Feminist Natasha Hemmings says beliefs that beauty pageants are degrading to women are outdated
She’s a Christian former beauty queen who entered her first contest – and found her faith – after vicious bullying at school. A classically trained singer-songwriter who’s never been afraid to speak about her religious beliefs. With model looks and a voice to die for, Natasha Hemmings will have you re-evaluating your expectations about who a modern beauty queen might be.
She studied at the prestigious Royal Northern College of Music from 14 and performed Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro in the talent round of the Miss England contest.
Having been crowned Miss England in 2015 aged 19, she put her degree on pause for a year of ambassadorial work. And having recently completed a series of shows with Ronan Keating, she’s now in the midst of a 21-date nationwide tour with powerhouse classical duo Aled Jones and Russell Watson.
“Aled and Russell are so lovely and I learned a lot from them on the last tour we did together in 2019 – from how to interact with the audience to what to ask for in a sound check,” she explains.
“We built up a really strong friendship and I also became good friends with Russell’s daughter, Becky, who came on tour too. You really do need people in your corner.
“When they announced they were touring again, post Covid, Aled got in touch and told me they’d love to have me back.
“I’m so excited. Christmas is such a special time of year and it’s especially magical for me as a Christian to be sharing the true meaning. I hope to bring everyone together singing our favourite festive songs and remembering our blessings at this time.”
Miss Cheshire Natasha Hemmings wins the finals of Miss England 2015 at The Ricoh Arena
Natasha, 26, from Nantwich, Cheshire, found her faith after her first big break-up at the age of 17.
“He was my first love and he was quite a popular person. Unfortunately, he took the whole school with him and my friends dropped me,” she says.
“I felt so isolated and everyone turned their backs on me. I was at an age where I thought I was supposed to be an adult, but I didn’t know how.”
After a particularly nasty bout of bullying, she marched out of the school gates and into a nearby church. “I was crying and the people there started praying with me,” she continues.
“When I was younger, I had a friend who was always dropping the seeds about faith, and suddenly all these things she’d said came into my mind. I tried talking to God for the first time and was soon hooked. My mum was quite worried. I was always reading Christian blessings books. But I suddenly had all this hope. I felt that even if I was alone, I was no longer on my own.”
One day while praying in her room, she felt a “presence” nearby.
Natasha toured with Ronan Keating earlier this year
“It was like a shadow, a warmth, and it sat on my bed. I couldn’t see a face, but I knew it was Jesus. It has never happened since. I know it was real, and I’d love to have an experience like that again.”
Unfortunately, when she went to university, Natasha once again found herself out of step with her peers and once again subjecting to bullying.
It was then that her concerned mother made a radical decision and entered Natasha into the Miss Cheshire beauty contest in a desperate bid to help her depressed daughter make new friends.
“Entering a beauty pageant was nothing I’d thought of doing, but I was isolated at university and had struggled to make new friends,” says Natasha today. “I was living away from home, I wasn’t attending lectures and I was feeling upset.”
Her mother’s well-intentioned plan to keep her in university backfired spectacularly when Natasha won, as it did when she automatically qualified for Miss England and won that too.
“I never expected to win and when I won, let’s say that I didn’t end up making a load of new friends. Once again, I ended up feeling a bit isolated,” explains Natasha.
Natasha is delighted to be touring – and sharing her Christianity – with Aled Jones
“Being judged for your beauty is a small part of these pageants these days, but I found so many people prejudged me for doing it. People would think I was a model who had woken up one day and decided to become a singer. They didn’t know I’d been training since the age of nine. I found it really sad that other women can judge us for doing something.
“If you win a beauty title people perceive your life is perfect. Social media does that too. But we need to be more realistic and share the reality in the world of young girls growing up in the shadow of the Kardashians.
“That is also a big part of being a Christian – being a role model for being a real person.”
Natasha didn’t grow up in a religious family, and few of her friends are Christian.
She says there are few young people in her church. Meeting Aled Jones was something of a revelation.
“It’s really wonderful that Aled has talked publicly about his faith, and I really welcome the debate. I’m really interested in why people believe what they believe,” she says.
“Although I was christened as a child, I didn’t know much about God and I didn’t understand that you could have a relationship with him at this moment.
“I didn’t know anything. My faith has made me a more understanding person, and the friends I’ve made through my faith are true friends.”
She is currently working on her third album. With the working title Grace, it’s her first to be faith-based.
“When I’m not on tour, I go to my local church near my home in Cheshire, and I always pray before bed.
“It’s a way of saying thank you. I also pray before I go on stage, so I’m in regular conversation with God.”
Some of these experiences inevitably found their way into her second album, Invisible.
“Each song was inspired by moments throughout my life,” she explains.
“In today’s world, everyone is creating a ‘perfect’ version of themselves out on social media and the true person is ‘invisible’.
“It feels like no one can truly be happy when pretending to be someone else – scared they won’t be liked and accepted for who they are.”
Today Natasha is now determined to battle stereotypes. “When I was Miss England there was a documentary about feminism versus the contest, saying that Miss England was stuffy, old fashioned and degrading to women,” she says.
“But it’s really important to me to get across the message that it doesn’t make you any less feminist if you want to wear a dress or embrace your feminine side.
“We shouldn’t have to dress like men to be taken seriously. It was a big deal, me saying that, and I think it hopefully changed the perception of what people think it means to be a feminist.”
Natasha has a twin brother, as well as two step-siblings and a half sister, following her mother’s remarriage to the man she has called “Dad” since she was six years old.
“I don’t know my birth father,” she says. “I know there are other children on my father’s side, but he won’t allow me any contact with them or with my grandparents.
“It’s difficult because he lives in the local area, but I don’t want anyone in my life who doesn’t want to be there.”
Her stepfather, a builder, has admirably filled the gap in her life with devoted care and support.
“Mum and Dad have always been there for me. They ran me around to music school and all the charity things I had to do when I was Miss England.”
She has also found love in the form of Charlie, a salesman and her boyfriend of eight years, who is supporting her on tour.
“I love to try to communicate with my audience, and on the tour I’ll be talking about the songs I’m singing. Amazing Grace is my favourite. It’s a really important song to me as a Christian.
“It’s such an old song, and there is something so magical about it. It reveals the beauty of music, and of hope and faith.”
Natasha Hemmings would appear to be its living embodiment.
- Natasha is special guest on Aled Jones and Russell Watson’s nationwide Christmas tour. For more information and tickets, visit at axs.com