School teacher, model, anti-bullying campaigner, and Miss Ireland winner – is there anything that Aoife Walsh hasn’t achieved?
And at only 24 years of age, this ginger goddess and beauty queen is taking the world by storm, spreading positive redheaded cheer wherever she goes.
We spoke to Aoife about her current anti-bullying work, how thankful she is for her red hair, and how it has helped with her achievements…
Have you always been proud of your hair colour?
Honestly, not always. I went through the awkward adolescent teenage years when it was cool to be platinum blonde and you’d do anything to fit in the crowd.
I did consider dying my hair but my mom said if I dyed my hair, it would turn green! I was so naive that I believed her.
And thank God I did. Now I am so in love with my red hair. It really makes me who I am and I’m proud of that. It’s now my signature and most people know me for my long red hair.
What needs to be done in schools to tackle bullying?
Being a teacher I think it’s so important to tackle bullying in school. It’s important that children know what bullying is and that there is an ethos in the school where bullying is regarded as highly unacceptable.
It’s important to ensure that there is a climate of inclusion and support in the school where they have a sense of well-being and belonging.
Tell us about your work with the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s Shield Campaign.
I really wanted to show my support to the ISPCC Shield Campaign because bullying is such a wide-ranging problem and one that can be so destructive to someone’s life.
I think a lot of people can relate to some form of bullying and understand the detrimental effects it can have.
Today it can be seen so prominent, what with the internet and social media sites. The Shield Campaign offers victims of bullying a support to help them stand up against the bullying.
The ISPCC helps those who need to find the strength to do this on a daily basis and I am very proud to be part of the campaign.
What do you hope to achieve with this campaign?
To create awareness for the issue of bullying and to show support for the ISPCC in tackling the problem.
It’s important to spread the message that in life it’s always nice to be nice and if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.
What advice do you give to redheads who are currently being bullied for their red hair?
I would say not to listen to any taunts and definitely don’t dye your hair. My hair played a part in my success of winning Miss Ireland and realising one of my dreams. I have a lot to be thankful for.
Those who are the culprits are the ones who are being cowardly and dealing with their own issues by making others feel small and insignificant and using the red hair as the beacon.
Describe your journey on becoming Miss Ireland.
I always had an interest and had followed the Miss Ireland competition throughout the years I was growing up. I decided to enter this year as I felt it was the right time for me.
I have three degrees and have spent the last six years in college so I felt I had the time and energy to focus on a new goal in life.
So I just went for it. I wanted to experience all the competition had to offer but I never realised I could actually win the competition outright. I will never forget the night my name was called out.
I have since represented my country on the world stage at the Miss World final in Bali, Indonesia. My life has completely changed and I spend most of my days on shoots and fashion shows. I truly love it.
How does it feel to become Miss Ireland considering the comments you received when you were growing up?
It feels amazing. Of course I am so proud to be Miss Ireland but I am also proud that my hair helped me along the way and it’s all natural red. I feel I have a responsibility to other redheads and especially younger girls to be red and proud.
So many girls have reached out to me as I am an inspiration for them to keep their red hair too. I am delighted I can somehow make some small difference for redheads. I even often get jokily called ‘queen of the gingers’, which I’m ok with!
How do you think your hair contributes to your personality and identity?
Really my red hair is who I am and I really love to embrace everything red.
Is there anyone else in your family who has red hair?
In my immediate family, I am the only one with red hair and I believe I got this particular shade of red from my grandmother Ita. I also have cousins from both sides of my family with different shades of red hair.
Who is your all-time favourite ginger and why?
My all-time favourite ginger is Ariel. I love Disney and its princesses and so many people say I look and sing like Ariel. I love all things associated with The Little Mermaid.
What’s the best part about being a redhead?
I love the way it makes me that little bit different from everybody else and makes me stand out from the crowd.
What’s next for you as Miss Ireland?
I have a lot in store over the next few weeks including going abroad which I’m very excited about.
I plan to continue to build on my modelling career as I enjoy it so much as you never know what kinds of opportunities lie ahead.
You can follow Aoife Walsh on Twitter @aoiferosewalsh.