As a teenage beauty queen, Olivia Kimber is used to pictures of herself glammed up in gorgeous floor-length gowns, stunning tiaras and a winner’s sash.
But it’s some images showing a far more casual Olivia that she cherishes the most.
As she looks through a set of family holiday snaps, the 17-year-old lights up with the sort of warmth that has won her several beauty titles.
But the pictures that are causing her to chuckle and recall fun memories also tell a story of sadness and courage.
They show Olivia at 15 on holiday with her brother Scott and dad Terry, just five weeks before Terry died of cancer.
‘We went to Disneyland, just the three of us. It took a lot for him to go, but he was determined to do it,’ says Olivia.
‘I think he was hiding a lot of the pain and some days you could see it was hard, but he wanted us to have a good time and we did.’
There were plenty of laughs on the Disneyland Paris trip and a few theme park ride terrors.
‘Dad loved toffee apples and it became a bit of a joke that he would have one every day. The doctors wouldn’t let him at home so he made the most of it,’ she remembers.
‘But he was also determined to do the big rides and persuaded me to go on the Hollywood Tower of Terror. It was awful, I think I was screaming loudest.’
Olivia is so grateful to her dad for those precious memories that she faces life’s challenges and strives to achieve for him.
So it was in his memory that she managed to enter her first beauty pageant just months after he died.
Terry, a detective constable with Hampshire Constabulary was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the bile duct in 2009 and died in September 2010.
He had hoped to live long enough to see his daughter compete in the pageant. So Olivia knows he would have been the proudest person in the room when she won her recent title of UK’s Dazzling Beauty Teen.
Being crowned in a ceremony at Brighton’s Holiday Inn was a wonderful but poignant moment for Olivia.
But she adds: ‘He probably would have made some funny comment. Or actually, I know what he would have said about the beauty pageants – ‘‘not more money!’’ I was a daddy’s girl though. My favourite thing was going shopping with him.’
As she chats, Olivia seems strong and is certainly positive about the future. But occasionally her lip trembles and she reveals it’s been a long road to becoming a glamorous, bubbly teen.
‘I was depressed for a while and suffered from anxiety after my dad died. I didn’t want to go out and I felt panicky when I was at college.’
At a particularly low point, Olivia’s mum Carol had to rush to collect her after she passed out on a train.
‘I’m so proud of Olivia for doing what she’s done now because she’s had to endure so much,’ says Carol. ‘It was a really tough time. We were separated when Terry was diagnosed but had been married for over 20 years and it was hard. I think the worst thing is that he was only 49 and he’s not going to see his children achieve so many things.’
Scott, 23, is a scientist studying for his PhD and Olivia, who has been dancing since she was four, is having private singing and dancing lessons. She plans to audition for performing arts colleges next year and hopes to one day appear in the West End.
She says her dad really encouraged her aspirations.
‘He loved musicals, we used to go to London and see them together. He took me to see Grease and Dreamboats and Petticoats.’
He also went to see all her performances. But despite Terry’s enthusiasm, Olivia probably didn’t inherit her dancing talent from him.
‘He was really funny, he made me laugh so much. He could be quite ditzy. He once fell asleep on the train after going to the football and ended up in Worthing instead of Havant. He used to embarrass me a lot, too, with his dad dancing and things,’ she says, laughing at the memories.
Seeing his health deteriorate was an unimaginable ordeal for a young girl.
‘He had been such a strong man but he became weaker and weaker. He was my hero, so to see him lying there was hard,’ says Olivia.
But she is now determined to make a success of her life and do as much as possible in Terry’s memory.
She loves the beauty pageants with all the glitz, drama, costume changes and talent contests.
‘It can be chaotic,’ she laughs. ‘There’s a big dressing room and there are clothes and make-up everywhere. Girls go running up the stairs pulling their shoes off, rushing to change clothes.
‘People think it’s bitchy but it’s a really nice atmosphere. I’ve made loads of friends.’
She’s also raised money for The Rowans Hospice, where her dad spent his last few hours, and Anxiety UK as part of her drive to be a beauty queen.
Now Olivia’s preparing to dance in this year’s panto at Southsea’s King’s Theatre and is celebrating passing her driving test and being able to drive her pink car. And of course she’s doing it all for dad.
PAGEANTS ARE A GREAT WAY TO HELP GOOD CAUSES
‘There’s another side of beauty pageants that people don’t often see,’ says Olivia Kimber. ‘They think it’s all about the glitz and glamour, but actually you do quite a lot of fundraising as part of it.’
The winner of the UK’s Dazzling Beauty Teen title has raised money for two charities picked by herself and two chosen by the contest organiser.
Olivia’s charities are The Rowans Hospice in Purbrook and national helpline Anxiety UK. She has also raised funds for the contest’s chosen causes the Alzheimer’s Society and Christian Faith TV.
The Rowans Hospice is dedicated to improving the lives of people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses.
Established since 1994, it has help more than 7,000 patients and families across Portsmouth and South East Hampshire.
Each year it costs more than £4m for the hospice to continue its vital work.
The charity has raised over £895,000 towards ‘Dorothy’s Dream’ to fund The Rowans Hospice at Home Service. The target is £1m.
Anxiety UK runs a helpline and offers support and information for people with anxiety disorders. The helpline is (08444) 775774, Mon-Fri 9.30am to 5.30pm.
The Alzheimer’s Society is leading the fight against dementia and helps patients and families.
Christian Faith TV is a charity and online TV channel. It is currently fundraising to help children in Africa.