THEY say that beauty and brains are a rare combination – but a Stroud District Council building surveyor has combined both to become the face of Cheltenham.
Sophie Lydia Smith, 23, is more used to donning hard hats and hi-visibility jackets than high heels and lipstick in her job as council repairs officer, where she is responsible for dealing with a wide-range of challenging tasks on a daily basis.
But having been interested in modelling since the age of 12, Sophie now hopes to utilise her good looks to promote Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and Stroud District Council as well as a good cause through the charity Beauty with a Purpose.
Sophie was asked to take part in the Miss Cheltenham beauty pageant held last month following a successful stint at Cheltenham Fashion Week.
It was her first pageant but it provided Sophie with a chance to promote all the things she loves.
“I absolutely love Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds and I love working for Stroud District Council, so this was my opportunity to tell everyone about them,” she said.
“I work in construction for SDC and it has just so much to offer – the geotechnics of Stroud are so interesting. I’m very proud to work for the council as it has so much of which to be proud.
“I manage the repairs and maintenance contract for 6,000 properties across the district which means I get to work with the community a lot.”
Sophie admits that entering the male-dominated world of construction was quite a scary experience – but one she has certainly embraced.
“I was the first apprentice with Gloucester City Council in building control and I was very young and the only girl in a class of 30 blokes,” she said.
“It was a shock to everyone but it was definitely a positive experience and it challenged the perception of the industry but now I hope that I can be a role model to other women who want to enter construction, proving to them that it’s no longer taboo.”
It’s that positivity which Sophie believes earned her the title of Miss Cheltenham 2014.
“I think I won the competition because I’m a bit of an all-rounder. Not only was I promoting the stuff that the beauty pageant wanted but also I was promoting my passion for Cheltenham and all it has to offer,” said Sophie, who will now compete in the Miss England competition in Torquay in June 14 to 16.
Sophie will be doing her utmost for charity when she takes to the Miss England catwalk and is encouraging supporters to get behind her and donate to a worthy cause.
“I want to raise as much money for charity as I can through Beauty with a Purpose, and that’s going to be my main aim between now and June. Hundreds of pounds would be great but if I can turn that into thousands then so much the better,” she said.
“This is the positive side of pageantry and it would be great to look back and see that something positive came out of it.”
And Sophie will also be promoting recycling at the competition, as she plans to wear a dress made from recycled items.
“For the Miss Cheltenham competition I used vinyl flooring for a skirt, so anything is possible for Miss England.
“I will be designing it along with my friend Sam Phillips who is an interior designer,” she added.
And if she is successful in June, Sophie could find herself at the Miss World pageant held shortly afterwards.
“Getting onto the Miss World stage would be absolutely brilliant as there would be no stopping me in promoting all things Gloucestershire,” she said.
To help Sophie raise money go to www.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SophieLydiaSmith