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INTERVIEW: Lancaster prison officer backed by Tyson Fury wins sport contest ahead of Miss England bid

Miss England finalist Melissa Butcher

A prison officer from Lancaster who is being backed by Tyson Fury to become Miss England 2024 has won a sporting contest to be fast-tracked to the final 12.

Melissa Butcher won the Miss England Sportswoman competition ahead of the beauty contest's main final this week in Wolverhampton.

Melissa, who works in a prison as her day job, qualified for the final 12 of Miss England by beating other competitors in a fitness and running event in Coventry.

She is being sponsored for the final this Thursday and Friday by none other than the world heavyweight boxing champion 'The Gypsy King' Tyson Fury.

Melissa visited the Beyond Radio studio on Friday where she said she was "nervous but excited" for the final, where the winner will go on to compete in Miss World.

LISTEN to our interview with Melissa Butcher

She said her day job was "completely different to the beauty pageants and that lifestyle, dealing with prisoners on a daily basis".

"People tell me that I don't typically look like a normal prison officer, but I want to show that you don't have to look a certain way or be a certain gender stereotype to be in the prison service," she said.

"When I first got into the pageant world I thought it was all based on your looks. I was completely wrong. It's based on charity, fundraising, how you are as a person, what you stand for.

"With myself I am promoting women working in male dominated careers. I want to raise awareness that you don't have to be typically rough and tough, big and strong, you can be a petite girl and do the job just as well as the men can."

Melissa previously worked on reception at Jo & Cass hair salon in Lancaster, also doing a hairdressing qualification.

She moved into the prison service around three years ago and said: "I love my job, I wouldn't change it.

"The staff have been dead helpful. The prisoners have been amazing and have been donating to my charity.

"We hosted a crossfit fundraiser last Friday. We had about 50 prisoners and staff working together, breaking down the 'us' versus 'them' attitude, which was really nice.

"It was two and a half, three hours long and we raised around £5-600."

To win the Miss Sportswoman England, Melissa did an intense workout with the Royal Marines of shuttle runs, burpees, press ups and squats, and a 1500m sprint which she says was "a killer!"

She said to triumph and get through to the final 12, was "surreal".

"Growing up I had no self-confidence whatsoever, suffered with eating disorders, body dysmorphia.

"I ended up falling in love with the gym, finding out how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, eating properly, training properly."

Melissa said she had great support from her family including mum Lindsay, dad Daryl who runs The Carpetman carpet shop in Lancaster, and brother Harley who boxes at Coastal Amateur Boxing Club in Morecambe, whose trainer Bob Howard helped with the link to Tyson Fury.

"He did a little shout-out video for me wishing me luck and getting everyone to vote, it's crazy," said Melissa.

"People have been dead supportive. I'm actually quite overwhelmed, to be honest. It's been really really good."

Melissa is also raising funds for the Balls to Cancer charity as part of the Miss England competition.

You can donate via Justgiving link HERE.

To vote for Melissa to win Miss England, download the Miss England app.

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