When Anglee Kumar takes to the stage to reach the Miss Universe finale next month, she will already be a winner in the hearts of millions.
Not for her looks, beautiful as she is – but for qualities that go far beyond the skin. For her courage and determination.
Because Anglee will wear a wig after losing the waist-length flowing hair she loved so much after undergoing chemotherapy for her stage four cancer.
This matched her eyelashes and eyebrows. Her nails turned black.
But when she takes to the Miss Universe GB pageant stage, she thinks she’s more radiant than ever.
“Standing on this stage makes me feel empowered, strong and beautiful,” says Anglee, 27.
“Yes, I will wear a wig, but my faith in what I have overcome will shine through.
“I’ve been through so much and now I want to be a voice for other young women living with cancer.
“I want them to know that help is out there, you can get well and have a full life again.”
But it’s been an arduous journey back to the confidence that now shines in Anglee – with the incredible support of cancer charities like Macmillan.
In February 2021, the sports-loving paralegal, who has a master’s in law, developed heart palpitations and chest discomfort.
She went to the emergency room and was told it was anxiety and to cut down on caffeine and alcohol.
But Anglee thought it was worse than that. She kept pushing for tests, but it was months before her cancer was diagnosed.
A biopsy revealed four lesions in the upper part of her diaphragm and lungs. And in November 2021, she was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
She says: “My world collapsed. I knew something was wrong, but I never expected cancer.
“I was devastated and didn’t know how to get through this.”
Then the grueling chemotherapy began, which made her so ill that she had to be hospitalized repeatedly.
Anglee, who lives in London with her parents Mala, 47, and Mohan, 54, and three siblings, including her twin sister Tina, says: “I felt weak, sick and disgusting.
“I was traumatized by what happened to me. I cried every day, I didn’t want to leave my room. I couldn’t even talk to friends.”
And for Anglee, losing the beautiful hair she felt was such a part of her identity was heartbreaking.
She says: “I couldn’t take it. No matter how hard you try to mentally prepare for it, you can’t. Mum would pick it up off the floor.
“I was too scared to brush it. At one point I had two strands on either side of my head, but I didn’t want to cut them. Then my mother sat me down and said it was about time. So we did it was heartbreaking.
“I stopped wearing makeup and didn’t care what I looked like.”
Another struggle for Anglee was keeping her cancer to herself.
“I come from a small, very narrow-minded Afghan-Indo community where no young person has ever had cancer, so I’ve been asked to keep it a secret. They believe that sick women will have trouble finding a husband, so this is a taboo subject. I had two Instagram accounts – one where I talked about it and one where I didn’t talk.”
Now she wants to break taboos for other young sufferers. “Finally, I said to my parents, ‘I speak my voice. I do this for the people who are not doing well.’
“I want to break stereotypes so people can get help, which is a big part of your recovery.”
As her confidence began to dwindle, she looked back on a long-cherished dream of one day competing at Miss Universe.
“The treatment was the darkest time of my life, but through it all there was a growing sense of wanting to use my experience to help others. I think my cancer has reached stage four because doctors have not taken me seriously for so long. Because I’m young and female, I had to fight for tests. I don’t want other young sufferers to have to go through this.
“Having cancer is not attractive in any way, so I thought having a glamorous platform like Miss Universe behind me would help get my story heard.
“I kept telling myself, if I can push myself to be brave, then I can make a difference. So I entered the competition and used it to get my motivation and confidence back.” But first Anglee needed to break out of the depression. She turned to the Macmillan Cancer Support.
“They gave me therapy straight away. Getting rid of a lot of things helped me a lot.” The first step to her dream was to find a wig like her old hair. “I am forever grateful to my parents for helping me pay for my wig. It cost £2,000 but really helped my confidence. It’s long and dark, with highlights, just like the hair I lost.”
Another cancer support charity – Look Good, Feel Better – helped Anglee with makeup and nail tutorials and showed her how to cover up the effects of chemo. She said: “You are an amazing charity. I did a nail tutorial with them that showed me how to cover the damage. They sent me a gift with makeup and creams. I learned to draw on my eyebrows and put on false eyelashes.”
In February, Anglee completed her final chemo session and after two scans she was told she was in remission.
She said: “It was the most amazing moment. To hear that I no longer needed chemo was the best thing in the world.” Shortly after the good news, Anglee found out that she had made it to the Miss Universe GB final.
“I felt euphoric and like things had come full circle. It really gave me back my confidence and made me feel beautiful again.”
Now she’s gearing up for the final in South Wales on July 7-9 – and has her eye on the biggest prize. She said: “Britain has never won international Miss Universe in the history of the competition. I want to bring the crown home.”
Macmillan’s support line is 0808 808 00 00. To vote for Anglee text GB ANGLEE to 64343. Cost £1 which goes to A-Sisterhood, a UK organization supporting women worldwide.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/cancer-survivor-beauty-queen-competes-27269061 Beauty queen who survived cancer competes in Miss Universe wearing wig after losing hair