To mark International Women’s Day, Miss England pageant winner Katrina Hodge speaks about her dual life as a soldier and a beauty queen.

Growing up, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. But when I was 17, my brother challenged me to join the Army. I was a girlie-girl, so he didn’t think I could do it.

I showed up at basic training wearing high heels and makeup, just to make a point. That’s where my nickname, Combat Barbie, comes from. The training was really hard, but in the end it was very rewarding. The guys treat me like an equal, and you’d be surprised at how many girlie-girls are in the Army — and they do a great job. What matters most in the military is that you’re a team player.

I’ve been on leave from the Army since becoming Miss England last September, and plan to go back this fall. People say you can’t be both a soldier and a model, so I’ll keep doing both to prove them wrong. People in the fashion world are very curious about the military and ask me lots of questions.

I don’t consider myself a role model; I just want to show people that nothing is impossible. But at the moment there aren’t any great role models for young women. Maybe my niche is to show them what they can realistically do with their lives.