A few weeks ago, Elizabeth Grant was busy working in a shoe shop and a bar in Preston as she worked hard to support her studies at Liverpool Hope University.Advertisement
This week she has been dancing on stage with celebrity TV chef Ainsley Harriott as she helped open Southport Flower Show 2016, as she looks forward to the incredible prize of a holiday in Mauritius and a Miss World contest in Washington, USA.
For the striking Miss Preston and Miss England winner, it really has been a fairytale few months.
Being invited to help open this year’s Flower Show at Victoria Park in Southport was Elizabeth’s first major official engagement since she was crowned Miss England 2016 at this year’s grand finals, which were held at the Floral Hall in Southport in July.
Read more: How a girl from Preston has won UK-wide beauty competition
The shock is still sinking in, after a journey which began in February when she was spotted and invited to enter the Miss Preston competition.
“When they announced the winner I couldn’t believe it was happening,” she told the Southport Visiter, as she sat and chatted at the show alongside her Mum Catherine.
“I was a bit wobbly at first, but I have enjoyed so much support from my family and friends, and from the other Miss England finalists, and the organisers.”
Elizabeth grew up in Ribbleton and has enjoyed many days out in Southport over the years. But this was her first ever visit to Southport Flower Show.
“It is amazing,” she said. “I have never been before. I have enjoyed going around and seeing everything.
“I thought I would have come down, been here a couple of hours and then shot off, but I have been here all day as I wanted to stay.
“There are some lovely stories here too. I was chatting with one man from Myerscough College, he is 21 and has taken the last 16 days to build his garden.
“He has taken a drawing done by a child at school and has built an amazing garden from it.
“He is following in his Dad’s footsteps by being at the show too, it’s such a gorgeous story.”
Elizabeth always enjoys her visits to Sunny Southport.
She said: “My Mum and I have been to Southport Air Show quite a lot, we love it. I have been coming to see it from being a kid. We are only down the road in Preston.
“We always used to stop and have lunch in The Grand Palace restaurant on Neville Street, but came to watch the air show last year and the Grand Palace was shut, it was such a shame.
“But we’re looking forward to coming back to see Southport Air Show again. And we’ll definitely be coming back to Southport Flower Show.”
Her first visit to the four-day floral event has clearly left a positive impression.
“I have been treated so nicely,” she said. “This is my first VIP experience as Miss England. I have enjoyed it. This has set the bar high for everything else!”
As first engagements go, it was quite an experience. Elizabeth stood on the Victoria Park bandstand with Ready Steady Cook and Strictly Come Dancing star Ainsley Harriott and former Gardeners World presenter Carol Klein, in front of a crowd of hundreds of people.
After saying a few words about the show, the music came on – as the larger than life Ainsley grabbed a microphone and serenaded Elizabeth as he pulled her up to dance.
“I didn’t expect that!” said Elizabeth. “I never knew how eccentric Ainsley Harriott was!
“But I love doing spontaneous things. I am not one to sit down and pose, I am not a stereotypical beauty queen. Ainsley was fun to get up and dance with.
“He has been very sweet during the show, always asking if I am ok. He has been incredible to work with.”
After the opening ceremony, Ainsley and Elizabeth went on to give a cookery demonstration in the Southport Flower Show food marquee. They proved to be quite a double act.
“He brought out a fish which he was cooking. I went to pick it up and as I put my hand down I realised I had put my finger in its eye socket, and just screamed! It really freaked me out. People were laughing, but it wasn’t scripted.”
While not being the keenest of gardeners, Elizabeth is a fan of all things floral.
“I do love flowers,” she said. “My favourite flower is a daisy, the same as my Mum. We love daisies together.”
Read more: Tuscany inspired garden wins big at the Flower Show
The 20-year-old has just completed her second year studying Psychology and Early Childhood at Liverpool Hope University.
She has now taken a year’s sabbatical as she concentrates on her Miss England engagements, while looking forward to competing in the Miss World final in Washington, USA on December 18. After that she can look forward to a holiday in Mauritius, which she won as a prize for winning the Miss England contest in Southport.
To support her studies, Elizabeth has continued to work at Clarke’s shoe shop at Deepdale Shopping Park, where she has worked for the past four years, as well as at Lofty’s bar in Preston city centre.
Intelligent, talented yet very humble, this year’s Miss England winner and Southport Flower Show opener has maintained her roots – while loving life as her career blossoms.