IF there’s one thing Alisha Cowie can count on, it’s family support.

When the 19-year-old, from Spennymoor, was crowned Miss England, in September, her mum Amy famously stormed the stage. Granddad John wears a t-shirt saying, ‘Miss Newcastle’s Official Driver’, and grandma Gloria, not to be outdone, has one saying ‘Gloria May, Miss England’s Grandma.’ It’s fair to say, then, that “proud” would be an understatement.

“I think it was because she’d seen how hard I’d worked,” says Alisha of the stage-storming incident (her mum was politely, but firmly escorted off). “I’d gone to Nepal, I was doing car boot sales twice a week to raise money for charity, I was volunteering in a school for Autism Awareness, so I think when my mum saw that had paid off she was over the moon.” So, being a modern beauty queen isn’t just about posing in swimwear then?

In fact, it doesn’t have to involve swimwear at all. Miss England does still have this as a category, along with things like sporting talent and intelligence, but it’s optional and, instead of appearing on stage, you submit a photograph for judging. Alisha did – “I’m fine in a bikini,” she says – but wasn’t placed. Not that this bothered her. “It was good fun,” she says magnanimously. “Me and my boyfriend went to the beach and took some snaps.”

Life as Miss England is, as you might imagine, a far cry from normality. The title has opened many doors for Alisha, including the chance to take part in a TV presenting course and having 18 dresses donated by a Doncaster boutique. She says it’s been a whirlwind.

“I’ve gone from being at university every day to doing Miss England stuff every day,” says Alisha, who’s studying for a degree in forensic science and crime scene investigation at Teesside. “With everything I have going on, one would have really suffered, so I’ve deferred my degree for a year.”

She started modelling at 15, when she was signed by Tyne Tees Models, but thanks to granddad John, she was already a pro in front of the camera. “My granddad is a photographer, so I’ve always had portraits and things like that done,” says Alisha. “I got signed at the end of 2014. I was still at school, then college, so it was just part-time. I was doing bridal shoots and fashion shows. I did a lot of volunteering for charity shows for the first year, and then I’d get the paid jobs in between.”

Finding that modelling paid a lot better than the £3.87 an hour she got for waitressing, Alisha decided to stick with the former and quit the latter. She was inspired to enter Miss Newcastle by former winner Vicky Turner. “She was Miss Newcastle 2015 and we were doing a bridal shoot together and I just saw her confidence,” she says. “She was just glowing, and she was so nice, and I was kind of inspired to be like her.”

At her first stab at the competition, in 2016, she didn’t even get to interview stage – yet the following year, for reasons she’s not entirely sure of, she went all the way. Going forward to Miss England, she fundraised to boost her chances. “I raised £20,000 for Smiles Across Nepal and then I actually travelled to Nepal to help give dental services to children who don’t have access to dentistry,” says Alisha. “I went out of my way to do that for Miss England. Then I raised over £1,200 for Beauty With A Purpose, the Miss World Charity.”

A perk of representing her country has been working with Luisa Scott, of Newcastle Skin Clinic, who has devised a bespoke skincare regime using the clinic’s own products. Alisha says it has made a noticeable difference. “I’ve always tried to look after my skin, but I never really knew how to,” she admits. “Then I got put in contact with Luisa, who gave me the rundown on everything I need to use, day and night, and provided me with the products. I’ve always had really dry skin, especially round my nose and on my forehead, but I’ve really noticed a difference. Sometimes I used to get really bad breakouts on my chin or my cheeks, but I literally haven’t had a noticeable spot since I’ve been using these products.”

When it comes to things like diet and fitness, Alisha is relaxed – or, as she puts it, “I have my head totally screwed on”. “I look after myself, but I don’t really worry about what people think about me,” she says. “I go to the gym, but I don’t weigh myself at all because I’d just be concerned about it. It’s just so I know that I’m healthy and I can eat what I want. I don’t diet or anything like that.”

The Northern Echo:

Perfect preparation: Alisha with Luisa Scott, of Newcastle Skin Clinic

This attitude applies equally to competing. Having won Miss England, Alisha is going forward to the 68th Miss World tournament, taking place in Sanya, China, next weekend.

While some may be critical of the world’s oldest beauty pageant, feeling it has run its course, she staunchly defends it.

“I could be out getting pregnant and doing drugs, but instead I’ve raised nearly £30,000 for charity over three years,” she says, bluntly. “I’m trying to get things funded for a local school where my mum works. Being Miss England just gives me a huge platform to say, ‘This is what I want to do and I’m going to do it’. What I set out to do is educate people about it. I don’t think people should criticise me or the competition when they’ve got no idea what I’ve put into it.”

It’s hard to argue with this logic, and Alisha herself – self-possessed, and with a strong work ethic – is an eloquent advert. She knows where she’s going and how she aims to get there (she turned down Love Island as it “wasn’t the right platform”) and, at least for now, she’s sticking with Plan A. “After this year I’ll be going back to university, finishing my degree and hopefully joining the police force for a few years, then doing my exams to become a detective,” she says.

But that won’t stop her from taking full advantage of her current position. “There arre so many reality TV shows that exaggerate the nightlife in Newcastle and make the people here seem something they’re not, so I’m trying to go the opposite way and present it in a good light,” she says. “I just want to bring positive things to Newcastle and to England. I just love Newcastle. It’s my favourite city.”

  • Miss World takes place in Sanya, China, on December 8.

W: newcastleskinclinic.co.uk

Favourite place in the North-East?

Jesmond Dene and the beaches at Tynemouth and Blyth. I’m learning to surf, so I really love the beach.

Favourite restaurant?

Olive & Bean in Newcastle.

Favourite clothes shop?

I mostly shop online.