A Miss Wales finalist has revealed how losing her dream job twice and her declining mental health pushed her to make a huge career change and become an inspiration to young girls.
Jess Downes loved her life as a flight attendant for Thomas Cook until the company went bust in 2019 and she was made redundant.
She eventually found another role with Virgin Atlantic and thought she had found a permanent spot in her much-loved role once again – until the rug was pulled out from under her again.
The Covid-19 pandemic put a strain on the travel industry, leading to a cruel 18-months of unemployment for Jess, causing her struggles with anorexia to take a toll.
“My whole world just came crashing down – it was rock bottom,” she told Wales Online.
“I was put in a waiting pool which I was in for more than a year. There was no furlough or financial support because I hadn’t really started my role with the company.
"I was on little Universal Credit – it felt like an all-time low. No one was hiring. I wasn’t even getting a job in retail. I felt worthless and it really took its toll on me.”
Jess revealed that she had been diagnosed with anorexia in 2014 as it becomes a form of control for her when she doesn't feel like herself.
She added: "Anorexia is a lot about the mind. I turned to my weight and food as it was something I could control.
“When I was taken to hospital and put on a food tube I was under three stone in weight. My organs were failing. I was there for six weeks on the tube.
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"After that I spent a year on a specialist adolescent service in Abergele where I was treated for the psychological side of things.”
After losing her job she said further knock-backs ensued and she couldn’t reverse her spiral, adding: "Having that lack of control over my life sent me back into old habits and I became ill very quickly. If I didn’t have my family and friends around me at the time I’m not sure I’d have pulled myself out of that hole.
“I felt like I had no place in the world anymore. I’d lost my mojo and felt as though everything had been pulled from beneath me."
Eventually, the beauty queen was able to start recovering again as she took up a new career path at Toyota.
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Jess initially felt like she wasn't going to be able to go into it because it is a role stereotypically associated with men and she was the only woman on the course.
However, Jess is going from strength to strength, proving herself wrong – and has now that she has her 'mojo back' she has applied to compete in the Miss Wales pageant to become a role model for young girls.
Remembering when she saw the ad for Miss Wales on social media Jess said: “I was on cloud nine at the time with the new job and it felt like I saw that post for a reason.
"I’d never seen it before and I’d never thought about doing anything like that before. It just felt like an opportunity staring me in the face.”
After throwing her hat in the ring she recently made it to the finals and intends to take the crown.
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She said: "I’m going there to try and win it and then I want to use that platform to show that women in jobs like mine can win Miss Wales.
“It’s come at the right time. I’m now in a place where I’m a lot stronger – I’m taking on things I’d never have dreamt of doing before.
“I want to help people who are struggling with their own mental health issues. I want to prove to myself too that I am a strong independent woman.
“I’d like to help young girls. I feel I have a lot of experience for a young person and I want to be a role model now. I want to fill those shoes for others.”
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