The inspirational story of Pamela Uba, the newly crowned Miss Ireland
Recently crowned the new Miss Ireland, Pamela Uba came from South Africa as a refugee, spent 10 years in direct provision before getting a masters at Trinity college.
Heading to Co Cavan for the final, alongside 29 other competitors, Pamela was there to represent her home county of Galway… and as the first Black woman to win the competition, it’s a hugely exciting time for the 26-year-old.
One of the world’s longest-running beauty pageants, the Miss Ireland competition was established way back in 1947. Initially impressing the judges with her determination and grit, it’s clear that she’s much more than just a pretty face and while the competition’s roots may be loosely based on aesthetics, it’s Pamela’s inspirational backstory that really sealed her fate for her.
Moving to Ireland from South Africa at the tender age of seven, she spent the first 10 years of her time in Ireland living in direct provision with her family. Going on to graduate with a master’s degree in clinical chemistry from Trinity, Pamela is also a qualified medical scientist and worked the entirety of the pandemic on the frontline in University Hospital Galway.
Speaking about what living in direct provision was like for her as a young child, Pamela told The Irish Independent, “It was 10 years of my life, and it’s 10 years that you’re left in a standstill, you don’t know if you’re ever going to get out of it or what life is going to be.
“At the time, the rules of going to college and working were that you couldn’t really do either so it’s very hard, especially on young girls. Because they finish secondary school and they look at themselves and think what’s next? But there’s nothing really next for them then, so they have kids really young, and I knew that that’s not what I wanted – I wanted more for my life so I really pushed to get there.”
Getting Irish residency halfway through her first year of college, she was only able to benefit from State grants as of her second year onwards, so needless to say, pursuing third level education put incredible financial strain on her and her mother. “It was my mom, she raised money for me to get there,” she continued. “Whatever she could do, she did for me to get there. Even myself, I tried to get cash-in-hand jobs or babysitting, whatever it was to be able to get there.”
Hoping that her new platform will help her to represent a more diverse Ireland on the world stage, Pamela agrees that direct provision “definitely needs looking into”. “If that means abolishing it, so be it,” added. “It’s a system that either needs to be looked at to be done better or got rid of altogether because it’s people’s lives at the end of the day, and people can’t be treated like livestock.”
Overcome with emotion at the weight of her achievement, the new Miss Ireland described it as a “surreal experience”. Sharing a heartfelt post on her personal Instagram account, she later admitted that “it’s like a dream come true”.
“My journey began in March 2020, back when we all thought our lockdown would last 2 weeks, and what a journey it has been especially during a global pandemic! I remember watching @tirna_slevin win Miss Galway and knew then that this was a path I would walk one day,” she wrote.
Going on to extend a huge thank you to all those who have helped her along the way, Pamela continued by saying that she “can’t wait to represent Ireland” at the 70th Miss World competition in Puerto Rico this December.
“It has been such a privilege to get to know, stand beside and go through this unique journey with so many extraordinary young women in the competition. I hope I can make you all proud as your Miss Ireland 2021,” she finished.
According to director of Miss Ireland Brendan Marc Sully, Pamela “put her heart and soul into her Miss Ireland journey” and she has a very bright future ahead of her. We look forward to seeing all the brilliant things she has yet to achieve.