Miss Great Britain, 26, wins the competition after losing eight stone


There is no disguising how thrilled Jennifer is to have walked away with the title, nor how astonishing her transformation is. With tumbling blonde hair, an impressively lithe figure and brilliant Hollywood smile, she looks every inch the beauty queen

Seeing the judges walking towards her, bearing the coveted silver crown and announcing that she was the new Miss Great Britain, Jennifer Atkin’s knees buckled and her big brown eyes swam with tears as she asked: ‘Me? Are you sure?’

Although she wouldn’t be the first beauty queen to do so, the 26-year-old from Grimsby, Lincolnshire, was neither being coquettish nor displaying false modesty.

This was not just about winning a beauty contest. Far from it. 

If anything, this was a life contest and the only competition was with herself. And she’d won. Really, really won.

Lampooned as anti-feminist, anachronistic and long past their sell-by date, beauty pageants aren’t the most obvious place for a woman nowadays to find empowerment and self-worth, but Jennifer is a fan.

‘I see myself as a role model, not a supermodel,’ she says. 

‘I’m living proof you can achieve whatever you want to achieve if you put your mind to it.

Standing on that stage with everyone looking at her, Jennifer was sending a message to every self-loathing, frightened, lonely, self-destructive woman out there, slowly eating herself to an early grave, that there is another way. You do not have to waste your life.

And if she had to wear a silver crown and a sash to do it, then so be it. For not so long ago, Jennifer was one of those women.

Dangerously obese at 17st 9lb, and struggling to zip up a size 22 dress, she couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t feel ashamed of herself.

Bullied at school for her size, then mocked by strangers in nightclubs, leading to the final humiliation — being dumped by her fiance — that moment on the stage in Leicester represented a new beginning for Jennifer.

‘All I could think was ‘Little old goofy me from Grimsby, Miss Great Britain? Noooo!’,’ says Jennifer, throwing back her head and flashing brilliant white teeth.

Although she wouldn't be the first beauty queen to do so, the 26-year-old from Grimsby, Lincolnshire, was neither being coquettish nor displaying false modesty. This was not just about winning a beauty contest. Far from it. If anything, this was a life contest and the only competition was with herself

Although she wouldn’t be the first beauty queen to do so, the 26-year-old from Grimsby, Lincolnshire, was neither being coquettish nor displaying false modesty. This was not just about winning a beauty contest. Far from it. If anything, this was a life contest and the only competition was with herself

‘It gives me goosebumps just imagining how my teenage self, who other kids called ‘Jenny Fatkin’ and teased: ‘Who ate all the pies? You ate all the pies!’, would have felt knowing that one day I’d win this title.’

So unexpected was Jennifer’s moment of glory that none of her family, including her husband, Chris, nor her friends had gone along to the Athena conference and banqueting centre to witness her coronation last Friday.

‘I didn’t want to put people out and make them think they had to come and support me,’ she says.

‘The tickets were £75, which included a three-course meal, so I’d have felt bad if they’d spent that, for me to let them down.

‘I rang my husband afterwards to tell him and he said: ‘Well done. The plumber’s coming at 9am tomorrow.’ 

I said: ‘You did hear, I’ve just won Miss Great Britain?’ And he said: ‘Yeah, you need to pick what colour grouting you want for the bathroom.’ ‘

Dangerously obese at 17st 9lb, and struggling to zip up a size 22 dress, she couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t feel ashamed of herself. Bullied at school for her size, then mocked by strangers in nightclubs, leading to the final humiliation — being dumped by her fiance — that moment on the stage in Leicester represented a new beginning for Jennifer

Far from being hurt by his astonishing nonchalance, Jennifer is highly amused by it and grateful that, in stark contrast to the teetering heels she teamed with her glittery gown for the contest, his attitude helps keep her feet firmly on the ground.

Still, she couldn’t resist reminding Chris, 30, a mechanical engineer, that he was ‘sleeping with Miss Great Britain’ that night.

For his part, he’s just happy to see his wife so overjoyed.

There is no disguising how thrilled Jennifer is to have walked away with the title, nor how astonishing her transformation is.

With tumbling blonde hair, an impressively lithe figure and brilliant Hollywood smile, she looks every inch the beauty queen.

‘When I decided five years ago, after years of failed diets, that I was finally going to get slim and fit, there was no one in the public eye who had started out as a size 22 and achieved what I wanted to achieve to inspire me,’ she says. 

‘I’m determined to do that for other people.’

When she describes her ‘old’ life, you wonder how she’s still alive — let alone wearing the Miss GB crown: a full English breakfast every morning, a bar of chocolate as a mid-morning snack, a lasagne supermarket ready meal for lunch, fizzy drinks, crisps, pasties, takeaways, wine most evenings . . . the list goes on.

‘The local Chinese restaurant knew my order off pat: two duck spring rolls, beef chow mein with chicken fried rice, battered chicken balls, chips, curry sauce and prawn crackers.’ 

They were shared with her then fiance, but it was still a horrifying list. ‘Then I’d round the evening off with a family-size bar of chocolate,’ she says, with a sorry smile.

Rather than merely someone satisfying everyday hunger, the image she paints makes the old Jennifer sound like an addict.

When I ask if some early trauma might be behind this need to gorge herself, leading to her body mass index reaching 40 (anything over 25 is considered overweight while 30-plus is obese), she says: ‘I was brought up in a family that loves food and we were expected to eat everything on our plates.’

Jennifer’s earliest memory of being conscious of the effects of her over-eating was when the school nurse asked her to step on the scales, aged eight.



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