Miss University wins national lovely girls crown


SATURDAY night. There are fake rose petals strewn on tables in a hotel ballroom in Dublin where one of the most anticipated events on our national lovely girl calendar is taking place. Welcome to the Miss Ireland 2011 Grand Final.

The main sponsor for the event is a cranberry flavoured “calorie-burning” drink that we are reassured by the man selling the stuff was “tested in a UK laboratory, no gimmicks”. It may be a long night.

Mercifully, the contestants are allowed to get what is the cringiest bit of the evening out of the way first. Here they come, careering down the catwalk in the world’s most uncomfortable looking swimwear to the thumping beats of Beyonce’s empowering anthem Girls Who Run the World.

They won’t be running anywhere in those heels or doing anything more empowering than trying to remain upright. Most are concentrating too hard on not falling over to even crack a smile.

All the fake tan in the world can’t help them now. These are 35 attractive young women who for some reason have agreed to strut about in unforgiving lighting in arguably the most unflattering togs they will ever wear in their lives. The Irish Timesis sitting close enough to the action to see things we will never be able to unsee. But perhaps it all looks ultra-glamourous from a distance.

In the next round the contestants are allowed to put on some clothes. It’s not difficult to pick out who might be in the running for the title. The women with a more original brand of beauty probably don’t stand a chance. Contestants such as Miss Antrim, Miss Dublin South and Miss University look as though they’d fit the beauty pageant bill.

In the interview round the contestants are given a chance to talk about themselves. It turns out, not surprisingly given that they are aged between 18 and 25 and live in the western world, that they have a lot going on.

They are doing degrees in pharmacy or law or starting businesses or playing poker or GAA or doing charity work. So far, so unsurprising. However, the presenters of the show can’t seem to get over the fact that these women are good looking and have actual lives. We are repeatedly invited to be amazed. At how “confident” the “girls” are. How “busy”. How “articulate”. What’s never explained is why all of this is such a novelty.

In the end green-eyed Miss University Holly Carpenter (19) from Raheny in Dublin, is crowned Miss Ireland. She is the granddaughter of the late social diarist Terry Keane and is studying textiles at the National College of Art and Design. She has brown hair and seems like a pleasant person who answers “my mum and dad” when she was asked what people in the world she most aspires to be like. Last year’s winner Emma Waldron hands over her sparkly crown and Carpenter poses for photographs in her shimmering sequin-covered dress.

Next up on the Irish lovely girl calendar is the Rose of Tralee. No awkward bikini section or calorie-burning sponsors but plenty more young women who, in an astonishing turn of events, manage to be educated, attractive and able to answer questions about themselves in an articulate fashion. Prepare to be amazed.