As her legs trembled beneath her cream fishtail ball gown embellished with red sequins, grandmother-of-two Laurie Meisak took a deep breath and tried to calm her nerves.
After five years watching her glamorous daughter Amy step out on stage, mum-of-four Laurie, 55, had decided to follow in the 24-year-old’s footsteps and take on her first beauty pageant as a competitor.
For years Amy had been trying to convince her mum she had what it takes to compete, but it wasn’t until everyone they met started confusing the pair for sisters that hairdresser Laurie finally found the confidence she needed.
‘When I would go to watch Amy at pageants, people would come over to ask if she was my sister,’ Laurie tells New Idea.
At first Laurie just laughed off the comments as people being overly kind, but when the glam gran did a double take herself when looking through photos of her and Amy, she realised there might be something to it.
‘Amy and I do look very similar,’ Laurie says. ‘We have a make-up artist friend who did our make-up for the pageants, and she said it’s uncanny how alike we are – we have the same eye shape. Sometimes when I’m scrolling through pictures of Amy, I have to go back because I think it’s me – and she does the same.’
And Laurie’s youthful looks paid off last month when she came first runner-up in the Miss Galaxy UK finals.
Despite being terrified at first, Laurie even dared to strip down to just her swimwear for her first competition.
But Laurie, who is also mum to Kelly, 31, Lewis, 29, and Kyle, 27, admits she wouldn’t have been able to do it without Amy – who gave her lessons on how to impress on the catwalk.
‘Amy is my inspiration. She said to me: “I think you should do something.” And I said: “Don’t be ridiculous, not at my age.” And she said: “Mum, in 15 years you’ll be 70 and won’t be able to do anything like that.” She said: “You’ll have a blast and it will boost your confidence and make you feel good,”’ Laurie explains.
‘I thought she was right and that I should do it. Amy gave me lessons. We’ve been practising the walk in high heels in the kitchen for weeks and she’s been a real hard taskmaster. It’s caused much hilarity.’
It’s not just media student Amy who has supported her mum, as Laurie says, it has been a real family effort and even her estate agent husband Kenny, 56, is beaming with pride.
For the gran, who’s spent her life being a cheerleader for her kids, it has been overwhelming being on the other side for a change.
‘I never thought I would be on the receiving end and my family would be cheering for me,' says Laurie. 'It's been a family group effort. The support I’ve had from them has been second to none. I’m quite overwhelmed by it. Ken has been an absolute brick.’
Getting into pageants has also helped the mum in other ways. Laurie, who is a healthy size 12, says preparing to step out on stage inspired her to get fit. Her self-confidence has skyrocketed since her pageant success, and she’s determined to show other women they can feel fabulous in their 50s too.
‘My first pageant was so scary,’ she admits. ‘My knees were knocking. All of a sudden you’re just out there on your own with all these eyes staring at you and a big spotlight in your face – it’s quite daunting.
‘You have to hold everything up, pull everything in and tuck your smile behind your ears. But afterwards I really felt the euphoria of having just done something that takes you out of your comfort zone and puts you in the spotlight.
‘It made me put me first. I thought I’m going to be in the spotlight, so I want to look my best. I feel the best I’ve ever felt and I wish I could jar it. I’d give it away for free if I could. I feel wonderful.
‘I did it for the fun factor and to fly the flag for women of all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re a size six or 16, tall or short, fat or thin – it doesn’t matter. It’s about taking part and having fun.’
College student and radio broadcaster Amy, who is an aspiring television presenter, got into pageants as a way of boosting her confidence and tackling her nerves. She’s gone on to represent Scotland three times and the UK once in the Miss Grand International, Miss Earth, Miss World Supermodel and Face Of The Globe competitions.
She says it was a moment of sheer pride watching her mum put herself first for once.
‘I was in the crowd when Mum came out on stage. We’d made big banners with her name on it. It was a mix of feelings seeing her up there. I was feeling nervous for her, but proud at the same time. She looked amazing,’ says Amy. ‘She’s always the one making sure things are working smoothly. This time it was me helping her with her make-up and glamming up her outfit.
‘She’s usually the proud mum at the back of the assembly hall, but this time it was the other way around. She’s been the mum and always put us before her – now it’s time for her to enjoy herself. We are all so proud.’
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea - out now!