements are fairly loose. Anyone between 17 and 24 can enter and Miss Beasley said a range of people from students to full-time workers had already struck a pose for the competition.
She added: "It's fun, competitions like this have to be, otherwise no-one would enter, right?"
To enter Miss England, please visit their website.