Miss England contestant wears wetsuit for swimsuit portion of the competition

Chelsea Ritschel

A Miss England finalist broke pageant conventions by submitting photos of herself in a wetsuit for the optional swimsuit round of the competition, earning herself a position in the top 20.

Although the swimsuit round was banned in 2010, as part of the pageant, contestants can enter themselves into the optional Miss Beach Beauty competition, with the winner awarded a trip to Mauritius.

Winners are also fast-tracked into the top 20 of the overall Miss England competition.

Aysha Khan, 21, from Blackburn, Lancashire, was the only contestant of 49 entrants to choose a full-body swimming costume - a choice she made to show you don't have to wear a bikini to feel confident.

According to Khan, who is Muslim, she did not want to submit a photo in a bikini, but still wanted to participate - so she chose to enter with her unique take on swimwear.

“I did not enter this round to win, but to simply take part and show my take on swimwear,” the pageant contestant wrote on Facebook.

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph about her submission, Khan said she wanted to stay true to herself and her background, while also empowering others.

“I wanted to show a different take on swimwear, and that you don’t have to wear a bikini to go to the beach,” Khan said. “It’s a choice to dress with less clothing, it’s also a choice to dress with more and both are equally as empowering as the other as it’s a personal choice and feeling.

“I think other girls can see this and realise that they can do the same.”

Following the news that she’d made it into the top 20, the Miss Lancashire winner said that she was “shocked to say the least”.

“My message with my entry was to show to show body confidence and empowerment in a different way,” the 21-year-old said.

On 1 August, Khan will compete in the Miss England final in Newcastle, an opportunity she says encourages women to “express themselves in their own way”.

Explaining how pageants have evolved and how she got so far with her modest submission, Khan wrote on Facebook: “Because Miss England stands for so much more and welcomes women from different walks of life to take part in this contest. Miss England encourages women to express themselves in their OWN way and promotes the idea of feeling confident in a way that best suits YOU.”

On Facebook, Khan has been praised for her message of empowerment.

"Love your message Aysha! So happy that your experience through Miss Lancashire and Miss England shows you for who you are," one person wrote, while another said: "You look beautiful! This is my favourite beach beauty picture."

In April, Halima Aden made history when she became the first model to be featured in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue wearing a hijab and a burkini.