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Meet the Miss Cambridge beauty queen forging a career in legal academia

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PhD student sheds light on why there are so many law students competing in pageants

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Sophia Amelia Richards is moving full steam ahead towards a career in legal academia.

At just 23-years-old, she’s already got a law degree from Anglia Ruskin University and completed her Legal Practice Course (LPC) with an LLM from the University of Law. She’s about to start her PhD in family law at the University of Leicester, which will be completed part-time over six years. She’s hopeful she’ll have many opportunities to teach during her studies, which will help her kick off a flourishing career in legal academia.

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But it’s not just graduate photos and certificates on display over at the Richards residence; the former legal adviser also has a shiny beauty pageant trophy to her name.

Locals may best know Richards as the reigning Miss Cambridge. Having dabbled in beauty competitions since she was a child, when Richards was invited to compete in Miss Cambridge by her modelling agency, she thought it sounded “like a great idea”. She went on to compete in Miss Great Britain last month, reaching the top 20 (but losing out on the top spot to Miss Aberdeen). Next March, she’ll be competing in national pageant Miss Galaxy — representing east London — with a view to compete in Galaxy International if all goes to plan.

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Readers may remember this isn’t the first time Legal Cheek has delved into the weird and wonderful world of law student beauty queens.

Back in June, we ran a piece about Olivia Green, Vicky Marriott, Ashleigh Wild, Kyarna Weed and Stephanie Wyatt — all law students or aspiring law students who were known on the pageant circuit.

Since then, a number of others have caught our eye.

There’s Hayley Milner, a Miss Cheshire finalist who studies law at the University of Oxford. Then there’s 25-year-old Arabella Curtis, a transgender law student hoping to be crowned Miss Inspiration UK.

With law student beauty queens popping up here, there and everywhere, we thought we’d ask former sales associate Richards whether she’s noticed a lawyer domination at the pageants she’s competed in. Her response:

Pageants are very diverse. I wouldn’t say they were dominated by law students, but I see why law students would want to get involved. It’s a very empowering thing to do; the girls really empower each other. It’s also good publicity, but I don’t do it for that — I do it because I like the idea behind it.

Richards — who says she’s particularly attracted to the charity fundraising element that comes with beauty competitions — also notes the distinct similarities between the seemingly unconnected worlds of pageants and academia:

My real talents lie in academia, an important part of which is research. You have to do a lot of research in pageants too. We are given the name of a charity we have to fundraise for, but it’s up to us to decide how to raise the money. Then we go and do the work ourselves. I fundraised for a children’s charity called Global’s Make Some Noise. I also do a lot of work for Mind.

Though Richards, who has modelled since she was a child, speaks highly of her pageant experience, when pressed she does say she understands why some people may assume it would act as a hindrance to her dream legal career.

However, she thinks the experience has only helped her:

Competing in pageants is something different. It separates you out from the rest of the crowd. Everyone’s very clever and very good nowadays, but competing opens up a lot of questions because it’s so different. Interviewers ask me ‘oh, what is that?’, maybe seeming a bit shocked at first, but ultimately when you explain what it entails it’s looked upon favourably.

A big part of being a pageant girl, Richards tells us, is being a role model and helping your community. And when it comes to beauty pageants’ characteristic bikini rounds, Richards — who has completed a vac scheme at Chelmsford-based firm Stella Maris — has this to say:

My body is a source of achievement. It took a lot of dedication and hours in the gym to achieve; it’s something that I’m proud of.

Though not everyone will enjoy — or even condone — the beauty pageant world, Richards is clearly doing something right. Legal Cheek wishes her every success with her PhD and the Miss Galaxy competition.