By Hollie Bone
A stunning pageant winner who secretly battles two invisible illnesses has revealed the reality behind her glamourous pictures – the competition leaving her so tired she was bedridden and relied on walking sticks.
Singer Chantel Regnart, 21, from Birmingham, West Mids, is the champion of this year’s Ms Curvaceous modelling contest, which celebrates plus size women in all shapes and sizes.
But behind the scenes the musician and model suffers from Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome – two chronic illnesses which make her faint up to seven times a day with no warning and cause muscle weakness so severe she must sometimes use a wheelchair.
Now, the size 14 to 16 stunner has won a 12 month modelling contract – but wants to use it to reveal the chronic invisible illnesses which left her facing bullying and body confidence battles throughout her life.
Chantel said: Before I did Ms Curvaceous I didn’t have the confidence to be a model. I was bullied at school for being tall and curvy and I wasn’t confident in the way I looked at all.
“Before the competition I was travelling from Birmingham to London a lot for a training bootcamp, and my pain built up to the point where I was using a walking stick for most of the week before the show.
“I actually thought I wasn’t going to be able to carry on with the competition at one point, but everyone was really understanding and supported me once I explained how much I was struggling.
“Then I had to bring my walking stick to the final show.
“I’d been going through rehearsals with my walking stick, and I had to take painkillers before it started – I was worried I might even walk with a limp so I was really conscious on the catwalk.
“I never thought I’d win, there were so many deserving girls involved.
“One of the hardest things with having a variable chronic illness is people not believing me or telling me I’m too young to be ill.
“Even people I know – but I guess they don’t see you when you’re so ill you can’t get out of bed.”
Chantel beat off competition from some 10,000 other applicants, making it all the way through weeks of rigorous auditions and rounds to the final with just 30 other girls.
The talented 21-year-old took the winning trophy on Sunday Sept 8 after graduating from music college three years ago – and is now pursuing a career as a singer under the alias Elle Chante.
Dedicated to the cause, Chantel travelled five times between Birmingham and London to compete in Ms Curvaceous which left her so exhausted she was bedridden at times.
She said: “One of the hardest things about chronic illnesses is that you’re not necessarily going to be there in the moment because you’re thinking about your body.
“You might say you feel fine but you’re actually burning inside and in so much pain, it’s a constant battle but it doesn’t mean that we can’t be happy or achieve things.
“The joint hyper mobility means I’m very flexible but also prone to injury and suffer a lot from nerve pain, it’s really disabling at times, it’s like having toothache down both my legs.
“The POTS is just as bad for different reasons, when I change positions I can pass out because my nerves don’t respond properly so the blood rushes from my head and my heart struggles to keep up.
“I can be putting out my washing and just hit the floor, it can be really dangerous at times.”
Now, empowered by her win, the buxom 5ft10ins, 13 stone babe Chantel is hoping to use her modelling contract to tear away the invisible cloak around chronic illnesses.
She said: “I used to be so scared going out with my walking stick and knee supports, but now I want to raise awareness.
“I want to use my modelling contract to work with brands on bringing support garments like supportive trainers and injury sleeves to the forefront of mainstream society.
“Just because we’re chronically ill doesn’t mean we can’t do it in style!”