The winner of this year’s Miss Universe Norfolk competition has already experienced quite a lot in her young life.

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Neuza Vika was born in Angola and escaped to the UK with her mother when she was five years old.

She cannot remember much about the African country, only that conditions were bad as it was a time of civil war.

The 20-year-old, from Great Yarmouth, said: “Luckily, we came to England. I was five and really excited about coming to this country.

“At first we stayed in a hotel in Great Yarmouth, because they did not know if we would be able to remain in the country.

“We were with people who were in the same situation as us, refugees. But a few years later we were given permission to stay.”

Miss Vika, who is now studying psychology at City College Norwich, added: “When I started I was the only black girl in school. The community then was not used to different cultures, so at first it was quite hard.

“But as I grew up, they started to welcome me more. I joined dancing clubs and did different activities, just to socialise, and people became really welcoming. Once they saw who I was, they accepted me.”

She still lives with her mother, who became pregnant with her at 16, but she has never been back to Angola.

“I don’t know my grandparents or my other family and I would like to go back to Angola some time.”

The former Great Yarmouth High schoolgirl was one of the runners-up in last year’s Miss Universe Norfolk, and added: “I entered the competition because I wanted to show that even if you start with nothing, you can still do something like this.

“You just have to have faith and be determined.”

Maisie Lake, 20, from Norwich, came second, and said that taking part in the event had improved her self-confidence and allowed her to become more open-minded.

Rebecca Richardson, 25, from North Walsham, was the second runner-up and was also named Miss Congeniality, while Georgia King, 21, from Norwich, won Miss Charity and Miss Popularity, the public vote.

She raised more than £560 for charity, after carrying out a New Year’s dip and fire walking, among other events.

All four women now go through to the Miss Universe Great Britain final in Birmingham in June, and the winner of that will represent the UK at Donald Trump’s Miss Universe.

Two other finalists also picked up awards at the event, which was held at Dunston Hall, near Norwich, on Sunday.

Hannah Rose Bell, 21, from Norwich, won the Not in Vain Award, and Yeliz Tacel, 21 from Thetford, won Miss Photogenic.

During the competition the 20 finalists all wore bracelets in tribute to 23-year-old Olga Demina, from Old Catton, who had been due to enter the pageant but died of cancer last August.

Tosin Ogunnusi, one of the regional directors of Miss Universe Norfolk, said the competition was about empowering women and raising money for charity.

david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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