EXCLUSIVE: Bhasha Mukherjee, 23, has smashed stereotypes to win much-celebrated national beauty contest - and just a day later started work as a doctor
(Image: Roland Leon/Sunday Mirror)
She's the newly crowned Miss England who has smashed the stereotype of the competition.
Bhasha Mukherjee has a genius-level IQ of 146, two medical degrees and speaks five languages.
And she started work as a doctor the day after winning the beauty contest.
But today the 23-year-old tells how she was bullied at school for being poor and suffered mental struggles after arriving in the UK from India in 2005.
Bhasha and her family moved from Calcutta to Swindon, Wilts, for her father’s job when she was nine.
But they ended up worse off than before.
She recalled: “In India I would say we were lower middle class.
“We could afford food but there were restrictions in terms of luxuries. It was all about budgeting and saving.
“When we came to the UK, things were very different. There were a lot of financial struggles. We were living in a shared house with other families.
“All four of us, my mum and dad, me and my brother, slept in one room.
“Money was tight. We would buy our clothes at car boot sales or charity shops.
“I still have a memory of World Book Day, where you don’t wear a uniform to school, and are supposed to dress as your favourite character.
“I just wore my normal clothes. One of the kids said, ‘What have you come dressed as, a tramp?’
“I never felt accepted, I couldn’t participate in all the things my peers could because we lived in a shared house.
“I couldn’t have sleepovers or invite people round.”
Bhasha’s parents could not afford books or internet access so Bhasha sought solace in the library, where her love for studying began.
She said: “The library was my safe haven. It was a way to deal with being bullied.
“I always got encouragement from my teachers so I found it easy to become a teacher’s pet.
“I would do anything it would take to impress my teachers – get good grades, get even better grades, get the best grades.”
Her top marks propelled Bhasha to Nottingham University, where she studied for two degrees, medical sciences and medicine and surgery, graduating last month.
Losing a family member to suicide drove her desire to be a doctor. Her hope is to become a GP specialising in mental health. But at uni she battled anxiety and depression.
“For the whole first year, I could barely get out of bed to go to lectures,” she said. “I was very forgetful and not very organised. It even made me miss an exam – not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I forgot. I was so disorientated. I also lost a lot of weight.”
Bhasha sought out therapy and took up modelling as a way to find balance and a break from her studies. She said: “Things slowly started to improve. What I’ve done at each stage is find something to hold on to. Something positive to take me out of that dark place.
“I did charity work and modelling. It gave me more of a life outside of my studies. I did cognitive behavioural therapy. Now I can spot the signs.
“Sometimes when you are in that dark well it becomes your reality and you lose perspective of the world outside it.
“A lot of people who are going through mental health problems reject the world. My advice is, seek out help, let people in and let them help you.”
Bhasha also set up her own charity called the Generation Bridge Project, which organises events at care homes, while still in school.
She even auditioned for Love Island and almost made it as a contestant on this year’s show.
Bhasha said: “I got through almost all the way. I think there were some problems with the medical history side of things. It was a challenge. I’d never even seen the show. Now I’m kind of glad that didn’t happen because if I had gone there I wouldn’t have become Miss England.”
Her shop worker mum Madhumita, chef dad DD and younger brother Arya, 18, are hugely supportive of Bhasha’s pageant career as well as her
medical one. “My family, especially my mum, have always been super supportive,” she said.
“My mum is my hero. She’s just gone through a divorce from my dad and she was working long hours at Primark.
“But she’s always said, ‘Don’t stop dreaming and chasing your ambitions’.
Bhasha is a junior doctor at Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, Lincolnshire.
She started her first shift the morning after being crowned Miss England on August 1.
She said: “There are people at work who know about me winning, and they make little jokes but I get my head down and get my work done.
“Working in the NHS is tough. You don’t get the chance to think about all the fame. It is very humbling. It keeps me grounded.
“I’m on the respiratory ward, one of the busiest wards in the hospital. It’s been interesting being thrown in at the deep end.”
Bhasha said her upbringing had taught her to earn a good living but also to give something back to society.