By Sophie Norris
A mum-of-three who was the youngest person ever to enter the Royal Navy has ditched guns to pursue a career in modelling.
Kayleigh Lucas joined the navy aged 15 and nine months but was forced to leave two years later when her mum Gail Lucas was diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer.
When her mum passed away aged 43, Kayleigh met her ex-partner and settled down to have a family. Years later, Kayleigh has now decided ‘life’s too short’ and sought a confidence boost by entering Miss Swimsuit UK 2018.
Kayleigh will compete in one of six regional heats in Newcastle-upon-Tyne tomorrow [Friday, March 23] and take to the catwalk alongside 119 other wannabes models.
If she wins the heats and gets into the final, she could be jet-setting around Europe with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mexico if she wins the sought-after title.
Kayleigh, 26, said: “Everything I’ve ever done has been for other people which is something I would have done regardless, but this is my chance to do something for me.
“Why wait for something? If you get the opportunity go for it. Now I realise life’s too short and my mum is proof of that.
“Modelling is something I’ve wanted to do for a while but obviously caring for my mum and then my other son who has autism came first.
“I’ve always been quite a confident person but I’ve been one of those people who care what others think too.
“I’ve done a few photo shoots in the past with local photographers but I never thought I’d have the chance to compete in something like this. They even dress you on the day and you have to bring another swimsuit with you too.”
Judged by high profile celebrities including Calum Best, MTV Ex on the Beach’s Charlotte Dawson, a previous winner of Miss Swimsuit UK, and singer-songwriter Tom Zanetti.
In 2007, at the age of just 15, Kayleigh never imagined she would be taking to the stage in front of a panel of judges as a swimsuit model.
Kayleigh said: “I joined the navy in 2007 as a warfare specialist. I was ready to do a world tour but in January 2009 we found out mum had cancer.
“I left the navy and became mum’s full-time carer. She sadly passed away in July 2009 aged just 43.
“My plan had been to go back to work but I met my ex-partner in the September and things moved quite quickly. I became pregnant after seven months together and we had our first son, Payton Joseph, in 2010.”
After giving birth to Payton, now seven, Kayleigh went back to work and had various different jobs including working in a bakery.
This September she plans to open a barber shop but hopes her luck might change if she wins the big prize in December’s final.
Kayleigh said: “I have been doing a bit of everything to get by since I had my sons. I’ve been a home carer and even worked in Greggs.
“I’m currently at college studying barbering and I was awarded a Prince’s Trust grant so plan to open my own barber shop in September.
“If you get through the first heat of this competition, you get two weeks travelling around eight different countries, four days on a private yacht in Marbella and a pamper package.
“And if you win the final in December, you win a holiday to Mexico and the opportunity to make a career out of it which would be amazing.
“I went in the schoolyard today and some of the mums had heard about me entering the competition. It was very surreal.”