Miss Egypt, Farah Sedky, may not have been crowned “Miss Universe,” but her story resounds with people all over the world. By age 15, the beauty queen weighed in at 220 pounds and was having to endure torturous bullying at the hands of her female schoolmates.

“Growing up in an all-girls school wasn’t the easiest. I was brutally bullied and to the point that I was once beaten by one of my peers,” Sedky, 23, said in an interview. “To this day, I still remember her looking down at me on the ground and saying, ‘I’d love to wake up tomorrow and not see you at school, no one will miss you if you’ll be gone forever.’”

When her doctor explained that if she didn’t make a drastic change to her health within six months she would become a diabetic, something hit home with Sedky.

“This was the first time that I saw my father cry, which motivated me to lose the weight and begin to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Sedky said. “What clicked with me on an emotional level to start my journey was the fact that I knew I wasn’t living up to my full potential,” she added. “Also seeing how sad my father was pushed me to make these changes.”

Her weight loss goals were simple: cut portion sizes, limit carbs after 7 p.m. and add lots of lemon to meals. “[Lemon] is so important Queen B [Beyoncé] made an entire album about it,” she joked. “I like yogurt with half a lemon and cinnamon, and lemon with hot water in the morning helps with your digestive system going.”

Of course, exercise is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle, so in addition to her changes in diet, daily workout classes helped her lose almost 80 pounds. Now, she uses her platform to spread her message of self-love and hopes to inspire young girls that are struggling with their own physical appearance.

“I’ve learned how to love myself, which was the hardest thing I had to learn,” she said. “I want to be a role model for little girls, just as I needed to have at their age. I want them to know that nothing is their fault; challenges will pass and they’ll go on with their lives to become successful individuals. The key is to learn to love and accept themselves.”

Her goal when entering the Miss Universe Pageant wasn’t to show off her body, but to take the opportunity to open people’s eyes to society’s unrealistic and unattainable beauty standards.

“I truly believe it’s time to show women that they should appreciate, accept and love their bodies the way they are,” she says. “It’s about time that we all come together not just for women but also for children, to make sure they grow up in a healthy environment where they won’t feel pressured to focus on fitting in, and fitting a certain perception on beauty. Instead, they will grow to focus on developing their aspirations.”

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