India Fenwick faced cruel comments about her eye condition when she was growing up.
She was born with a defect called micropothalmia, which left her completely blind in her left eye.
The 21-year-old, from Ponteland in Northumberland, struggled with her mental health at school as bullies made "disturbing" comments about her appearance.
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She told ChronicleLive: "I was constantly tormented by a large group of boys at my school, the abuse felt constant. The police were involved and the bullying did ease, however by that stage I felt so worthless, I thought the world would be a better place without me in it. I started to self harm, I suppose to try and feel something other than self hatred and anger.
"A far cry from the confident funny little girl I’d been. Luckily I had a good relationship with my parents and was able to confide in them which resulted in me getting the professional help I needed."
Thankfully, the part-time estate overcome the cruel taunts.
While wearing a prosthetic eye left her in extreme pain when she was younger, she decided to give it another go when she was a teenager.
The NHS made her a prosthetic eye in time for her first day of sixth form, which was a game-changer.
India recalled: "It gave me so much confidence, I felt like me again."
She also faced her mental health problems head on during the pandemic by trying journaling, meditation, drawing and painting to express herself.
India said: "I felt such a burning desire to reach out to others suffering with mental health, bullying and disabilities. I realised my first step should be to speak out about microphthalmia.
"I discussed with my parents how I’d like to stand up in front of all the young children with anophthalmia and microphthalmia and give an inspirational speech and make YouTube videos showing handy hints on ways to use makeup to enhance a small eye etc as when I was younger I would search for 'celebs with microphthalmia' and makeup tutorials for different sized eyes but there wasn't anything."
Friends encouraged India to enter Miss England this year – and she is the first contestant with a prosthetic eye to reach the final.
India hopes to use her platform to represent those with birth defects.
She said: "I was born with a gift which has had me on a rollercoaster of a journey from love to hate to adoration!
"Now that I have this amazing opportunity as a Miss England finalist, I hope it will provide a suitable platform for me to tell my story and give inspiration to families and children affected by birth defects and mental health issues. We are all unique and special in our own right and we can all achieve our dreams!
"If you walk through life with a strong mindset and self love, your life will be filled with love and happiness. As soon as I changed my mindset I realised how unique I truly am and how many people I can help to inspire!"
The Miss England final will take place at the Holiday Inn Birmingham Airport in Birmingham on October 16 and October 17. The winner will get the chance to compete in the 71st Miss World.
Angie Beasley, Director of Miss England, said: "India is the first ever contestant to reach the Miss England final with a prosthetic eye. I've been organising Miss England since 2002 and before that I organised Miss UK, both on behalf of Miss World and I've never come across anyone with this condition.
"India is already doing quite well, she made the Top 10 in the Miss England Sportsround last Saturday and took part in a Penalty shoot out at the LCFC Football Dome! The sports round is a tough one to conquer and the PT was impressed with her efforts.
"There is also a Beauty with a Purpose element where contestants are encouraged to inspire others and raise funds for the charity so India is doing just that speaking out about something so personal to her.
"I think India is a very inspirational lady wanting to use the platform to share her story and I wish her well in the contest."
For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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