Beauty queen Eleanore's fundraising fight for grandfather

Eleanore Fitzgerald with her inspiration grandfatherJohn Tesh Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Eleanore Fitzgerald is using her platform in beauty pageants as a force for good - Credit: Charlotte Bond

A teenage beauty pageant contestant from Suffolk has been using her platform to spread awareness of cardiac conditions after her grandfather recovered from a triple heart bypass.

Eleanore Fitzgerald, from Sweffling, near Framlingham, decided to challenge herself two years ago on her gap year and took up pageantry as a way of attracting donations for the British Heart Foundation.

The 19-year-old was only five-years-old when her grandfather, John Tesh, had a major bypass operation in hospital in London.

Miss Fitzgerald, a student at Durham University, also revealed her uncle tragically passed away from a sudden heart attack three years ago.

In response to the conditions suffered by members of her family, Miss Fitzgerald has raised nearly £500 for the British Heart Foundation over the last 18 months by combining her pageantry work with a series of charity fundraising events.

Eleanore Fitzgerald with her inspiration grandfatherJohn Tesh Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

The 19-year-old is a student at Durham University - Credit: Charlotte Bond

One fundraiser, a pancake sale held just before the Covid pandemic hit the UK, raised more than £300 in just over two hours.

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Miss Fitzgerald said: "My grandfather helped raised me. He took me to every recital when I was younger and we went on holiday all the time. He's my best friend.

"He had the heart bypass when I was very young and, without that operation, I wouldn't have him here today.

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"I think I must have been about five-years-old when he had his triple heart bypass. I remember going down to see him in London.

"It was a very worrying time for our family. I remember going to get him a teddy bear to cheer him up after the operation.

"It was only later that I realised how serious it was.

"My grandfather lives down the road from me and I feel so, so lucky. I've had so many experiences with him.

"I'm studying German and classics at university, and it is because he taught me German when I was younger.

"People tell me, and I feel like, I am the younger, female version of him."

Miss Fitzgerald, a former pupil at Woodbridge School, has just completed her first year at university and is at home on her summer break before the new term starts in the autumn.

The student is continuing her pageantry work and will be setting off for Preston in Lancashire as she prepares to represent East Suffolk in the Miss & Miss Teen Pageant Girl UK competition this weekend.

The event will offer each of the contestants the chance to spread awareness of issues close to their hearts - which is part of the reason Miss Fitzgerald decided to get involved with pageantry in the first place.

She added: "I was on my gap year and I wanted to to challenge myself. But I wanted to use a platform for good.

Eleanore Fitzgerald with her inspiration grandfatherJohn Tesh Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Eleanore Fitzgerald with her grandfather and 'best friend', John Tesh - Credit: Charlotte Bond

"Before the main pageants start, we all have an interview with the judges. We tell them who we are and it's all about selling yourself as a person.

"I want to use the title for the British Heart Foundation and to spread the message. I’m so proud to be representing Suffolk."

As an aspiring journalist, Miss Fitzgerald is planning to challenge the stigma surrounding pageants and beauty contests and believes they can be a force for good.

Miss Fitzgerald said a number of her university friends have looked down on beauty contests - but she is determined to challenge that perception.

She said: "I have been raising awareness around the reality of pageantry and all of its positive aspects, such as my fundraising.

"I have definitely seen the stigma. People seem to misunderstand what pageants are all about.

"I'm really glad to show that it's not just about wearing make-up or a nice dress. It's about being a positive role model in your community.

"Pageantry is more about fundraising and philanthropy."

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