Published: 06:00, 24 July 2021
The saying ‘keeping it in the family’ could not be more fitting for this family.
Catherine Halliday competes in national beauty pageants, along with her nine-year-old daughter Tiffany and twin sons Alfie and Maxwell, seven.
The 33-year-old, from Sheerness, began entering in her late 20s after Tiffany had started, aged five.
She said: “Our hairdresser Demi Louise Bailey, who at the time was Miss Kent Curve for Miss International Curve, said to me it would boost Tiffany’s confidence if she did a pageant or two; so I did.
“I would never make my children do something I wouldn’t do and, after taking her the first time, Tiffany asked me if next time I would go on stage with her.
“So I did Miss United Kingdom Empress and she did Mini Miss, and it’s progressed from there.
“I have really enjoyed it. It’s just a chance to get out there and have fun.”
Since she started competing, Catherine has won a few titles and she is now Miss Diamond’s Kent Curve.
She will go on to compete in the Miss Diamond Nationals in Southport in a couple of weeks.
Catherine said: “Pageants are not what a lot of people expect. I was very nervous about seeing what it was like because of shows like Toddlers and Tiaras - I won’t even let my children watch that.
“But there are charity sides to pageants, there’s lots of dancing involved, we do events together outside the pageants; it’s not everyone fighting over a crown, we are a family.
“It’s helped my children, particularly my boys, and encouraged them to do different things - even baking!”
Catherine said charity and community work is often the main focus of any pageants, but each is different. For national natural pageants, contestants have to do an interview round, for example, while other pageants require contestants to follow a particular theme or show off a skill, such as baking or dancing, as well as taking to the catwalk in front of judges.
Alfie and Maxwell, who are pupils at the Aspire School, in Sittingbourne’s Vellum Drive, have autism, special educational needs and a rare chromosomal disorder called 22q11.2 duplication syndrome - something sister Tiffany shares. She also has heart defects and hypermobility.
However, Catherine, said their disabilities do not stop them from living their dreams.
The mum-of-three said: “I think the pageants have made them more confident and open, they are more aware of the needs of others through their charity and community work, and it’s certainly improved their mental health,” she added.
“Win or lose they are proud of themselves for going up there and showing others what they can do and come home positive and happy.”
Catherine, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year, added: “Primarily, I like that the pageants are something we can do as a family; it’s time that I can connect with my children.
“I have also found it’s very good for my mental health. Having disabled children and being disabled myself is taxing. It helps me to get out of my own head a bit.”
Catherine said before Covid, she and her children competed about three times a month, and during lockdown they did weekly online pageants. They’ve now got three more coming up within the next six weeks.
The beauty pageants take place across the country, but the family have been lucky enough to travel around the globe too, and they have featured in fashion magazines including London Runway and Designer Child.
Tiffany has been involved in New York, London and Paris Fashion Weeks.
Meanwhile, Alfie and Maxwell have been competing in beauty pageants over the past few years.
And, in June, they competed in their first national competition: the Pure UK national finals, in Warrington.
Alfie won the ‘Most Photogenic’ and ‘Best in Fashion’ categories, as well as being crowned the ‘Pure UK King’. He is now set to compete internationally in Ohio in the United States.
Meanwhile, his brother Maxwell scooped the ‘Best in Fitness’ title.
Catherine said: “They wanted to join Tiffany and myself in taking part. The boys have so much fun doing the pageants.
“They enjoy dressing up, as well as the charity and community aspect of supporting our local food banks and raising money for various causes, and meeting up with and playing with friends they’ve made in the pageants.
“It’s also good for encouraging their other skills.
“Alfie has previously won talent awards for his cooking and baking, and Maxwell and Tiffany have won awards doing songs in Makaton and British sign language.”
Catherine said she was incredibly proud of her children.
“They’ve come so far,” she said. “When I see them competing, it’s so emotional. I always smudge my make-up crying with pride, every time."
While most beauty pageants cater strictly for girls, there are a growing number that include boys as well.
When asked if there was a difference in contests, Catherine said: “I wouldn’t say it’s different for each gender, it’s more on what the child is capable of doing and what they want to do.
“The boys don’t wear make up, but they do pick out their own outfits, which they love doing.”
She added: “I think it’s important for people with disabilities that dream of competing to know that pageants are inclusive.
“Tiffany has been on stage in her wheelchair and I will be competing in the Miss Diamond Nationals with my frame. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it or let anything hold you back.”