Miss Universe Ireland 2020 Nadia Sayers acquires strength from personal experience while advocating for mental health

24 Feb 2021 | Camilla Suarez

Nadia Sayers crowned Miss Universe Ireland 2020 on 21st December 2020 virtually as she became the official representative of Ireland at Miss Universe 2020. She has succeeded Miss Universe Ireland 2019 Fionnghuala O'Reilly for the title and has started to prepare for the competition.

Nadia has earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Queen’s University Belfast in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 2015 and her master’s degree in psychology from Ulster University in 2019. As she prepares for the competition, Nadia explained that she sees her title and platform of Miss Universe Ireland as an opportunity to make a significant change in the world. The diva stated, “I would argue there is much more to pageantry than the display of beauty. I think people who are sceptical of pageantry should come to us who participate and ask the questions about why we get involved and what we get out of it. For me it is a very empowering process.”

The beauty queen started her career as a model at the age of 16 and entered the pageant world at the age of 21 and believes beauty is not what society dictates but it is individual. She finds beauty pageants interesting because of the people you meet and the friendships you develop with the other girls. She further explains that for her a beauty pageant is about a personal development hobby and building up the confidence.



Nadia opened by mentioning that she has dealt with body image anxieties but participating at beauty pageants has helped her to gain confidence about herself and empowered her to voice out her opinion. She added, “It is hard to love yourself. It is easy to listen to the trolls online or to look at other people and feel inadequate. Being on stage during a pageant to me is just so much fun. It’s not just a question of getting your hair and make-up done and standing on a stage wearing a dress. What you say and what you are passionate about matters too. And I am proud to be an advocate for mental health and specially to encourage young people to speak out about whatever they are experiencing.”

The diva is looking forward to use the platform and opportunity given to her to speak out about the challenges of mental health and focus on its deleterious effects on children and young people especially during a time where social media, fake news, and trolling have become a burgeoning source of anxiety and disorder.

Nadia works as a Youth Development Officer for Mental Health Charity organization, ‘Hope 4 Life’, in Belfast and she helps in organizing workshops in primary and secondary schools and among community and youth groups, addressing the issues that plague young people today, teaching them the tools to maintain good mental health.

Explaining her technique of making children understand the significance of Mental Health, she mentioned, “We use a comic book that we had developed for children with characters called Uber Heroes. Typically, super heroes are positive influences who can seize the day and triumph over adversity. They are good influences who can help fix things. We tell the children that if they are experiencing anxiety or worry then that is an external force and they can follow the example of the comic book characters we have constructed in order to overcome those problematic emotions.”



Adding further she explained the super heroes they have, ‘Veritas’; Latin for truth and she helps people cut through self-doubt, see the truth, and gain perspective on a situation, ‘Nadase’; Taiwanese for hope is another popular character; Invictus, which means ‘overcomer’ that is all about helping young people overcome challenges and developing resilience; and Domine, teacher or master, who stands for intelligence not so much being book smart but more emotional intelligence and using that to make good decisions for yourself.

Due to pandemic situation the organization decided to move the education comics online for children. They also have a helpline number for young people and the parents of the children have been supporting the organization as well for their work.

Nadia explained that she was specifically drawn towards psychology because she was curious about understanding the ‘why’ behind emotions and behaviour. But it wasn’t until she went to university and faced her own mental health challenges that she realised she had a passion for helping others, facing similar issues. Sharing her own experience, Nadia mentioned, “For me, the main reason I didn’t go looking for help when I was experiencing anxiety and depression was that I couldn’t pin it to any one event or situation, it was a build-up of minor things and that left me feeling I had no right to seek help because there were people out there with much bigger problems who needed therapy more urgently than I did. But looking back, I think starting university is difficult for lots of teenagers. You can become depressed and anxious without experiencing major trauma. People experience different stressors differently. If you are struggling for any reason and need help you should not hesitate to get it.”

The diva feels that Northern Ireland suffers from underfunding which limits the provision of therapeutic talking services available. She mentioned that the thing that needs the utmost attention and needs to change is the fact that when you don’t feel that you can get out of the bed in the morning, you’re told to wait 13 weeks until you can have a professional help. Nadia’s own self journey and struggle with mental health has helped her to stand up for everyone and she decided to give it back to the society and began volunteering for a suicide prevention charity before taking a role at Hop 4 Life organization.

Nadia’s own struggle has made her understand that the youth nowadays look for validation and acceptance online and it is one of the major concerns across the world because the world on social media is pressurizing and no one needs to feel that way. She explained that she enjoys being on social media but is careful with her actions and posts as emotional intelligence and self-awareness is something that has kept her grounded. We really need to take control of what we are consuming intellectually.