Miss Northern Ireland Anna Leitch: I was surprised I had the confidence to do an interview in a bikini

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Anna Leitch, recently crowned 2021 Miss Northern Ireland

Gail Bell

Up and at it – what is your new morning routine? How has it changed?

I have always had a strict morning routine during the week due to my work commitments as a school teacher. My alarm goes off at 6.30am and I always get myself ready first. I get showered and do my usual skin regime with some of my favourite products from Younique Aesthetics before I have breakfast while watching BBC news (I love seeing Dan Walker on the sofa). During the lockdown, however, when schools were closed, I could afford to get up a little later as I was working on Google Classroom from home. I was never one for working in my jammies, though, so I made sure to be up in time to get dressed before I sat down at the laptop. It's great that schools are back as I really enjoy the 50-minute drive to work in the morning to gather my thoughts together.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

A smoothie made with bananas, pineapple, berries, milk, oats, agave syrup and Fage protein yoghurt.


I would sometimes nip into Marks and Spencer for some of their healthy salads.

Evening meal?

A new Mediterranean dish which I am thankful to a dear friend for sharing: it is a chicken fillet wrapped in prosciutto ham, stuffed with goat's cheese and pesto and topped with baby boiled potatoes. A very delicious meal. I have also started to make chicken korma which is very easy.


Have you been able to work from home – if so, how have you found it?

I only worked from home during the lockdown when schools were closed. I enjoyed it, but missed seeing the children. It was also hard, as I was getting notifications on Google Classroom morning, noon and night, so it was hard to switch off sometimes.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

Pasta carbonara - the best and easiest when someone else is cooking it for you.


Weekend treat?

At the moment, with my busy schedule, a weekend treat isn't always on the cards, but I would say that my ideal one would be getting to lie up on the sofa with a Chinese takeaway meal, gin in hand, while watching Strictly Come Dancing.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

Doing lots of meditation, a little bit of Pilates here and there and going for frequent walks has really helped my body, physically and mentally. I think it is so important to fuel your body with good nutritious foods too and that is something I continue to do with the help of my personal trainer, Susie Orr at Athena Athletics.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

Walking. I walked 5k a day for 25 consecutive days to raise awareness for Aware NI. I really enjoyed this as it gave me the opportunity each day to reflect and be mindful. I also did a lot of walking during the lockdown which was great, especially as it was a time where you could easily go a bit insane.


How do you relax?

I relax by going for walks, listening to music on my way to work and meditating with the children in my class. I also relax at that moment when you jump into bed and hit the lights - there's no better feeling.


Teetotal or tipple?

I like anything with a 'T'...


What book are you currently reading?

I've been working on my master's [degree] up until recently, so I was reading all sorts of books for this. The last book I read was The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson with the kids in my class. I absolutely love children's storybooks. I remember I made my boyfriend listen to the audiobook of The Enormous Crocodile one evening and, surprisingly, he actually loved it.


Best Netflix?

The Chestnut Man. I just recently started to watch it and I am a sucker for anything crime related.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

Having the confidence to do an interview... in a bikini.


On a scale of one to 10, where have you been in relation to cabin fever and where are you now?

I'm about a seven - this feeling definitely came across me during the first lockdown, particularly when I wasn't able to travel to my home town. However, things have definitely moved forward from then and I feel so much better being able to travel to Cookstown for my work and to see my family.


What are the three things you missed most during the beginning of lockdown?

My family, travel and being able to go into a friend's house for a coffee. It's those little things I think that everyone missed so much during the lockdown. I really appreciate being able to do those things so much more now.


Where will you go and what will you do when restrictions are fully lifted?

Well, I am hoping to go to Puerto Rico for the Miss World final, all being well, and I am very excited about that. It will be my first time on a flight from Ireland since before the Covid-19 pandemic.


Biggest gripe?

People being late.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

With everything going on at the moment, with Miss Northern Ireland and the aftermath of the lockdown, I feel it is my duty to guide, nurture and influence children in a positive way.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I picked up the violin again during the lockdown and have been playing occasionally at church. I also have learned how to walk down a catwalk - something I never thought I would do.


What would you like to see change for good when this is all over?

For people to appreciate the little things in life which I think is already happening.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I think everyone was confronted with this thought during Covid-19. At the start of the pandemic, we didn't know what was going to happen and young people with underlying health conditions would have been very worried about it, not knowing how it would affect them.

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