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My career in the Royal Navy and why I joined Miss Diamond pageant

Lex Underdown works for the Royal Navy and wanted to push herself by doing something a bit different - taking part in a pageant. Here she shares her career story, her journey into pageantry and why celebrating diversity is so important.

I’m a leading writer in the Royal Navy and my role comprises mostly dealing with pay queries, travel, expenses and discipline.

When I was younger I did the usual Brownies and Girl Guides which lead to becoming a Young Guide Leader. I then found Sea Cadets and knew that I just had to join. It gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion for sailing which saw me compete in racing for the county, make many friends who are still friends now over 20 years on.

Joining the Royal Navy

As I got older I decided that I wanted to stay with the sea and join the Royal Navy. I went to Eastbourne College to study Preparation for Uniformed Service. We learnt a lot about all the Armed Forces, what different things they could offer and we also took part in a lot of physical activity. I knew then that I had made the right decision. I did initially want to join at 16 but decided to wait a little while and took some time to find my niche in a sector of employment that suited me best. Eventually, I joined at 22 years old, when I had finally found my niche and I thought this would be the best age to join.

My favourite thing about my job is learning new skills, having the ability to take up opportunities to improve my education and I also get to manage a few people below me and see how they improve in their job and flourish in their careers. I am also qualified to take body weighted circuits, with a group of up to six people at a time. I really enjoy doing this because I get to see people improve their fitness. The best thing about being in the Royal Navy is getting to see the world. You’re not just sat in an office 9 to 5.

Women in the Navy

There are a lot of people, especially the younger generation, that think that this is a man’s job and you would always be away from home. This is just not the case. We have lots of women in all different types of job in the Royal Navy, we aren’t all just administration workers and nurses. We don’t spend our whole careers at sea either. You get your shore side time to be in the UK, giving you time to spend quality time at home with family and loved ones.

Setbacks and why I wouldn’t change a thing

The only setbacks I have had are ones relating to exercise and fitness. I suffered something awful with shin splints.  This came about by wearing the wrong type of trainers for training, they didn’t provide the correct support for my feet or legs. I was referred to see a physiotherapist who helped get me back on track. It took a little while but I got there in the end and can happily say that I am fully fit and get as much training in by myself or taking colleagues for workouts. I am a huge advocate for fitness.  Even if you go out for a mile walk it’s probably more than most people have done and you’ll not just be keeping your body fit but it also helps clear your mind and keep it healthy too.

If there was a bit of advice I could give to you people to join the Royal Navy, I would say do it, what have you got to lose? You’ll get to make lifelong friends, have security in a job, good pay and pension, gain some education qualifications for free and travel the world.

With 12 years’ experience and still more to come, I have had the best years of my life in the Royal Navy and wouldn’t change it for the world.

Miss Diamond pageant

I wanted to start something that would push my boundaries more and help me be more confident in myself.  This is why I thought being a pageant girl would help me with this, which it has even though I have only just started my pageantry journey this year (April 2020).

Miss Diamond UK is now in its fifth year of delivery a yearly pageant around the UK.  There is no age limit and doesn’t discriminate against looks, religion, race or anything. Even I was surprised that at myself who is 163cm tall and covered in tattoos, got accepted.

Normally when you here about pageants, you think tall, skinny and beautiful looking model types. This may be true for the American Pageants and taking part in the bigger UK pageants but not this one. Miss Diamond celebrate the beauty and diversity of every woman and also the younger girls.

Why diversity is so important

Being diverse is so important in this day and age. It is vital to me not just in my job but in my daily life. It’s essential to realise that each and every one of us is different in all kinds of ways, which helps dispel negative stereotypes and bias towards others. We need to stay open mind to diversity as this will help us all to build lasting and lifelong respect and trust with each other.

Being an older pageant girl, it is important to show the younger generation that you can still do it at my age and beyond.

What’s next and my advice

I plan on continuing with my pageant journey with the Diamond family whilst still having my career in the Royal Navy.

If I had a chance to tell my younger self one thing, it would be ‘Never question yourself, go with your gut instinct’.

Bex Bastable
Bex Bastable
Bex is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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