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Leah triumphs over adversity

POSITIVE VIBES: Leah Deacon

WITH THE New Year already two weeks old when many resolutions fall by the wayside, Leah Deacon’s story of triumph over adversity is enough to inspire anyone not to give up on their dreams.

For the 28-year-old who was bullied at school for being overweight has beaten more than 700 hopefuls to become a finalist at the Miss Plus Size International Show to be held in the UK later this year.

And she is not losing sight of her real lifelong dream – to study medicine, she has gained distinctions in the science subjects she needs to be accepted at university.

It’s been a long haul for Leah from inner-city Birmingham, whose mother was stabbed in the face in a random knife attack near their home when she was only 11 years old.

“My mum was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I will never forget that moment I saw mum with blood pouring down her face,” said Leah. “I helped her to stem the blood and from that moment on I knew I wanted to become a doctor.”

Luckily, Leah’s mum’s sight was saved and she made a full physical recovery from the attack, but mentally she has struggled to cope ever since.

“I became mum’s carer because she suffered from a lot of mental problems and simply wasn’t able to do a lot of things mums are expected to do, but she’s now improved a great deal.

“Growing up we were poor – we lived in poverty. My half brothers accepted this and told me ‘this is the only life we’ll have,’ but I have fought against this all my life and I’m determined to be successful,” said Leah, who is the first in her family to finish college.

“People were always ready to squash my dreams and say: ‘You will never be a doctor because you need to be rich and intelligent,’ but I believe the struggle I’ve had so far and the experiences I’ve had will make me a better doctor.”

Leah’s school days were severely disrupted by bullying, to such an extent that she once ended up in hospital for being physically attacked. It meant she didn’t leave school with as many GCSEs as she wanted to, but she was determined not to give up on her quest for qualifications.


HAPPY DAYS: Leah (right) with friends before losing three stone.

She took a diploma in medicine, driving up and down each day to Manchester and now has A-level equivalents with distinctions in the pre-requisite science subjects.

“I’ve applied previously to study medicine and wasn’t accepted, but with the feedback I’ve had I’m applying again to universities in Liverpool, Keele, Brighton and Norwich,” added Leah, who is also a previous winner of the Letisha and Charlene Education Awards, a scheme launched in Birmingham to support students in memory of teenagers Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare who were murdered in 2003.

“Mental health is something close to my heart and I’m particularly interested in studying that.

“I would say to anyone who is struggling to achieve their dreams, don’t be disheartened – everyone learns at their own pace. At schools today, pastoral care is on offer so don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve worked as a mentor myself and know how important that role can be.”

Leah firmly believes in the link between mental and physical health, which encouraged her to lose three stone between January and June last year.

“My weight had started to depress me, so I changed my diet, joined a gym and stuck at it.”

Leah is now one of 35 finalists out of 740 contestants in the Miss Plus Size International event, which will be held in Manchester this September.

“It’s my dream to study medicine, but I also want to be an ambassador for plus size women. I want to make a physical, emotional and social difference to the lives of people experiencing health limiting conditions, while being a voice for plus size women.”

In the meantime, Leah is looking for sponsors to help her prepare for the competition. She can be contacted on Facebook by searching for Leah Deacon Finalist Miss Plus Size International.

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