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First Black woman wins Miss Ireland beauty pageant

Pamela Uba. Credit: PA Images

Pamela Uba has been named Miss Ireland 2021, making her the first Black woman to win the title.

Uba, 26, made Irish beauty-pageant history on Sunday night, September 5, when she was named Miss Ireland for the first time at an outdoor ceremony in Cavan.

The contest has been ongoing since 1947, and Uba is a medical scientist who worked on the front lines during the pandemic, in addition to working as a part-time model.

Uba arrived in Ireland as an asylum seeker at the age of seven from Johannesburg, South Africa. She grew up in the direct-provision system as one of six siblings. She told The Irish Times that she considered it weird that she couldn't hear gunshots when she first arrived in Ireland. 'When I obtained my Irish passport, I cried,' she added.

When Uba initially arrived in Ireland, she worked in centers in and around Dublin, then moved to Athlone, Co Westmeath, and lastly to Balluhaunis, Co Mayo. She lived there for a decade with her mother and siblings.

While Uba loves Ireland and is a "very proud" Irish citizen, she has certain complaints of the country's system, according to The Irish Times. Uba stated she had been in the system for ten years and had no idea what was going on or when her life will begin. She stated, "People need to be able to live their lives." She expressed her desire that "Ireland continues to assist individuals," but that "the direct-provision system needs to be rethought and potentially eliminated."

Uba characterizes herself as a "nerdy" student who enjoyed education and sports, seeing them as a "escape from the rigors of life in direct provision." She is currently awaiting the results of her master's in clinical chemistry, which she earned after completing her medical-science degree in Galway at Trinity College Dublin.

Uba claims her mother was in "total tears" after she won the Miss Ireland contest. ‘What is the point?' she recalled thinking as she prepared for the Leaving Cert. I'll just be sent back to Africa to sell lemons on the street.' But she keeps talking about how far she and her family have come.

Working at Galway University Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic, Uba studied the inflammatory process in patients who had received the virus, assessing "how bad the infection was in persons." She told The Irish Times that one day after the hospital was targeted by the cyberattack on the Health Service Executive, she took "35,000 steps dashing to the wards."

Racists insulted Uba on social media when she was crowned Miss Galway a few days before the first lockdown in March 2020. Her new title, she believes, will signify a more varied Ireland. Uba described it as "terrible" to hear people advise her to return to her homeland "after I've worked so hard to make Ireland my home."

Uba filled out forms and wrote letters to politicians during her family's asylum-seeking procedure, stating, "We are all human, and we all deserve the same love and respect."

Uba has received support from her parish priest and the people of Galway and Ballyhaunis, who she says are ‘all rooting for her.'

To Uba, winning the Ireland beauty pageant meant "so much."

She stated, "I'm so glad I can show girls that race isn't a barrier to success, and that no matter where you come from, the world is your oyster."

In December, Uba will represent Ireland at the 70th Miss World Festival. It's taking place in Puerto Rico. ‘I can't express how ecstatic I am to be able to represent my country on such a large stage.' 'I can't wait,' she expressed her excitement.


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