A plus-size beauty queen from Sydenham is celebrating being "big and beautiful" as she bids to be crowned Miss British Beauty Curve.
Hollie Burgess went from hiding herself away in cardigans and baggy clothes to becoming a champion for body confidence as Miss London Curve 2014.
Now the 28-year-old, who wears size 22 clothes, has her eye on the national title of Miss British Beauty Curve where she is representing the capital in the finals for ladies who are size 14 plus.
Ms Burgess, who lives in Bell Green, told News Shopper about her journey to self-confidence. She said: "I've always been self-conscious about my weight and size, trying every diet going and losing weight just to put it back on again.
"I was so unhappy that I'd hide away and became the Cardigan Queen.
"I was always being told I would be beautiful if I 'just lost the weight'. Well now I can prove I am big and beautiful.
"I have literally changed from Cardigan Queen to Pageant Princess."
Her mindset changed when she started a blog in August last year as a creative outlet and it developed into one about beauty, plus size-fashion and body confidence.
She was inspired by an online plus-size community and ditched the baggy jeans for fashionable dresses.
The finance officer said: "These plus-size women looked absolutely amazing wearing fashionable clothes. I thought – if they can look like that, so can I.
"It’s completely changed me as a person, I felt I was accepted and normal.
"It sounds like a cliché, but confidence really comes from within."
She went on to say whether someone wished to lose weight or not, inner acceptance was needed first.
Encouraging other curvier women, she said: “Being a big size doesn’t mean you are not normal.
“You just generally have to appreciate who you are first regardless of what you want to achieve."
Speaking of media obsession with size zero beauty, she added: "I think it is quite sad because what they are trying to show us isn’t achievable by anyone’s standards.
"It is not a real image, there is air brushing and cropping.
“When you have a 'real' picture of celebrities, they try and say they look terrible."
Ms Burgess will join 30 girls from across Britain competing in July's finals with an interview round, swimwear round and evening wear round.
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