The Phuket News spoke to Leena recently about her life in Phuket, her love of music and sport, and her ambition to be crowned Miss World.
Please tell us a bit about your background.
I am 24-years-old, half-Thai and half-English. I was born in Phuket and started my first years of school at Quinton House School, England. Later on I moved back to Thailand to study at Phuket Thaihua School. For my high-school years I moved to a boarding school in China (Beijing New Talent Academy) and graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Business and Management at the University of Buckingham, England. My father is from a little village outside of Northampton called Long Buckby, England and my mother is from Roi Et, Thailand
How did you end up running a hotel in Phuket?
I’ve spent most of my life here in Phuket, I grew up here, so naturally this island is my home even though it is a tourist destination to many others. I always knew that I wanted to have my own business and eventually with the help of my mother the opportunity came so I took it.
You are an avid athlete, what are your favourite sports and what accolades have you won?
I have about 200 trophies for running (3km, 10.5km and 21km distances) from competitions all over Thailand. I also have a few medals from swimming. I started running at 7 years old and began to win trophies a few years later. By 15 I was at the top of my game, but I moved to China and I’ve never trained properly since, but I would say I am very proud of each and every trophy I have because it takes a lot of training and a lot of hard work before I can take even one trophy home with me.
How did you first get involved with these sports, what influenced you?
I would say it’s all because of my parents and coach, they pushed me until I was unbeatable. It’s a shame I stopped because looking back I really believe I could have gone far.
Are you still involved in competitions?
Now I mostly run to keep fit, but I do go to any competitions that are nearby. I have already won four trophies this year. Hopefully next year I’ll be back in the game and start to come first again.
You are also a keen musician, what instruments do you play and which one is your favourite?
I play the piano, violin, clarinet and basic guitar. My favourite is guitar because it was my instrument of choice, the rest is what my parents wanted me to do. I bought the guitar from a car boot sale in England for £20 and learned from Youtube. I’m pretty good, if I do say so myself – this was all when I was still in university.
How did you discover your musical talents?
I do all of these activities because of my parents. You have to bear in mind that both my parents used to be very poor, so naturally they wanted all of their children (I have two younger sisters) to have everything they never had. I am not talented at all, it is all just hard work and dedication, well dedication of my parents in this case. But nothing comes easy, it is all hard work.
You have entered several beauty pageants, which ones and how did you fare in them?
I was second runner up in Miss Grand Phuket 2016 and I was in the top 10 for Miss Thailand World 2016. I also won two awards from Miss Thailand World – The People’s Choice Award and the Fast Track Talent Award, for which I played the piano.
Now that you are a finalist for Miss England, how can people support you or vote for you?
I am in the semi-final of Miss England. If you are in England you can vote for me by texting MISS SEMI09 to 63333 – a text costs 50p plus the standard network rate. If you are in Thailand you can tell all your friends and family in England to vote for me.
What happens if you win?
I will be a contestant in Miss World 2017, and hopefully be Miss World 2017.
How did you first get involved in competing in pageants?
It was all just an off-hand thought. Growing up being mixed, I always had compliments on my looks, so I thought, why not? But actually being in a pageant is a lot more work than you think. In fact it is extremely stressful, you realise a lot of people don’t appreciate your looks, so you have to be prepared for haters. You also have to be prepared for late nights and early mornings.
But at the end of the day it is all worth it, because it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can be cherished for the rest of my life. The bonus of it all for me is the smile on my mother’s face, to see how proud my family and friends are makes me so happy.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to be Miss World. I believe I have a better purpose. I know for a fact that a lot of people see beauty differently, the perception of beauty nowadays is perfection. But that is not what beauty is. I want to be a role model to young girls out there and for them to know that beauty is not about being perfect, having freckles doesn’t mean you are ugly, beauty is from within, a good heart can take you to places, not a perfect face. I believe I can represent the true meaning of beauty with a purpose.