Miss England winner Jessica Gagen is tipped for stardom after graduating as a ROCKET SCIENTIST on her mission to become an astronaut.
The 27-year-old graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering just months after being crowned Miss England.
She became the first-ever redhead winner of the prestigious beauty pageant in October last year and is also one of the favorites to take the Miss World crown.
Jessica juggled competing on the catwalk alongside her studies at the University of Liverpool and was delighted when she graduated alongside course mates this week.
The model now wants to use her degree and beauty queen title to inspire the next generation of female engineers and get more women into STEM subjects.
Jessica has already had to overcome being bullied for being ginger at school where she was punched, spat at and even burned because of her red locks.
And her university journey was also fraught with obstacles as she suffered insomnia and chest pains while combining her studies with being Miss England.
Jessica, of Skelmersdale, England, said: “The journey to get to this point was a rocky five years in the making, and I faced challenges before I’d even begun.
“I think it’s important that today’s youth know that sometimes things don’t go entirely to plan, and that’s perfectly okay.”
“But I’m incredibly proud of what I have achieved. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.
“Aerospace engineering was very challenging, covering topics like aerodynamics, structural mechanics, programming and advanced materials.
“It equips candidates with a range of skills sought after by different industries, making them highly employable in the fields of science, technology and finance.
“I absolutely loved it. It certainly opens up a lot of opportunities for me and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
“I celebrated with a meal with my parents after a drinks reception at the uni and then I had a night out with the lads as there weren’t many girls on my course.
“When I started university I had no intention of entering Miss England and a few years on I’ve got a degree in aerospace engineering and preparing to appear in Miss World.”
Before starting university Jessica studied a foundation year in physics while working weekend night shifts in a hotel, as she didn’t have the right A Level subjects to get in.
In 2019 she started her Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering but then Covid hit halfway through the first year – pushing the course entirely online.
She added: “From then onwards I started working 40 hours a week in Asda as a keyworker, doing four 2 am-12 pm shifts a week.
“I’d return home to do that day’s online lectures and assignments and then stop at 8 pm to get ready for bed, before the cycle would repeat – I was constantly knackered, but I was a mature student and had bills to pay.”
During this time she noticed a lack of females in her cohort – only about 10 percent of her class were girls.
So she made it her mission to advertise the subject to the next generation through social media, which subsequently lead her to be scouted for Miss England.
She ended up winning the title of Miss Lancashire and placed second in that year’s national contest out of thousands of applicants.
Jessica added: “There’s a lot of work that goes into becoming Miss England, and I really wanted to win because I knew I could use the platform to get more girls into engineering.”
She was then accepted onto the integrated Master’s course and competed for Miss England again during her third year, which she won last October.
Jessica added: “I was ecstatic and life went crazy,
“I was in my fourth and final year by that point, I was being pulled for interviews left right and center – I’d be in an aerodynamics lecture and then I’d end up on the telly the next day.
“I carried on with my Master’s year for eight weeks, but I kept burning out because I was juggling so much.
“I’d be in university for 14 hours a day, even on weekends.
“I had insomnia, constant headaches, a terribly painful chest and I couldn’t concentrate – my lungs felt like they were hurting so I could only take short breaths, so I made the difficult decision to pause my Master’s Degree.
“It was an extremely hard choice, but it was the only option available to me.
“I had to protect my health and my grade – I was set to be traveling around the world with the Miss England team from February, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Had I carried on I’d have probably got low marks, which would pull down all of the hard work I’d put in the previous years.
“The university was fantastic, they understood my situation and let me swap back onto the Bachelor’s course – which I’d already completed by that point, meaning I could still graduate at the same time as my class.
“But with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering, which I could then use to access a Master’s in the future, it’s the best of both worlds, really.
“The lads in class felt like little brothers, we had the best relationship and I missed them incredibly when I paused that final year, so it was lovely still being able to graduate with them.
“I’m so proud to call them my friends – we became Aerospace Engineers together.”
Jessica now spends a lot of time visiting schools up and down the country giving free talks about STEM subjects, aimed to advertise them to the next generation.
She plans to still go back and do her Master’s and has previously told how she has lofty ambitions of becoming an astronaut and the first beauty queen in outer space.
Jessica said: “If I win Miss World, I’ll fulfill my duties and then go back to get that Masters I had to put on hold – that would be the dream outcome.”
Jess will be representing England in the 71st Miss World Contest, which is due to be held in Mumbai, India on December 9.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker