University of Liverpool student ‘spits’ for being redhead has the last laugh


A woman who was bullied at school for being redhead has had the last laugh by becoming a beauty queen, with the aim of representing England at Miss World.

Jessica Gagen, 26, has been punched, spat at and even burnt because of her red locks after being tormented by cruel classmates as a teenager. She was also insulted, had objects thrown at her head, and was forced to eat her school dinner in the toilet in an attempt to escape abuse.

But after being hired by a modeling agency after her A-Levels, Jessica’s confidence grew as she walked the catwalks around the world. She then competed in Miss England and finished second in the grand final last year, narrowly losing to Rehema Muthamia.

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In a bid to become the first redhead to represent England in this year’s Miss World final, Jessica is now in the running to become Miss Liverpool 2022. Jessica, who is studying for an integrated masters in aerospace engineering at the University of Liverpool say they are more determined than ever to win.

Jessica, from Skelmersdale, said: “Throughout high school I was teased for being a redhead. I didn’t talk about it much in last year’s competition because I’m a tall proponent of leaving negativity in the past but there has never been a red haired Miss England I think it is important to educate people about what redheads face in school and to empower children who are facing the same things as me.

“I was insulted on a daily basis, and while I don’t think the children were malicious in doing so, there were certainly times when they were. I was punched, spat on and objects been thrown at me many times., but the worst was when a girl burned me because I had red hair.

Jessica Gagen child

“In 7th grade, I used to eat my lunch in the school bathroom, because when I tried to sit with some of the girls, they got up and left me alone. I used to be really upset about it all, but I’m determined to show kids who are dealing with the same thing that this won’t happen forever.”

Despite finishing second overall at Miss England 2021, Jessica won the Explore the Nation national round at the event. Virtual round saw contestants promote the city or county they represent in a homemade video report.

Jessica has signed with several agencies and started international modeling at 18 and now hopes to compete on the world stage representing England. She added: “There has never been a redhead who has won the title before. Last year I came second with Miss England.

“Right now I’m a semi-finalist for Miss England. They’re currently doing the playoffs for each region. This year I’m going for Miss Liverpool, so we’ll see how it goes. The final is on August 25. Then then it’s the Miss England final.

“If everything is successful, Miss World will arrive later this year. For me, competing in Miss England, my campaign last year and this year is to help people get girls into STEM subjects.

“But after realizing there had never been a redhead winner, I looked back and thought there weren’t a lot of redheads on TV. I think that would be so good s “There could be someone in that kind of position who was a redhead. Even last year, there wasn’t a single redhead in Miss World.”

“I thought if I could win this, I could empower children who were bullied because of the way they look and the color of their hair. I’m the only redhead in the family, so I’ve always been looking for someone which includes bullying at school.

“It’s nice to be able to represent the younger guys and say ‘I’ve been there and you can use that pain to improve your game’. Make it your superpower.”

Alongside modeling, Jessica has helped raise over £6,000 for local charities and in 2021 she raised money for Beauty with a Purpose. She ran 5km in disguise every day for 96 days in Liverpool and is known locally as Fancy-Dress Jess.

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