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Redhead bullied as kid gets last laugh by becoming beauty pageant finalist

Jessica Gagen, 26, was punched, spat at and even burned because of her red locks after being tormented by cruel classmates when she was a teenager.

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*Jessica Gagen (26) (L) and as a child (R). (Miss England via SWNS)

By Bradley Stokes via SWNS

A student who was bullied for being a redhead has had the last laugh by becoming a beauty pageant finalist - and is now hoping to be the first redhead to represent England at Miss World.

Jessica Gagen, 26, was punched, spat at and even burned because of her red locks after being tormented by cruel classmates when she was a teenager.

She was also subjected to name-calling, having things thrown at her head and was forced to eat her school lunch in the bathroom in a bid to escape the abuse.

But after being signed up by a modeling agency, Jessica's confidence grew as she took to catwalks across the globe.

She went on to enter Miss England and became first place runner-up in the grand final last year, narrowly losing out to Rehema Muthamia.

Now, in a bid to become the first redhead to represent England at this year's Miss World finals, Jessica is now vying to become Miss Liverpool 2022.

Jessica Gagen.(Jessica Gagen via SWNS)
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Jessica, who is studying for an integrated master's degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Liverpool, says she's determined more than ever to win.

Jessica, originally from Skelmersdale said: "Throughout secondary school I was teased for being a redhead.

"I didn’t mention it much during last year’s competition as I’m a big believer in leaving negativity in the past, but with there never having been a red-haired Miss England.

“I feel it’s important to educate people about what redheads face in school and empower kids who are facing the same things I did.

"I was name-called on the daily, and although I don’t think the kids were being malicious in doing so, there were definitely times they were.

"I was hit, spat at and had things thrown at my head quite a few times, but worst was when a girl burned me for having ginger hair.

“In Year 7 I used to eat my lunch in the school toilets, because on the occasions I’d try to sit with some of the girls they’d stand up and leave me by myself.

"I used to get really upset about it all, but I’m determined to show kids who are facing the same thing that it won’t happen forever."

Despite finishing overall runner-up for Miss England 2021, Jessica won the national Explore the Nation round at the event.

The virtual round saw contestants promote the city or county they are representing in a homemade video report.

Jessica signed with multiple agencies and started modeling internationally at 18 and now hopes to compete on the world stage representing England.

She added: "There has never been a redhead win the title before. Last year I came second with Miss England.

"At this moment, I am a semi-finalist for Miss England. They are currently doing the heats for each region.

"This year I am going for Miss Liverpool so we'll see how that goes. The final for that is on August 25. Then after that it is the Miss England finals.

"If all is successful Miss World will happen later this year.

"For me, by competing in Miss England, my campaign last year and this year is to help people get girls into STEM subjects.

Jessica Gagen . (Jessica Gagen via SWNS)

"But after realizing there has never been a redhead winner, I looked back and I was thinking there are not many that redheads on TV.

"I think it would be so good if there could be somebody in that kind of position who is a redhead. Even last year there wasn't one redhead in Miss World.

"I thought if I could win this, I could empower kids who being bullied for the way that they look and the color of their hair.

"I'm the only redhead in family so I'd always been looking for somebody who kind of understood the bullying through school.

"It is nice to be able to represent the younger kids and say 'I have been through it and you can use that pain to raise your game'. Make it your superpower."

Alongside modeling, Jessica has helped raise over the £6,000 ($7,822) for local charities and, in 2021, she raised funds for Beauty with a Purpose.

She ran a 5k in fancy dress every day consecutively for 96 days in Liverpool, and is known locally as Fancy-Dress Jess.

To enter Miss England visit here.

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