by JULIE ANN SPENCE
Hillsborough Oyster Festival, Mayor of Lisburn City Council, Alderman
Paul Porter and Hillsborough Oyster Festival Chairman David Dunlop with
Miss Oyster Pearl Michelle Cunningham
MICHELLE Cunningham was crowned as this year's Miss Oyster Pearl at the International Oyster Festival in Hillsborough last weekend.
22-year-old Michelle, who lives in Newtownards but whose maternal family is from Lisburn, was both surprised and thrilled to win the title.
She is now looking forward to more opportunities to model in the coming months, after winning a year's contract with Belfast model agency Style Academy.
When Michelle was just 13 she won a modelling competition with fashion store Mark One and this early experience gave her a taste of life on the runway. Since then she has modelled for charity fashion shows but decided to take things further when she entered the Miss Oyster Pearl competition.
"I thought it would be a great opportunity to be able to star in a fashion show alongside professional models," explained Michelle. "Modelling is always something I've had an interest in and this was an amazing experience.
"We had to go to Hillsborough to do some press shots to publicise the
show and then the day before we had rehearsals all day. We had to learn how
to walk in a certain way," continued Michelle. "When she first explained the
way you had to walk we thought we were never going to be able to do it but
you get used to it. The clothes we had to wear were absolutely gorgeous and
they were all really different.
"The other girls were really nice and we got on really well, we weren't competitive at all."
When Michelle was named as Miss Oyster Pearl she could not hide her surprise. "It was a real surprise to win, especially because I wasn't local so I thought the other girls would have more of a chance. I couldn't believe it, it took a while to register."
As well as winning the title of 'Miss Oyster Pearl', Michelle also won a host of fantastic prizes, including a stunning dress from Candy Plum priced at £700, £650 worth of Calvin Klein jewellery, a £150 voucher for Karan Francis in Moira and, of course, a years modelling contract with Style Academy.
Michelle spent last weekend carrying out official duties at the Oyster Festival, including attending the Gala Ball and presenting the winner of the oyster eating competition with his trophy.
"I was delighted to take part in the festival," continued Michelle. "It was a fantastic weekend and all for a good cause. This year's chosen charity - SAM - is a great charity and I know that the money raised this year will help the charity to uiteimately improve the treatment, quality of life of persons affected by Muscular Dystrophy."