Pamela Uba became the first Black Miss Ireland to be crowned during Sunday's competition.
The 26-year-old said she was "grateful" to receive such an honor in the contest's 74-year history, The Irish Times reports.
“It means so much to me,” Uba said. “I am so grateful I can show girls that color is not something that holds you back and it doesn’t matter where you come from, the world is your oyster.”
She added that her mom "was in absolute tears" after securing the crown.
Uba will represent her country in December at the 70th Miss World pageant in Puerto Rico.
“I can’t even describe how excited I am to represent my country on such a huge platform. I can’t wait,” she said of the Miss World contest.
— Pamela Ashley Uba (@Pamela_Uba) September 8, 2021
Uba said she was inspired to compete after not seeing someone who looked like herself represented, the Irish Examiner reports.
The part-time model moved to Ireland as an asylum seeker from Johannesburg, South Africa, at the age of 7. According to The Irish Times, Uba sent letters to local officials during her family's asylum-seeking process. She added that when they finally arrived, she thought "it was strange that I couldn't hear gunshots."
"I know some people may say that South Africa was fine at the time, but there really were only the options of being homeless or moving. I just remember landing here, feeling that it was colder, and being aware that there was no gun violence here," Uba said.
But now she's a "very proud" Irish citizen.
“I cried when I got my Irish passport.”
The 26-year-old now hopes to use her title to represent a more diverse country.
Despite her win and aspirations for using the crown as a representation for diversity, she said she was trolled on social media after winning Miss Galway in 2020, just three days before the country went on lockdown, the Irish Examiner reported.
“I’ve experienced racism, and it’s horrible to hear people telling me to go back to my country when I’ve worked so hard to make Ireland my home,” she said.
Focusing on the positive, however, she said she's also received a lot of support.
“My parish priest was my referee for my citizenship. I’ve had so much support from my community in Galway and Ballyhaunis, who are all cheering me on,” she said, according to The Irish Times.
Uba, who is a part-time model, also works as a medical scientist and was a frontline worker during the pandemic. She worked at Galway University Hospital and was directly involved with COVID-19 patients. She said she has no plans to quit her job while holding the title.
Growing up, the new Miss Ireland was active in school and sports, using them both as an outlet from life's challenges. As a self-described "nerdy" student, she said she aspired to enter a career that would be of service to her community. The pageant winner went on to receive her medical science degree and is currently in the process of receiving the results of her master's in clinical chemistry from Trinity College Dublin.