Ashleigh Coyle, star of BBC Northern Ireland’s recent Beauty Queen and Single programme, tells Kathryn McKenna what inspired her emotional ‘makeunder’ video
Visibly emotional, 22 year old Ashleigh Coyle from Londonderry shakes as she removes her makeup, commenting: “People can be so mean and nasty to others. But is there really anyone more horrible than you are to yourself?”
The former Miss Derry 2013 winner and Big Brother 2014 runner-up is speaking during an appearance on BBC NI’s recent hit show, Beauty Queen and Single, which saw Ulster beauty queens undergo a ‘makeunder’ in a bid to find a love connection that is more than just skin deep.
With the video viewed over one million times, and almost three and a half thousand shares, Ashleigh reveals she could not believe the extraordinary response the clip received.
“When I took off my makeup I spoke about how nasty people can be, but I explained that in reality I say enough bad things to myself, I do not need anybody else to point out any more of my insecurities”, Ashleigh explains. “Trust me, you can’t say anything negative I haven’t said to myself already.’’
But Ashleigh’s candid video promoted positivity worldwide: “I have had so many messages of support since the show from people across the world, as far as Asia and beyond, telling me I inspired them,’’ she reveals.
“That is why I spoke about what I did while taking my makeup off. I wondered what on earth people would be saying about me online. And to be honest in the end, the ratio of positive comments versus negative ones, made me not even acknowledge the negative, because people were so lovely.
“If we all started supporting each other we would be so much happier.
‘‘We would be less anxious, less depressed and more positive. It would make us feel better about ourselves.”
Ashleigh, who battles with anxiety, added that everything she does is a bid to “advocate for mental health to help others.”
“Appearing on Beauty Queen and Single taught me to be more confident in myself. I absolutely loved taking part in the show, the girls and I had a great time. Big Brother was a bit different as it was 24 hours a day, every single day, for three months.
‘‘You were surrounded by people you didn’t necessarily like and who had completely different views. That can be very hard, and of course you had Big Brother constantly setting tasks, trying to stir up more conflict too.
“I don’t know how I managed it with my anxiety. Every single morning I woke up and just felt sick to my stomach for three hours.
“It was mainly not enjoyable, but I have a lot of good memories from it as well. I also have three really close friends that I would never have had if I hadn’t done the show.”
Ashleigh was also conscious younger viewers would be watching, revealing: “Everything I do and have ever done since I came into this industry, whether it be beauty pageants or television, I always made an effort to stand up for myself.
‘‘I knew younger people would be watching and that I had a role to play for other people.
“It is always my goal, even if just one person says, ‘you helped me’ that makes me happy.
‘‘It’s not about trying to be known as a good person, it is because I have been there myself and I wish I had had someone like that there for me.”
Having suffered from anxiety so severe that at one stage Ashleigh struggled to leave her own house, she highlighted why advice from health professionals is not always enough for people battling the issue.
“I think there are so many tips online where health experts advise ‘just do your exercises, make sure you’re going out’, and so on”, she explained.
“It is the same stuff you are hearing all the time. But my anxiety got to the point where I was so bad, that just did not help me anymore.
“For the past year my anxiety has been brilliant and I have been hardly affected by it at all.
‘‘In fact, the last few weeks it has probably been the worst it has been for the past 18 months. Because I was very focused on things that would keep it at bay, and avoided situations that made me feel uncomfortable.
“It wasn’t easy to just get up and go out. It sounds silly, but for me, it took setting my alarm and getting out of the house early, whether that be for an appointment or to meet somebody. Having someone else rely on you in the morning makes you think, ‘right I have to get up now.’ And then you can continue for the rest of the day.’’
Ashleigh also emphasised the need to look after oneself.
“A decent sleep kept my anxiety at bay. It helped me sort out my life, getting to bed early and getting up early,’’ she said.
“I also think it is about finding something you love to do. For a long time I worried about what I was doing with my life. Career-wise, I was going in and out of different jobs. I was really hard on myself.
‘‘And now I completely love what I am doing. I love getting up in the morning and going to do my job.”
In addition to working as a model for CMPR, Ashleigh is a fully qualified nail technician and will soon also be available for makeup applications.
Having begun her modelling career at the tender age of just 15, before appearing in her first Belfast FASHIONWEEK just one year later, Ashleigh is still excited to walk in the host of events in the Spring Summer 2018 show, which continues this Saturday and Sunday.
“I am probably most looking forward to the shows at the Boulevard,” Ashleigh explains, as The OUTLET, soon to be renamed The Boulevard, prepares to host two launch weekends jam-packed with free fashion and beauty-related events to celebrate the centre’s rebrand.
And in her bid to raise awareness for mental health issues, Ashleigh has hailed the ‘close-knit’ local fashion industry.
“Having worked here for such a long time now, most of my friends are in the industry.
“The great thing about the industry here in Northern Ireland is it is not as harsh as elsewhere, for example I’ve never had anyone tell me I need to lose weight. That is what I love about it here.
“If I am eating healthily, it is more for my mental health more than anything else, because I like to feel good about myself.
‘‘I know when my diet has been rubbish, then so is my mental health. Though I’m probably not as strict as I used to be with myself!”