A Carrickfergus woman will be representing Northern Ireland during the international Miss Earth beauty pageant this November.
Christie van Schalkwyk, 24, will travel to Pasay in the Philippines after winning the Richmond Centre Miss Earth Northern Ireland 2018 title at the end of July.
Billed as an international environmental event, Miss Earth "channels the beauty pageant entertainment industry as a tool to promote environmental awareness" - a mission statement which aligns with Christie's own interests. "I am very passionate about trying to reduce plastic pollution, whether that be at home or on a bigger scale," she said.
"I have a few projects lined up in which I will be helping to campaign against plastic pollution by raising awareness on how to reduce people’s plastic usage in their daily lives and how to recycle any plastics they can."
Born in South Africa, Christie moved to Northern Ireland at the age of five with her mum Jayne and brother Adrian.
The family settled in Carrick, where she attended Victoria Primary School, followed by Belfast High.
The local woman went on to gain a BSc Hons Degree in Business at Ulster University's Magee campus, and now works for one of the largest investment banks in the world.
She has previously taken to the pageant stage only once before, at the age of 20: "I didn’t place [but] this didn’t discourage me; rather it made me want to come back to pageantry when I was ready. I learnt so many valuable lessons from entering my first pageant so I am grateful for the experience."
This year's Miss Earth final will take place in the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay on November 4.
And while journeying such a distance to compete could be daunting for some, Christie's frequent trips back to South Africa mean she is a seasoned traveller. "Being that I was born in South Africa, I am used to travelling long distance to visit family and friends and I adore flying so I really look forward to the journey," she said.
"My mum, Jayne and my aunt, Sue Straiton will be travelling to see me in the final. Many people will be watching from home including the girls I competed with in Northern Ireland. They have been an amazing support and we all remain great friends."
Cheering Christie on in South Africa meanwhile will be her dad, Gys, and grandfather Samuel Allen Hutton, a former Carrick native who played rugby for Ireland in 1967.
Outside of her pageant pursuits, Christie helps to raise awareness and funds for The Playtrail, an inclusive play and educational facility in Londonderry.
"I also love to read books on different cultures which I feel will be beneficial when I go to the Philippines, as there will be so many women from different backgrounds," she added.
"I am very excited to learn more from all of these beautiful, intellectual women and also to teach them about Northern Ireland, especially about our culture and traditions."