Jess Davidson used to be sick, overweight and covered up, but this weekend she will strip off to her bikini on stage.
The 28-year-old Albany resident is competing in Miss Ink Auckland, an alternative beauty pageant for tattooed women.
Davidson was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 16, a condition that causes widespread chronic pain.
By the age of 20 she was bedridden and started piling on weight.
"I had borderline depression, I was in a really, really, really bad place," Davidson says.
But through pilates and then a gym membership and improved diet, she lost more than 20 kilograms.
Davidson completed a personal training course a year ago because she always wanted to help other women do the same thing she did.
"I felt so much better about myself and thought life was worth living. It was a complete turnaround," she says.
Davidson is now a personal trainer at Priority One Fitness in Albany and works at a charitable trust that promotes healthy eating.
To accentuate and celebrate her new figure Davidson got a tattoo on her side of pohutukawa and kowhai flowers.
Most of her tattoos were designed by Greg Campbell at Lifestyle Tattoo in Albany.
Davidson now has six separate pieces plus six cartoon characters on her right arm.
She hopes to add another two, Rainbow Brite and Smurfette, to complete her sleeve.
Davidson says she loves being able to wear amazing art.
"As they say, your body is a temple so why not decorate the walls?"
Her other tattoos include artwork on her left arm that represents her mum, dad, sister and 11-year-old daughter.
She also has two thigh pieces and three smaller tattoos on her back.
Davidson says she entered Miss Ink to represent women who are proud to be strong, curvy and happy.
"I'm proud of what I've achieved so why not go out and rock it?"
The contestants will face off in three rounds, changing between casual wear, swimwear and evening wear.
Davidson says getting up on stage in front of people is terrifying, whether it is in a traditional beauty pageant or a contest with a twist like Miss Ink.
Other pageants have more pressure to have the perfect body but they still empower women, she says.
"There's no photoshop when you're in a bikini on stage. Anybody that can do that I'm 100 per cent supportive."
Miss Ink Auckland is at 8.30pm on July 5 at Paddington Live, 117 St George's Bay Rd, Parnell.
Tickets $20 on the door.
Go to facebook.com and search for Miss Ink New Zealand.
- North Shore Times
Would you pay $2 to use Auckland's motorways?Related story: Auckland motorway toll could top $350 a year