NEWS & Mail readers have helped a Woking woman to win a place in the Miss England finals.

Dhwani Kothari was crowned Miss Surrey after passing an interview round of the competition.

She first had to win enough public votes in a wildcard round, which was publicised in the News & Mail last month.

Dhwani’s mother Ekta emailed to say: “Thank you so much for your support.  It really made a difference in her voting after publishing in the newspaper.”

The Miss England organisers announced the finalists in an early morning email.

“My mum came into my room and I was half asleep,” Dhwani said. “She was running around the house and I wondered what was going on.

“I was a bit overwhelmed by the news – but it’s a good feeling.”

Last week Dhwani, who is studying medicine at Leicester University, went back to Woking High School where she was a pupil, to sell lollies to raise funds for a brain tumour charity.

She hopes to become an NHS doctor after the experience of a close relative who was given a diagnosis of a brain tumour. The relative had been suffering symptoms, but these were dismissed by some doctors before the diagnosis and successful surgery.

Dhwani said: “I want to use my platform to raise awareness of brain tumours that kill so many people, especially children and adults under 40.”

She and her mother went to a Woking Asda to buy 38 boxes of lollies for the sale at the school and one of the staff, Shamala, was so impressed by the cause that she paid for 20 of them herself.

The finals of Miss England are due to take place at the Heart of England Conference and Events Centre in Coventry on 24 June, but before then Dhwani has to go through several rounds, including a test of fitness, demonstrating a talent and showing and talking about using ethically sourced and plastic-free materials.

Dhwani is hoping that the gymnastics she did as a young girl in Woking will help her in the fitness round and will dance for the talent section.

She performed in shows at Woking High School and spent more time dancing later before going to university.

“I do a mix of contemporary and Bollywood dancing,” Dhwani said.

She has lived in Woking since she was five, when her father Shailendra was transferred by his employer in Mumbai, India, to work in the town.

Her brother Jai, 10, is a talented chess player and was selected to represent England at international championships last year, that had to be cancelled because of the pandemic.

If Dhwani wins Miss England, she will compete in Miss World in Puerto Rico.

“Beauty with a purpose is not only the motto of Miss World but is also the purpose of my life, through which I will be able to bring a change that I wish to see in the world,” she said.

Miss England director Angie Beasley said: “The judges are looking for a winner with a good work ethic and kind heart that wants to help others. We want someone who is beautiful inside and out. Dhwani impressed us, and women like this need to be recognised in society. I wish her well in the Miss England final.”

* YOU can vote for Dhwani in the Miss England finals by downloading the Miss England app.