The Surrey plus-size model breaking barriers in beauty pageants inspiring curvy women of colour
Plus-size model Kat Henry is no stranger to facing adversity.
The Oxted resident is breaking barriers on the national beauty pageant scene, not only representing fellow curvaceous ladies but also Black women.
The 37-year-old was recently crowned ‘Ms Great Britain’ – a brand new ‘Miss Great Britain’ category for women aged 28-39.
She made history by becoming the first plus-size woman to win the prestigious title in the competition’s 76-year history. She is also just the second Black woman to win the contest.
The recent beauty pageant also helped to raise vital funds for two charities close to Kat’s heart; Cancer Research UK and Alex’s Wish.
The Zumba instructor is an advocate for breaking negative stereotypes around plus-size women of colour in society today.
The pressure of having to prove her worth and ability in a body conscious industry is very much reality for the inspirational mother-of-one.
“I started beauty pageants in 2015, but they were mainly plus-size competitions before I moved into the mainstream pageants,” Kat told SurreyLive.
“I would say I am addicted to the confidence and empowerment that standing on the stage gives me. I fell in love with the feeling and just want it again and again.
“Many people assume beauty pageants are solely about aesthetics. But that’s not the case, it’s about empowering women – many in the pageants have such strong back stories.”
Growing up in Croydon, Kat always wished she was “smaller” and passed off beauty pageants as something she “could never do”.
It wasn’t until she was in her 30s that a Twitter post caught her eye, asking potential contestants to enter ‘Ms British Beauty Curve’.
“I entered on a whim,” she laughed. “I wanted to represent women of colour and plus size, but I never thought I would be accepted, let alone win.”
Kat explained that she was a “confident child”, but then experienced the wrath of bullies in her teen years, mainly due to her weight.
Kat fell pregnant with her now 20-year-old daughter, Mya, aged just 16 and it was during this time that she saw her weight increase until she was a size 28.
But it wasn’t just her weight Kat felt she had to hide; she also hated her smile.
“I suffered from a calcium deficiency which caused my teeth to break,” she explained. “I had dental surgery to have multiple teeth taken out and am now probably the youngest person to have dentures.
“It was only when I had my smile rebuilt did I find the confidence to take part in beauty pageants and go up on stage – I literally found my smile again.”
The blogger and social media influencer first made the big step into mainstream pageants from plus-size contests in 2017, when finishing in the top-10 at UK Galaxy.
It gave the show a “fresh outlook” on contestants, having never had a plus-size women compete before.
Having been made redundant from her finance role in January, Kat is now using her platform to inspire other women and create a “level playing field”.
She added that it’s “not just about size and colour, it’s also about people of all abilities taking part – we are all worthy”.
Kat has endured a tough few years, having lost her mum to coronavirus in 2020 and supporting her father through his battle with cancer.
Those dark days spurred her on to aspire and “go out and achieve great things.”
While bringing up her daughter, Kat always promoted a positive attitude towards body image.
“Mya is now a pageant queen herself. I always told her she was beautiful growing up, but I think it’s important for parents to actually demonstrate the body confidence message, too.”
Kat is keen to collaborate in the future with fellow inspiring pageant contestants, including Guildford-based Elle Seline.
The mental health worker, 31, became the first person to compete in ‘Miss Great Britain’ wearing no make-up at all.
But for Kat, having switched from the corporate world to become a self-employed Zumba teacher and full-time influencer, she is now well on her journey to help others feel their worth – and in her own words “make sure there is a space at the table for everyone.”