I survived the Manchester Arena attack and was left scared of crowds - now I'm in Miss England pageant

Modelle Hughes-Gervis was just 14 when she was caught up in the bombing.
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A Manchester Arena bombing survivor who was left terrified of crowds after the attack has conquered her fears to tread the catwalk as a beauty queen - and reach the Miss England finals.

Modelle Hughes-Gervis was just 14-years-old when she was caught up in the Ariana Grande concert attack which killed 22 people on May 22, 2017. She was in the arena when the bomb was detonated by suicide bomber Salman Abedi and managed to escape the chaos unharmed with her best friend.

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After witnessing first-hand the devastation caused, Modelle, now 20, was left mentally scarred and frightened of unexpected loud noises and crowds of people. But she became determined to 'not let anything stand in her way' and slowly grew in confidence to pursue her dreams of becoming a model and beauty queen.

Modelle finally plucked up the courage to enter Miss England and came runner-up in Miss Manchester this week, landing her a place in the national semi-finals. She will now overcome her fears when she competes in front of hundreds of people at the Viva Blackpool venue on April 7.

Modelle Hughes-Gervis was just 14-years-old when she was caught up in the Ariana Grande concert attackModelle Hughes-Gervis was just 14-years-old when she was caught up in the Ariana Grande concert attack
Modelle Hughes-Gervis was just 14-years-old when she was caught up in the Ariana Grande concert attack

Modelle, from Salford, said: "I'm so proud at how far I have come. If you'd have told me at 15 I would be a model in the semi-finals of Miss England, I would have said 'what are you on about?'

"The confidence just wasn't there. But I didn't want to grow older thinking why didn’t I believe in myself. When I do a lot of things I've had to push myself to do, I just picture my younger self and I do it all for her.

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“I am so happy that I decided to do Miss England. The pride that I felt getting up there and doing it was indescribable. Something about Manchester resonated to me in the aftermath of the attack. The way the community rallied together in such a tough time is what has continued to inspire me."

Modelle had asked for Ariana Grande concert tickets for Christmas and couldn’t wait to watch her favourite singer with her best friend Leah Kelly. But the tragic night, just five days before her 15th birthday, left a lasting impact on Modelle who said she's had to 'try to carry on as normal'.

Modelle, who works as a part-time model and at the John Lewis department store in the Trafford Centre, added: “The actual concert itself was great. We wanted to see her so badly and it was a literal dream come true.

"These balloons had come down from the arena, at first I thought it was the balloons popping. For a split second I didn’t think anything of it. Then we saw the crowd disperse. You see all these people jumping to get to the ground floors. We had no idea what to do as it was just us two.

Survivor of the Manchester Arena bombing Modelle Hughes-Gervis, 20, is competing in the Miss England semi-finals as Miss Manchester runner-up. Survivor of the Manchester Arena bombing Modelle Hughes-Gervis, 20, is competing in the Miss England semi-finals as Miss Manchester runner-up.
Survivor of the Manchester Arena bombing Modelle Hughes-Gervis, 20, is competing in the Miss England semi-finals as Miss Manchester runner-up.
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"We heard it was a bomb, but we didn’t know whether there were planes above us dropping bombs or bombs around the arena. All the exits were blocked so we just ran up the chairs. I remember running up the chairs and thinking a bomb could fall on my head.

“We ran to an exit and there’s people everywhere. There were people with blood on them and people injured walking around. As scary as it was, it could’ve been a lot worse for us both. I still find that loud noises affect me.

"Working in a shopping centre, hearing a child screaming or people screaming, it does trigger me. I was in Cyprus a few years later and there was a storm that triggered my anxiety. There was thunder that sounded just like the bomb.

"I never thought I’d be caught up in a terrorist attack. I’ve seen now, this can happened to anyone. But after the bombing I adapted to the mindset of don’t let anything get in your way - you only have one life so chase your dreams."

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Modelle began modelling when she was just 10 but took a break from the industry before returning to it aged 19. She added: "I’ve always wanted to model since I was younger, it’s my passion in life. I never thought I'd end up in pageantry - I thought it was an American thing really.

“I’m very excited for the semi-final. I'm feeling confident and capable and that's not something I ever thought I'd feel a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to motivate, encourage and inspire people to do whatever they want and Miss England gives you that platform.

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