The 20-year-old is the first Miss England constant to wear a hijab. She’s made it through to the semi-finals of the competition and if successful, will be taking part in the Miss England finals – the winner of which goes on to represent the nation in Miss World. The aspiring social worker hopes that her success will help to challenge the stereotypes faced by Muslims. While she’s not the first Muslim women to compete in Miss England, Maria is the first to wear her hijab throughout the contest.
Maria thought she had little hope of success. ‘I told the organiser, “I have wardrobe restrictions and I am not a size 8,”‘ Maria tells the Daily Mail. ‘I am new to the pageant world so I didn’t know. But she said: “You don’t need to worry, there is not a bikini round anymore”‘.
‘You need to wear good clothes and you need to look polished but you don’t need to look like a supermodel.’ Maria says that as a child, she was bullied so badly for being ‘ugly’ that her tormentors would tell her to kill herself. ‘I wanted to show that it didn’t have to be this way’. On the first day of the competition, she says that she felt nervous as the only hijabi there.