The Miss Big and Beautiful Pageant takes place on Easter Sunday, April 16 at City Hall. We’re profiling all the contestants, half in today’s paper and half next Wednesday. They speak frankly about their weight, what it means to them and why they entered.

The pageant has particular signficance for contestant Lydia Francis, who we’ll feature next week. Five years ago the 41 year-old divorcee weighed 620lbs. She had gastric bypass surgery in January 2002 and now weighs 310lbs.She said: “This pageant is like a coming out party for me. It’s like someone has noticed there are big women in Bermuda that are just as beautiful as the skinny ones. I’m really happy to be a part of it.”

Organizer Terry Smith said: “It’s going to be a very glamorous event. I’ve told the contestants some people will be coming, thinking it’s going to be a humorous night, but once the show starts they’re going to be really surprised.”

Tickets cost $40 and $50 and are available from Secrets in the Washington Mall.

‘Men don’t want skinny women anymore’

Name: Keisha Bassett.

Age: 26.

Representing: Devonshire.

Marital status: Been engaged to Vincent Darrell for a year. We’re getting married in December 2007.

Job: Banker, Capital G.

Weight and height: 275lbs, 5ft 6.5”

Society’s attitude to big women: It’s changing. The more big women are comfortable with themselves, the more respect we get.

My attitude to big women: It’s mixed. You have women who are comfortable with themselves, who can make themselves look very beautiful and attractive and those are the women I look up to. It’s the women that don’t wear their size well, who flaunt everything they have and look cheesy —?they don’t look so good. If you accept yourself and are happy with who you are and don’t worry about what other people think, you will be a big, beautiful, good-looking woman.

Men don’t want skinny women anymore anyway, they want a bit of cushion. My motto is when a man wants to make a sandwich he goes to the bakery and asks for rolls. He doesn’t go to the cemetery and ask for bones.

Is being big a struggle? It’s a mixture. Sometimes you’re struggling with the rest of the world telling you you need to be healthy and skinny but once you get over that and what the world thinks you should be, you can be content with who you are. If God wanted everyone to be skinny, he would have made everyone skinny.

Guilty pleasures: Everything I do I do it because I want to do it. I don’t second guess otherwise I wouldn’t do anything.

Why I entered the pageant: It will be fun. I’ve always wanted to be a plus size model, so to me it could open doors. You never know who might look and see me in the paper or at the pageant.