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A banker from Derbyshire will be competing for the highly-coveted title of Miss Universe in the new year.

Noky Simbani, who was born in Zimbabwe and now lives in Hilton, Derbyshire, is set to represent Britain at the worldwide Miss Universe pageant in New Orleans in January.

In July 2022, Noky was named Miss Universe Great Britain at the Riverfront Arts Centre in Wales, succeeding previous title-holder Emma Collingridge. She first got into pageants when she visited a fashion exhibition with her mother when she was 15, where she met her first pageant director.

Noky went to Littleover Community School in Derby before completing both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Birmingham. She now works as a chartered commercial banker. 

Outside of her work in finance, the 25-year-old volunteers as a careers ambassador to encourage young people across the UK to cultivate vital career skills. She is the BAME ambassador for Smart Works Birmingham, a female employment charity that dresses and prepares women for career success.

One of Noky’s main goals is to raise greater awareness of unconscious bias and the detrimental impact it can have within the workplace. She said: “With only eight FTSE100 companies headed by women, being a woman in a man’s world can be hugely challenging. I strive to transform this statistic, not only by empowering myself, but by empowering other women.”

In addition to her work within Britain, Noky frequently travels around the world to extend a helping hand to women in different countries. In 2019, she took a two-month tour across Asia and Australia, and in October 2022, she met with women disfigured by acid attacks in India.

“It’s part of my duties to change perceptions of what Miss Universe is all about”

Noky Simbani, Miss Universe Great Britain

For the team tasked with judging the Miss Universe pageant, this level of compassion and selflessness isn’t secondary to the contestants’ beauty – it’s all part of what it takes to win the title. 

“We provide women who participate in this international platform with the tools to affect positive change personally, professionally, and philanthropically serving as inspirational leaders and role models to their communities and fans around the world,” reads a statement on the organisation’s website.

“The Miss Universe Organization exists to advocate for a future forged by women with courage to push the limits of what’s possible, who are curious in the discovery, and the audacity to do it again. We know how important it is to reach gender equity for the good of all people.” 

The incumbent Miss Universe is Harnaaz Sandhu, who received the title in 2021 at the landmark 70th competition, held in Israel. As Noky prepares to compete to take Harnaaz’s place, she encourages all women to feel empowered in the workplace and beyond by pushing themselves and seeking out new adventures at every opportunity.

“Great Britain has such well-accomplished women who have so many talents and so much to offer, and we can really learn so much from them,” she said. 

“We’re not as keen on pageants as other countries, which is a huge shame – so it’s part of my duties to change perceptions of what Miss Universe is all about by promoting a different side to what beauty pageants are, compared to what they used to be in the past.”

By Jamie Morris

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